Style Curious


Anna Collette Hunt's curious infestation

There is a dark and most curious mist twirling about the towers of Wollaton Hall, which is home to a grand
Natural History collection. Deep within the collection
vaults lies a rather peculiar accumulation of ancient
beetles. The pin-speared specimens have slept a dreamless sleep within their glass cabinets and sunless drawers for nigh on a century. The multitude of ancient beetles, moths and butterflies had been serenely suspended in time until something called to them from afar. The strangest of whispers whirred around in the wind. Meanwhile, unknown to their guardians, the specimens have awoken.

A thousand pairs of ancient wings unfurl in unison to beat away the dew of time. Deathly dormant limbs twitch and flicker with growing anticipation. Soon these charmed specimens will burst from their glass time capsules to chase the echoes in the wind, which command them to assemble en masse. Their intent is ominous as the swarm scuttles up the rocks towards the castle.

Art becomes storytelling, as the introduction to Anna Collette Hunt’s recent Stirring the Swarm installation at Nottingham Castle weaves a curiously dark tale. She says that her ceramics “rekindle a forgotten, childlike sense of curiosity and delight.” Hunt, who graduated with first class honours in Decorative Arts from Nottingham Trent University in 2009, has gone on to win numerous awards in her field – one of which resulted in this extraordinary solo exhibition at Nottingham Castle.The project was inspired by an Elizabethan mansion, Wollaton Hall, that houses Nottingham’s natural history collection and, in particular, the fragility of insect specimens within the cases of the entomology collection.

Stirring the Swarm saw around 10,000 insects, including moths, bees, beetles and butterflies, infest the South Halll stairwell of Nottingham Castle. The idea was developed, and exhibits created, over a period of seven months, when Anna worked with assistants to press white earthenware clay into moulds to model each specimen.

The firing and glazing left many of the insects with missing wings, or broken legs that reflect “their ancient and delicate condition.” Some of the insects have a trickle of gold lustre, referencing the traditional museum technique of pinning insects to a board. And each specimen is totally unique, in deference to the Victorian mania for butterfly collecting and taxidermy.

ShopCurious is proud to have some of Anna’s richly glazed insect specimens available exclusively at our online curiosity shop. Click on the photographs to view beetle brooches, enchanted insect wall plaques and boxed sets of ceramic entomological curiosities.

Anna is currently working on a special exhibit for Made in the Middle (Craftspace’s 18 month touring exhibition), which will be launched in Birmingham on 13th February. This will feature a new interpretation of Stirring the Swarm, incorporating a less gothic and more science-inspired narrative:
'A scientist has been tracking the swarm and capturing insects to study. She has enraged the storm by capturing their Queen. A plague of insects has besieged her office, seeking vengeance.'

Visitors will be able to engage with the piece using a specially created iPhone app, part of which can only be unlocked at the exhibition…

I’m certainly curious find out what happens in the next installment of Anna’s imaginative tale of infestation... Are you?

      Photographs by Chris Webb