Magpie by Louise Tiplady

Magpie by Louise Tiplady


This carving in Welsh slate by Louise Tiplady, celebrates the word ‘Magpie’, and 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: 30 x 60cm


A long-tailed crow with boldly marked (or green) plumage and a noisy call

Family Corvidae: five genera and several species, in particular the black-and-white (black-billed) magpie (Pica pica) of Eurasia and North America

ORIGIN: Late 16th century: probably shortening of dialect maggot the pie, maggoty-pie, from Magot, a middle English pet form of the given name Marguerite, and pie.

I am interested in combining letterforms with realistic bird carvings. Not only is the MAGPIE wonderful to carve, but the legends and superstitions connected with it provided plenty of inspiration for this piece.

I wanted to avoid carving a single bird as, even though the word magpie is being dropped from the dictionary, many people continue to relate seeing just one with bad luck. The rhyme ‘One for sorrow, two for joy’ is so commonly known that showing two magpies will I hope suggest joy to many people. When we salute a single magpie with the respectful greeting ‘Good morning, Mr Magpie, how’s your lady wife?’ it’s thought to ward off bad luck by inferring that he’s one of a pair. And magpies mate for life.

I chose a simple round hand letterform for the word as it reminds me of the books of my childhood.

I decided to include the complete definition of magpie from the dictionary to show that it is not just the reference to a bird species that has been erased, but also the figurative uses of the word to describe someone who collects shiny bright things or chatters idly. As the French proverb has it, bavard comme un pie: talkative as a magpie.

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