Hats off for Emily Williamson
Bronze, cast stone. (Oak Plinth)
H35 W34 D16 cm 8KG
£500 from each sale donated to RSPB
Emily Williamson (1855-1936) co-founder of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Commissioned shortlist maquette, unveiled 1st July 2021 on the centenary of The Plumage Act, along with the other three shortlisted works.
For me, Emily's story had to be about the hat, the feathers and the birds.
Hats symbolise authority and power, the bigger the hat the bigger the statement, but hats with feathers flaunted a darker side to authority and power – that of exploitation and murder - the exploitation of women and child labour and of course the death and destruction of birds (many to near extinction). Things had to change. The ‘murderous millinery’ trade had to stop.
The removal of a hat shows a mark of respect so to ‘turn it on its head’ would create new meaning. A hat adorned with stuffed exotic birds and plumage turned on its head will symbolise a preservation of life rather than the destruction of it.
My proposal has Emily, sitting with quiet authority, in her garden with arm outstretched proffering an upturned feathered and exotic stuffed bird hat back to the birds as a bird bath, – a place of sanctuary and symbol of protection. A place where the beauty of the bird can be observed as a living creature. A robin sits on the rim of the hat looking back at Emily, a gesture of hope and new beginnings.