Netsuke is the traditional Japanese craft of carving miniature wooden sculptures designed to be used as toggles to hold the obi (sash) in place on a kimono.
Requiem for the Reef is made from stag antler, with an inlaid fish of stained boxwood, The eyes of the fish are inlaid amber over gold leaf.
Bereft, its last fish
haunts the silent, white stillness
of the Reef’s graveyard
The stag antler for this netsuke came from a deer farm in rural Victoria, Australia, owned by the father of a friend. I needed a pale, hard material to convey the bleached nature of the dying reef, and stag antler was ideal.
Stags start growing their antlers in the spring and shed them at the end of the season. As the antlers grow they are covered in ‘velvet’: and the antlers of a farm stag are cut when the velvet is still fresh, leaving just the base, known as the coronet. The antler itself is used to make cutlery and decorative items, and the velvet (the most valuable part) is sold for use in Chinese medicine. At the end of the breeding season the antler coronets are shed in the natural way, and are left in the field. My friend's father, hearing that I would like to carve a coronet, which is the most solid part of the antler, went out into his fields and gathered me a large bagful.
The natural form of the base of the coronet is reminiscent of coral forms and readily lent itself to the subject. The deathly pallor of the material is reminiscent of the bleached coral, and the porous core of the antler is suggestive of the coral starting to crumble. It is a beautiful material to carve, and to handle.
- Susan Wraight