I first printed bees after receiving a donation of comb and bees from some Anglesey keepers. This was back in May 2022. Then it occurred to me, that as I'd lived in Manchester most of my adult life, raising my kids in Chorlton that I should do some bee prints for the Manchester Art Fair.
The worker bee has been a symbol of Manchester since the 1800's when seven bees were included on the cities coat of arms. For me however I only truly became aware of it as a symbol of Manchester after the terrible terrorist incident that took place in 2017 when Ariana Grande played at the Manchester Arena.
In the days that followed the attack, in a sign of solidarity and an outpouring of grief many residents of the city got a tattoo of a bee, I distinctly remember queues in Chorlton for the tattoo parlour on Barlow Moor Road.
So shortly after printing the Anglesey Bees I started looking for a Manchester based bee keeper who could supply me with some comb and bees. Over social media I got chatting with Alan Lee, a Chorlton based bee keeper and total enthusiast and we agreed to meet up and he gave me some bees and comb.
I brought the bees and comb back to my studio in North Wales and stored the bees in the freezer until I was ready to print. They certainly aren't the easiest subject to print. The wings can't really be moved from the position they were in when the bee died. So it they are tight over the body, you can't really get a good print off them. The abdomen is still full so too much pressure will cause it to burst. Trying to get some of the delicate laceiness of the wing is also not easy. Too much ink and there is not a lot to show. Equally too little and it won't work either.
As time has gone on, I've improved my technique and I'm really proud of my bee prints. They are small of course because they are actual size. As with all Gyotaku ink is painted onto the surface of the bee and paper gently pressed over the surface.
I've decided to donate 50% of my profit on these prints to a Manchester based charity. I'm still trying to decide which one to go for or if it would be better to support a couple. I'll put up another post about that after they have all sold and the decision has been made.
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