Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then I’ll begin the story of Blodeuwedd…
Growing up in Wales, I was always aware of the alluring myth of Blodeuwedd, filled with the potent and dangerous mix of magic, love and free will. A woman of great beauty, Blodeuwedd was created from flowers by magicians to be a wife for an almost-immortal husband. She was unfaithful and tricked him into giving away the sole secret of his mortality. As punishment, the magicians turned her into an owl, doomed to hunt, despised and alone, forever. The tale is also about transmogrification: my chair captures that hugely uncomfortable moment where woman becomes owl.
Alan Garner’s eerie cult novel for teenagers, The Owl Service, is based on the tale of Blodeuwedd. I first read it with my friend Vicky by torchlight at Girl Guide camp, where we scared each other senseless and founded a friendship that has lasted more than 40 years: a testament to the power of great literature. The Blodeuwedd chair was originally created for Petals and Claws, a series of events and exhibitions with the Garner family celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Owl Service.
… and the chair comes in how?
We are often invited to be seated to be told a story. However, this is a chair that cannot be sat upon, conveying the discomfort and unanswered questions inherent in the tale itself: it’s a broken-down chair with angry, outstretched talons on its front that you definitely wouldn’t want to sit on. The frame is left un-upholstered, with its tack holes showing and the seat’s inner springs and stuffing revealed: interesting but old, broken, unusable and capable of causing injury. Is it still a chair? If not, what does it become?