Animals to look at – not to pet

How many animal-related knick-knacks do you have at home?

 I look around and see a Louis Wain postcard, a felt toy dog, an owl holiday souvenir, wooden carvings of birds, a good luck cat, a pig planter, a musical box with mice on top – lined up on window sill, bookshelf and desk.

My little menagerie

How many animal photos do you have on your phone? Looking through my library I find random cats and dogs in the street and in parks, swans and ducks on the river, spring lambs and friendly horses in fields, stone dogs on tombs in chapels, a strange creature’s face on a church door knocker, animals in works of art.

Kneelers, St Nicholas Church, Bromham

Animals – real or imagined are woven into the fabric of our lives, history and culture.

White horse for sale, antique shop, Hungerford
Ice cream mould from ‘The Book of Ices ‘by AB Marshall, 1895
More designs for moulds by AB Marshall

We cannot ignore the animals around us, whether domestic or wild. Aesthetically, they are beautiful to see, and fascinating to watch, and, as we know, beneficial for our mental and physical health. If we can’t have the real thing – an image or model is a good substitute.

Carved lions, Durham Cathedral
The Sanctuary  Knocker, North Door Durham Cathedral

We also create our own versions of the animal kingdom – making other worldly creatures – drawing on features to convert into something – to frighten us, warn us, perhaps, about what lies beyond us.