Friday, 7 September 2012

Meet Buttons - The Great Bustard, a hand crafted masterpiece

This post is a departure from our usual format.  It is not about us Cuddlies for one!  However, it is about a handmade object - well sort of - which is too big to be called cuddly, but nevertheless is still relevant to us Cuddlies.

 Many of the ColdhamCuddlies' eyes are sourced  from this particular haberdashery shop in nearby Warminster, and - frankly - if it were not there, I’d probably not be toy-making, and posting about it, here.  It was as a result of stumbling upon this little family-run business when we first moved here in 2008 that I was emboldened to even think of setting up once again as a toy-maker.  Even though the internet can be a great source of raw materials, there is nothing like a hands-on approach coupled with the chance of personal interchange I feel.  So while I do buy on-line, as well as source my more unusual plush fabrics from The Fine Quality Feather Company in nearby Frome, I’m very dependent on this family run operation as well.  It’s so convenient when doing one’s weekly grocery run(s)!

I’ve mentioned them in various posts and their name is “Think Outside the Box”.  They sell everything anyone ever needs for knitting, quilting, toy-making - of course, crocheting and other crafty occupations - and it really is a crafter‘s dream place.  Originally set up by eldest daughter, SB during her final year at University seven years ago,  SB has been joined on a day-to-day basis by Mum, MrsG and younger sister DG.  Naturally, like all small businesses, they need to promote themselves, and as almost the only fully-stocked craft supplier in the Warminster (there are a couple of others who sell knitting yarns and sewing materials - but as a side line) they often appear in the local newspaper “The Warminster Journal”.

That publication has also been mentioned in previous posts in this blog, and even featured the Cuddlies when reporting on the Christmas Bazaar in Heytesbury Parish Church in December 2011, as well as the Adventures of Chuck Coyote I, the Official Mascot of the Wylie Coyotes After School Club.  So to include this item among our posts is not inappropriate!

Earlier this year, the Journal featured an item about the upcoming Warminster Festival, which takes place annually in October.  This year, as a special feature, there is a competition for the decoration of  statues of the Great Bustard12 Bird Models have been created and adopted by various schools, businesses and other interested parties around Warminster.  (More information about this competition, as well as photographs of what a Bustard actually looks like, can be found at for anyone wanting to know more.)

This UK version of Big Bird,  happens to be the County Bird of Wiltshire, and is the subject of  a huge effort to re-introduce the species into the UK after becoming extinct.  It’s size and shape remind me of the Dodo, but while that species died out long ago, it is still plentiful in other parts of the world, which is why it is being re-introduced.  Us Brits don’t like to be left out!!

The attempts are taking place at a secret location somewhere on the Salisbury Plain (which happens to be next door to Heytesbury);  which covers a large area of the County of Wiltshire, most of which is used by the Armed Services for warfare training. (Warminster  is a Garrison Town and the part of the Army unit currently in situ in the local barracks  is actually serving in Afganistan as this post is being written.) Indeed, we often have low-flying military aircraft over us and it is not unusual to hear (and sometimes feel) the thump of heavy artillery as tanks etc rumble over nearby terrain. Whilst the public are able to cross the Plain using the various main roads which criss-cross the area, military vehicles take precedence - but shooting ranges and such-like do make for excellent, secret areas in which to carry out species re-introduction activites!

So what does this have to do with “Think Outside the Box”, The Great Bustard and the Cuddlies?  Well, SB decided that her Shop would enter the Warminster Festival competition this year and the way in which their entry would  feature would be as Buttons, the Bustard.

Here is one view of Buttons - others will follow, but as you can see, he is a very big statue and the work involved in covering him has taken SB several months to achieve.  The example is actually larger than life - but the general shape is realistic - which may explain why the Great Bustard died out in the UK in the 19th Century!  It can, and does fly, which seems to defy all the laws of aero-dynamics!

Some statistics about Buttons are appropriate here I believe.

The statue required an investment in 38 kilos (83.6 pounds) of multi-coloured  buttons.  MrsG and the rest of the family got roped in for colour-coding operations and the results can be seen here.  About 28 kilos (61.6 lbs) were actually used to decorate Buttons.   Apparently, the remainder are still being colour-coded and packaged for sale in the Shop - which is thus unlikely to be acquiring any more buttons for some time to come!

Isn’t Buttons magnificent?  The time SB spent glueing every individual button, had to be fitted in to her busy life as a Mum to two Little People, as well as her own Shop duties.  SB did not keep count of every button stuck on, needless to say, but she has certainly produced a masterpiece in my view.

I’ve just found out - today - how to  cast my vote.  There is a prize on offer for the Best Decorated Bustard, and the winning voter gets a prize too.  However, it looks as though the voting opportunities are restricted to the Warminster area itself, so my first idea of opening up the voting opportunity to all my Followers does not look as though it is a flyer (if you'll pardon any pun!).  Whatever happens, I'll let you know if Buttons gets the nod - as I firmly believe he should.  But then, admittedly, I've not yet seen the other 11 finished models and perhaps I can be described as being already prejudiced in Buttons' favour.  Should there be a final line-up open to public scrutiny, I'll attempt to take photographs of them, and you can then make your own minds up - even if you don't have a chance to influence the results(s)! 

Incidentally, Bustards are but the latest animal statue to have been decorated and used to celebrate special events here in the UK South West .  A couple of years ago, nearby Longleat House & Safari Park celebrate 50 years of Lions roaming the green parklands.  The public were given the opportunity to view the competitiors when the completed statues were placed in various locations around the City of Bath (the owner of the Safari Park is the Marquess of Bath). 

(Incidentally, I have a tenuous connection with this gentleman’s family.  During the 1939-1944 War, my school The Royal School for Daughters of Officers of the Army was located to Longleat, so that the Admiralty could take over the school buildings for the duration of hostilities.  The School returned to Bath in 1947, and I joined in the junior school in 1951 - but when a pupil there, we were able to visit Longleat House (before the Safari Park was established in 1961) to marvel at the surroundings our predecessors were educated within.  The grounds themselves cover some 600 acres, in which the girls had free reign  - so they had plenty of room to roam!)

Then in 2011, Bristol Zoo celebrated 100 years of existence by decorating (and placing all round the City) Gorillas - they are participants in the global effort to preserve that species.  Large amounts of money were raised by both projects for local charities.  These statues can cost about £1,000.00 (USD 1.586.83) each, before the decoration expenses are considered, and the exhibitors are given the choice of donating the finished objects for sale or retaining them for their own objectives.  Buttons is destined to remain at “Think Outside the Box” and will be used in future marketing campaigns for the Shop and as a feature at future Craft events such as the bi-annual Wylie Valley Art Trail - the next one being due in 2013.

What is the Wylie Valley Art Trail?  The River Wylie is a small river, which eventually flows into the River Avon, near Salisbury and Heytesbury is one of many small villages through which it runs.  Warminster is one end of the Valley:  Salisbury is the other.  Every two years, the artists and crafters of Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire get together and exhibit their wares in local shops, studios and other suitable premises along the Valley.  The event takes place over one of the May Bank Holiday week-ends and is open to the general public - who are able to examine the craft work free of charge - but they are encouraged to purchase items that catch their interest.  The whole thing is a major feature of the local Tourist attractions for the year in question.

If folks want to learn more about The Great Bustard Project, there is a web-site for The Great Bustard Group (www.great then click on Great Bustard, and you’ll learn a lot about bustards in general and the UK re-introduction project in particular.

Normal service will resume shortly. This post has gone on longer than originally intended - but one thing led to another!  However,  I do hope you’ve still enjoyed this item.  As ever, God Bless!  Isobel