#LetsMakeWednesdays – Creature Creations!

June 3, 2020

Let’s make something inspired by animals! Animals have inspired artists and designers for thousands of years. They can be used as symbols for communicating different ideas. This blade in the V&A collection is from China and is over 3,000 years old! The design on the handle is meant to represent a bird. What are some of your favourite animals, and what feelings or messages do you think they represent? Lions and dragons can be used to show power, whereas cats can be used to show grace and cunning skills.

Jade blade, mounted on a bronze handle, 1250-1050 BC. Mus. no. FE.21-1984 © Victoria and Albert Museum

If you look around your home, you may see lots of animals on different things. They can be on mugs, jewellery, clothing, wallpaper and art or posters. How many different types of animals can you find?

Designer G (Glenn Shapiro) designed this ring, called the ‘Papillon’, for superstar performer Beyoncé. ‘Papillon’ means ‘butterfly’ in French. Watch the video below to see how G was inspired to design the ring, and how the wings of the butterfly move when the wearer moves their fingers.

What can you make that is inspired by animals? Share your creature creations with us on social media using #LetsMakewednesdays

Let’s Make an Animal Alphabet

Take a look at the animal letters below. Have a think about how you could create your own animal alphabet. How could animals move in between or rest in the spaces and shapes that different letters create? Here you can see a mouse sitting in the bottom part of a ‘C’, but another designer has a cat running over the top of their ‘C’!

Alphabet designs drawing by Beatrix Potter, about 1895. Mus. no. BP.440(b) © Victoria and Albert Museum
The New Game of Animals card game, published 1878. Mus. no. E.736&:1 to 50-1959 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Now have a think about the different ways that animals move. Could you make an animal alphabet using different shapes on animals to create the letters? How could you make the letters seem similar to the animal? For example, could ‘S’ be the long swishing curly tail of a cat? Could you create a new animal alphabet or code?

Or each letter of the alphabet could be represented by an animal that starts with the same letter. An aardvark or ant could be used for ‘A’ (here is a hint: for ‘X’, look up a ‘Xoloitzcuintli’, which is a type of dog from Mexico). Try spelling out your name with different animal letters, or you can do the whole alphabet.

Let’s make an animal-inspired wallpaper

Have you ever thought about what goes on your walls at home? Take a walk around your house and have a look. Maybe they’re all painted one colour. You might have posters, photos or drawings on your walls. Are the walls the same in your bedroom, your living room and your bathroom? Here at V&A, we have a huge collection of wallpapers from all around the world.

Lots of the V&A’s wallpapers use designs inspired by nature, especially plants and animals. Some are plain and simple, and others are packed with patterns and pictures. All of these designs make us feel different when they are on our walls – a busy design with lots of bright colours might make us feel fun, imaginative and creative. A simple design in pastel colours might make us feel relaxed, focused and calm. Which rooms at home do you think would suit a relaxed, calm design? And which rooms do you think should be more vibrant and energetic?

Look at these examples of animal wallpapers from V&A. Which rooms do you think they would be best suited for?

Now it’s your turn to get designing. Let’s make a print to transform our homes into wildlife adventures!

First of all, think about which animals you would most like to see in the wild. Do you want to see tigers in the jungles of India? Maybe you want to swim with whales in the wide oceans. Why not imagine yourself spotting kangaroos in the Australian Outback, flying with toucans in the Amazon Rainforest, riding camels in the Sahara Desert, or tracking polar bears in the Arctic Circle?

Pick your animal or animals and start doing some drawings of them. A good way to start is to find a picture to copy. Once you’ve got a rough outline, start thinking about the textures you’re drawing. Your animal might be furry and soft, or hard and scaly. Try to recreate these textures using soft pencil hatching for fluffy textures like feathers or fur, and bold pen lines for hard surfaces like fish scales and claws.

Now think about your animal’s habitat. A habitat is the natural environment which the animal lives in. For example, a panda’s natural habitat is the bamboo forests of China, whereas a fox can be found living in the middle of a city. Look at how the V&A wallpapers above recreate the animals’ habitats. The fish wallpaper uses curved lines to create the effect of waves, and the deer wallpaper uses long fern leaves that make us think of the forest. Start to imagine how your animal’s natural habitat would look. Are there plants or buildings around? Is it hilly, or flat? What sort of colours do you imagine when you think of the habitat – juicy green leaves, cold white snow, dry orange sand, deep blue oceans? Use these thoughts to start sketching some ideas – you could draw the kinds of trees you imagine in the habitat, the types of buildings you would find nearby, or practise drawing the shapes of rocky mountains or curvy lakes.

Once you’ve thought about your animal and its habitat, it’s time to start imagining your wallpaper. Get your piece of paper and start designing. Try combining your animals and the habitat in different ways – you could make them into a pattern which repeats, or into one big design which covers a whole wall. Your wallpaper could transform a bathroom into an underwater scuba dive, or a bedroom into a rainforest trek. How will you use your wallpaper designs to create new animal-inspired worlds?

Don’t forget to show us your marvellous menageries on social media using #LetsMakeWednesdays

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