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Susan Ogilvy talks to Oliver Balch

Nests

Hay Festival 2022 , 

Susan Ogilvy introduces her unusual obsession: painting bird nests. It started almost by accident – while tidying up her garden after a storm, she found a chaffinch nest. She carried it inside and, as the water drained out of it, the sodden lump blossomed into a mossy jewel. She was amazed, and dropped everything to make a painting of the nest.

Ogilvy has since painted more than fifty bird nests from life, each time marvelling at its ingenious construction. Every species of bird has its own vernacular, but sources its materials – most commonly twigs, roots, grasses, reeds, leaves, moss, lichen, hair, feathers and cobwebs, less usually, mattress stuffing and string – according to local availability.

Ogilvy’s work has been shown at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, and the Kew Garden Gallery, London, amongst other places; it is included in several public and private collections, including Dr Shirley Sherwood's world-renowned collection of contemporary botanical paintings.

Susan Ogilvy talks to Oliver Balch