Healing Broken Butterflies

Artist Anne ten Donkelaar heals damaged butterflies by giving them new wings made of a variety of materials including gold, old maps, roots, threads and embroidery. Although the butterflies are no longer alive, they are given a new lease on life with their interesting new wings which are both beautiful and intricately designed. Donkelaar, who is inspired by nature and found objects, has created a stunning series by creatively reviving these delicate insects.

We got in contact with Anne to ask her a few questions about her work. You can read that interview, below.

How and when did you first think of using butterflies in your artwork?
I have always collected small pieces of nature. Because a lot times the pieces were broken or damaged, I decided to repair them in my own way and give them a second life.

How do you find the butterflies to work with?
In the Netherlands the butterflies are small and without bright colors, too small to put in a frame or to work with it. I asked the people at the “butterfly garden” in Amsterdam if they could help me and I found out that they actually had butterflies that died a natural death and I could have a few . They really inspired me and I decided to repair them in different ways due to their needs. For example the “Zwart vlek vlinder” was missing two top wings. I made the new wings for it by embroidering the same patterns on fabric.

The “Blauw Spinner” looked like it died at the moment it just came out of the cocoon. It was the inspiration for the body which consists of wrapped blue thread on a twig. A few treads are hanging loose as if the butterfly was breaking out of its cocoon, slowly unrolling and breaking free.

The “Medusozoa” was missing her body and the antennae, and couldn’t fly. She got a new set of flying tools, kind of like a parachute and propellor. The name was inspired by the movement of the Medusozoa.

Who are some artists that inspire you?
The main inspiration for ” Broken Butterflies” was the children’s book “The Butterfly Workshop” by Gioconda Beli. It is about a “designer of all things” who wants to create something that is as beautiful as a flower and could fly like a bird.

How would you describe your own feelings when you are “repairing” them?
I really like doing it because it feels like I’m a butterfly doctor, but when I’m doing the really fragile work I just hold my breath. Every little mistake can break the butterfly.


Anne ten Donkelaar’s Website
via [Junk Culture]





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