Harrogate artist aims to save the bees with stunning art installation

Art installation making a point - Artist Laney Birkhead.
Art installation making a point - Artist Laney Birkhead.

Fifty thousand handprinted bees on 126 giant hexagons of natural calico – Harrogate artist Laney Birkhead is making a serious point about our planet in a bold but beautiful way.

The 150 square metres of lovely fabric is the centre-piece of a new exhibition called Swarm by this award-winning painter, printer and, yes, beekeeper.

But there’s a lot more to Swarm than Laney’s stunning installation.

Swarm also showcases the work of a dozen or so other local artists, including Harrogate ceramic artist Anna Whitehouse, Harrogate filmmaker Helen Petts, Harrogate jewellery designer Janet Yeun Yau, Markington lino print specialist Pam Grimmond and Pateley Bridge’s versatile artist and textile designer Gill Kirk.

It’s been a massive task gathering the bee prints, Laney tells me, involving a series of workshops in local galleries, schools, colleges, garden centres and, even, a hen party.

In total Laney says it’s taken the active participation of more than 1,500 people to get to this point.

She said: “I didn’t know what 50,000 bees was going to look like. I’d picked that figure because it’s the number you need at this time of year to create a strong enough hive to survive the winter months.

“I didn’t know it was going end up this big. It has taken over my life but the response has been absolutely amazing.”

The artist’s aim is to highlight the importance to our environment of the humble British bumble bee and the current threat to bees from pesticides and climate change.

Laney said: “By bringing together installation sound, film and innovative arts and crafts I hope to raise awareness of the issue.”

But, should they wish, visitors to Swarm at the Inspired by Gallery @ North York Moor National Park Centre can simply enjoy the experience of walking inside the delicately constructed fabric ‘beehive’ created by Laney.

Swarm runs until August 9.

More information at www.northyorkmoors.org/inspiredby