Kingfisher by Jackie Perkins

Kingfisher by Jackie Perkins


This carving in limestone, with palladium leaf and enamel paint, is by Jackie Perkins and celebrates the word ‘Kingfisher’. It was created as part of our exhibition ‘The Lost Words - Forget-me-not.’ For this exhibition artists have created a permanent record of the natural words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Size:  47 x 30cm


An often brightly coloured bird with a large head and long sharp beak, typically diving for fish from a perch. Many of the tropical kinds live in forests and feed on terrestrial prey such as insects and lizards.

Family Alcedinidae: many genera and numerous species, such as the small river kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), with bright blue and orange plumage, found from Europe to Australasia.

 ORIGIN: The etymology of kingfisher is obscure; deriving from ‘king's fisher’, but why that name was applied is not known.

I first remember seeing a kingfisher in my late 20s, while kayaking on the Norfolk Broads. A brilliant flash of unforgettable blue. I don’t believe I’ve seen one since. If I have only seen one then I imagine the chances of the average city-dwelling child spotting one is pretty slim. The fact remains, however, that kingfishers remain widespread across the UK. They are amber-listed due to their less than favourable conservation status.

 It is very sad that kingfishers have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. They are still very much part of the landscape. How on earth will children learn to recognise them if they don’t know that they are there?

For the design of my piece I wanted to reflect upon the characteristics of this (mythical to some) beautiful bird. ‘Kingfisher’ is a great name – they are indeed fantastic fishers and ‘kings’ of the river. How might a child conjure up their image? In appearance, they are more than worthy of their name. Their vivid plumage, with contrasting colours of orange, blue and cyan, appears exotic next to many other native birds. Yet they are notoriously shy and can be difficult to spot when perched motionless at a river bank.

I wanted my letterforms to also somehow reflect the characteristics of the kingfisher. They are small birds with long bills and so fast in flight that only a shimmering flash of colour may be seen when they dive for their prey. I chose to use a lightweight calligraphic letterform that I hope captures this movement.

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