With just over sixty days to go, the world’s finest athletes are in the midst of gruelling training and preparation, fuelled on by the prospect of winning gold at this summer’s London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Meanwhile, a group of talented individuals have also been fervently hard at work, pursuing their dreams with steely determination and relentless stamina, as they share a role in ‘England’s Artists Taking The Lead’ a flagship project for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad showcasing twelve breathtaking public art exhibits, each one representing a region of the UK in celebration for the huge event.
Shauna Richardson, from Leicestershire, is one of the twelve gifted artists selected to participate in the Cultural Olympiad, describing herself as a ‘crochetdermist’ she works with wool and animal forms to create life-size sculptures. As a young student at school, she learned the craft of crochet, and went on to pursue a career in fine art concentrating mainly in architectural themes. While at University in Leicester, Shauna began to explore the theory, “that maybe anything could be art, maybe a gesture, or an empty space.” By experimenting with realism and traditional craft she found her niche in the artistic realm and sees this occasion to showcase her work, “as a truly exciting opportunity to think big and create something spectacular that would celebrate the individual culture of our region and put us squarely on the map.”
The Lionheart Project was submitted to the Arts Council of England by Shauna to reflect the East Midlands textile heritage and regional significance. The wool used for the giant sculptures is produced locally, and spun onto large cones in the Peak District from a reported one hundred and fifty sheep. The three lions chosen for her project are featured prominently on the red crest of Richard the Lionheart who reigned as King of England from 1189 to 1199.
Shauna began her work on The Lionheart Project in 2009. Each lion is sculpted out of polystyrene, and fastened over a steel skeleton measuring out to a colossal twenty-five feet. With a 10 mm bamboo crochet hook as her tool of choice, which she states ‘is softer to grip and easier on hand strain’ Shauna works in freeform technique, crocheting in circular and oblong patches to enhance the muscular contours of the animal. Setting her limits at six hours of crochet per day, she used buckets of ice to plunge her hands into to relieve the pain from constant repetitive hand and wrist motion.
The three completed lions have now taken up residence inside a fifty-two foot long custom-built, glass enclosure which presently sits in front of the Bastion Wall in Chatsworth. On June 10th, they will embark on a tour of the East Midlands and are set to arrive at the Natural History Museum in London for the opening of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Watch Shauna at work here creating the first lion.