Art meets conservation with Lauren Baker’s sculpture for Save Wild Tigers
It is estimated that there are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild, and every day that population is shrinking further. It’s not only the poachers and their client base of superstitious businessmen in the Far East that are responsible for this sad state of affairs, but governments who turn a blind eye to the illegal trade of pelts and bones, and allow the destruction of tigers’ natural habitat with unscrupulous logging to make way for farmland and palm oil plantations.
There are an estimated 5,000 tigers living in captivity in the USA, in private zoos and homes, often in unsuitable conditions. More of the largest of the big cat species are farmed in South East Asia, kept in horrendous, cramped conditions where the inside of a concrete cell is all they know from life until they are slaughtered to be made into Traditional Asian Medicines.
With so much against them, charities like Save Wild Tigers are imperative for the conservation effort to protect these magnificent animals so that future generations can see them living as nature intended – in the wild, not behind the bars of a zoo. Set up by Simon Clinton in partnership with two leading conservation charities, profits from Save Wild Tigers go to the Born Free Foundation and the EIA for Tiger conservation directly. They have joined forces to end the illegal trade in tiger parts and protect tigers in the wild.
To help raise money for the charity’s tireless work, artist Lauren Baker created an artwork for auction, The Crystal Tiger. The life size tiger head was encrusted with 35,000 Swarovski crystals and went on to raise £10.5k for the charity.
What is your background?
I used to work in marketing and event management but I became disenchanted with nine to five so I took an adventure to South America. I stumbled upon a street art project on a little island called Florianopolis off the coast of Brazil and I began mosaicing the streets with a mission to make passers-by smile. I ended the trip in the Peruvian Amazon and it was when I was surrounded by dense vegetation and the sound of the jungle – that was when I had an epiphany – that I should become an artist. It all started there two years ago. Since then I’ve exhibited at Tate Modern and Harrods windows. My next art project is in a boutique art hotel in Ibiza and I’ve got a show in California in November. That trip was life-changing.
How did you come to be involved with Save Wild Tigers?
They saw my work online and requested I put forward an art proposal. I knew instantly that I wanted to create a crystal encrusted tiger head. They loved the concept.
How long did the tiger head take to make?
The sculpture took a week to create with the help of sculptor John Nolan and it took a further two months to individually apply 35,000 Swarovski crystals. It was snowing and my railway arch studio was freezing – it was a long process but it was worth it.
What inspired you to create this piece?
I wanted to pay homage to the beauty of the tiger. I used crystals to symbolize the incredible power and presence of a tiger. I hope that people will see the crystal tiger and be reminded of the living treasures that are being forgotten and potentially lost forever.
How will the money raised go towards saving tigers?
Funds raised will go towards the costs of investigations and campaigns on international illegal tiger trade, including trade in captive-bred (farmed) tigers, plus crucial on the ground anti-poaching initiatives within the Satpuda Tiger conservation programme in Central India. Save Wild Tigers has a 10-year plan to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.
What message are you trying to convey with the tiger piece?
I think if you feel an affinity towards an animal and its endangered you should actually do something – no matter how small – it’s empowering to take action. It’s down to our generation to save wild tigers. Within 10 years wild tigers could be extinct. I want to encourage people to take action.
What environmental cause are you most concerned about at present?
When I think and talk about my art I often use descriptions and metaphors that describe flow. Fluidity is a core concept for me, so I am wondering recently about ways my art might support organisations facilitating the basic right of clean water to poor rural communities.
What other conservation/animal action groups do you support?
I’ve done sponsored walks for WWF. It feels good to take action – no matter how small.
What – if any – small changes have you made to your artistic practice to make it more green?
Creative processes often use a lot of water for mixing, preparation and cleaning-up. I try to be resourceful in minimising water usage. It’s also a sustainable rationale for why not eating meat because the processing of animal products uses a lot of water. I have become fascinated in research by Masaru Emoto regarding the integrity of water and he even believes our intentions with water affect its self-organisation on a molecular level, which really intrigues me.
You’ve worked a lot with deer skulls, where do you source those from?
I go out of my way to source skulls that have perished from natural causes. I’ve got contacts in The Deer Society, walking groups, park rangers and land-owners. Often the skull is sun-bleached and mouldy and you can tell the age of the deer by the teeth. The concept behind the ‘Enchanted Afterlife’ collection is that the art is a homage to each living creature. I like to think of the animals as becoming god-like in the afterlife. Each skull has a name, age and a story telling where they lived and habits of the breed.
For more information visit www.savewildtigers.org
Click here for more information about Lauren’s work www.laurenbakermosaics.comTagged in: Save Wild Tigers
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter