You could be in a Hitchcock film. Wherever you look, bevies of birds are staring at you. Whether on the catwalk, on the cover of a book or in the interior, our feathered friends are flocking together this season. But don’t despair: from pompous peacocks to swooping swallows, there’s so much variety you’ll find the right bird for you. Time for a bit of birdwatching.
Even in the early days of porcelain manufacture, vases, plates and cups bore motifs taken from nature. These would feature a wide variety of plants – and birds were always represented too. Birds are so graceful and delicate that they’re still an excellent fit for the finest white gold. China certainly applies many avian motifs; each has a different meaning, each bird a symbol. The kingfisher stands for beauty, the magpie for joy, the swallow for the blessing of fertility and the crane for long life. Chinese people often give porcelain bearing the relevant bird motif as a gift.
Bird patterns have always been found on tableware, but our feathered friends are now enjoying a population boom in the dining sector as they reach new heights of popularity. There are so many types and species of birds, and this is reflected in the way they are represented as decorative elements. The peacock is certainly one of the most impressive, with his beautiful plumage attracting everyone’s attention. So it’s little wonder that this tea service by Franz Collection has a similar wow factor. The Chinese porcelain manufacturer is certainly displaying great prowess, apparent in the many finely worked aspects and details. It’s easy to believe that this vase by Lladró really does have budgies sitting on it, the design and colours are so detailed and true to life. You almost expect this commonly-caged bird to take flight.
Sleeker, more pared-down bird designs can be equally effective, as we see with these lovely plates by Anne Black and the teaspoons by PO Selected. The designs foreground simple forms and will work in situations where detail doesn’t. It’s all about the idea of the bird. This dessert tray by Qualy Design bears only a single yellow bird on its cover. If the conceited peacock can’t win you over, why not let this chirpy chap charm you?
Yet our feathered friends are not just for the table: they alight on walls and peek through windows. Pablo Piatti has designed living room wallpapers for a tropical rain forest look featuring exotic birds like the toucan, with its impressive beak.
Fatboy offers particularly fine window stickers featuring birds sitting on branches with colourful flowers to brighten up any window. Your everyday life just got brighter in an instant.
In a gilded cage
It’s interesting that we encounter ever fewer birds in our daily lives, yet are letting ever more bird-themed objects into our interiors. Cages have become a popular theme many designers make use of in their own playful way. Daqi Concept turns a caged songbird into an extraordinary sort of speaker that can be connected via Bluetooth to a tablet or stereo. The small porcelain bird is available in a variety of species, all different colours.
The shape and composition of a birdcage can also make it an ideal lampshade to let light flit across your walls. This bird has already flown, and it is nowhere to be seen. Eichholtz has interpreted a birdcage as a stool, so the person sits like a bird in a golden cage.
In Sydney, artist Michael Thomas Hill has for several years been exploring the symbolism of empty birdcages, which can stand both for freedom and transience. The impressive look of these cages in different sizes attracts many visitors. The artist also wants to convey a serious message: the missing birds represent 50 species once native to Sydney which have gradually been edged out by the city’s development. Hill calls the artwork ‘Forgotten Songs’.
Meissen, the traditional porcelain manufacturer, has also turned to bird motifs. The little sparrows and starlings climbing round the vase on snowball petals look so lifelike that they might take flight if you get too close. On a more abstract note, and made from pine not porcelain, these parrots are based on a design by Hans Bølling for Architectmade. They are such colourful creations, and cannot fail to impress when they’re all perched in a row. Even the real classics are being reinterpreted: do you remember waiting as a child for the cuckoo to spring out of the clock? Thanks to Progetti’s modern interpretation, you can feel that excitement all over again.
Noble and refined or amusing and fun, there are enough species of birds to suit any context. The material they are made from often determines their impact. Thomas Poganitsch has created a wall decoration covered in gold leaf, with an elegant appearance which is weather resistant, so suitable for both indoors and out.
This mobile by Kay Bojesen is made from painted beech, and gives a dainty but also plain impression. These wooden seagulls make a real statement and provide a true talking point, even outside the playroom.
Fashion is also full of bird motifs at the moment. Feathers flutter into view at the big designer labels, and edge into designs for this season and next. Prada, Valentino and Gucci each have their own favourite bird and variation on the theme.
Assorted avian accessories from smaller labels are available to fit the bird designs by the big fashion houses. This clutch bag and bracelet by Nach Bijoux are a perfect pairing. Both have settled on a toucan motif. While the hand-painted bangle is made of porcelain, the bright yellow calfskin clutch certainly catches the eye. Keecie has created a keyring with a more modest small bird silhouette. Perhaps the feathers featured in many spring collections were just a foretaste of the current full-on bird trend. It’s certainly taken off: there’s hardly an object anywhere that hasn’t adopted a bird, be it umbrella, scissors or bean bag. We will certainly be feathering our nests with them. How about you? Soaring high or have your wings been clipped?
The next big thing: birding
If you’re ready to take the next step, to embrace birds and nature both outdoors and in, the latest city hobby could be for you. It’s called urban birding, and it’s a group activity aimed at investigating the local birdlife. A variety of apps and books are available to help. In cities like Berlin, you can join in with a spot of after-work birding, or take a tour from your hotel. You can start by searching the net for the keyword ‘birding’ and the name of your town or city – we bet you’ll find a group near you. This really is a hobby that clears your head and helps you de-stress. You’ll feel as free as a bird.
But why stop at domestic birds, when you could travel to India and see more exotic species? Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a birding paradise, with over 300 species of birds, some endangered. This refuge for birds is even a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is a mere three hours away from Delhi. The best times to visit are between August and November, October and February. Among the many species sighted here are cranes, pelicans and eagles. It’s the place to be for the dedicated birdwatcher.