Changing Spots (Amur Leopard)
Glass beads and thread over dense foam core, glass eyes, Australian red morrell (burl), mdf board
(Overall) H: 14 1/2″; L: 21 1/2″; W: 11 1/4″
(Leopard) H: 12 1/2″; L (back corner of neck to nose): 12 1/2″; W: 9″
Exhibited (kindly lent by the owners): Loan exhibition. Private Thoughts: Beadwork Sculpture by Leslie Grigsby for the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, NYC (January 18 [preview] through 22, 2017).
Private collection, Massachusetts
First, a note…As you can see, there is no “real” fur on this sculpture. However, if I were a hunter, this is the type of dense foam core I would use to support the pelt of an animal. Instead, on my sculptures, peyote-stitch beadwork forms the fur.
It took me a whole nine months to get to know this wonderful creature, as I worked on him “nose-to nose.” Here’s how he evolved… I created the surface using glass seed beads, primarily in peyote stitch. Here, in step one, you can see the dense-foam leopard head after I “colored” it. Nearby are the ears and glass eyes which eventually were assembled with the head.
Lindsay drilled several holes in the head (teeny red markings, indicate hole direction). These pierce sunken areas, allowing me to secure the beadwork tightly against the curved surface. I began working on the nose and mouth, so the leopard could catch his breath! Yes, he took on a life of his own. In these shots, his glass eyes were just set in, but not yet permanently attached. So far I had used about 10 shades of brown beads, 4 of white, and 3 variations on black, each in a couple sizes.
The below pairs of images show the beadwork as it progressed over several months. I worked in a somewhat circular motion, around the head…having begun midway along the nose. Eventually, the leopard’s eyes would be held in by beadwork, alone.
Finally, an image of the head in nearly completed form, with the leopard’s ears about to be attached. In all, I used about 50 types of glass beads, varying in color and ranging in size from 15/0 to 6/0.
Lindsay created a bird’s-eye maple backing for the underside of the head. We took the base burl (Australian red morrell) to Moravian craftsmen in Ephrata, PA. They cut the thick mdf board to shape as a further support. Lindsay drilled the underside of the head to receive the acrylic rod, applied a slightly yellow-tinted lacquer to the morrell and maple elements, painted the base black and completed the assembly.
A particularly poignant moment for me came just before I finished the sculpture. I was in Beijing (October 2012) after I and several colleagues lectured on early Chinese export porcelain. We visited a huge market in the city and, as we stepped from the taxi, we turned to see a man whose attire and haircut indicated he came from the countryside. Though police- and militiamen passed by (ignoring him), his arms were outstretched and draped with the illegal skins of endangered Amur leopards and tigers…presumably killed in their habitat up near the China/Russia border. I very nearly wept.