Something to rabbit on about!Posted on - 9th January 2019
The epic best-selling novel by Richard Adams, Watership Down, has just been adapted for the BBC (UK) and Netflix (Worldwide, with UK coming in Spring 2019) with the ragtag band of rabbits redrawn and transformed by animation. This Christmas, the Moorcroft faithful sat down on December 22nd to watch Watership Down on BBC One for the simple reason that our Art Pottery had been chosen by the television network to create an artistic homage to the new adaptation for the next generation. With voice overs from John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Olivia Colman, this new animation did not disappoint. Moreover, Moorcroft were working through Christmas to deal with the huge outpouring of positive comments about our art on social media. We were thoroughly delighted that Stoke-on-Trent's paper, The Sentinel, had our art on the front page for Christmas!
For 2019, Moorcroft journey with their on-screen partners: Hazel, the brave and wise leader; Bigwig, the strong yet impetuous warrior; and Fiver, the prophet who provides them with the impetus to avoid danger, and discover new found design territory, where art and heritage skills bring acclaimed words and animation to life. Ben Kingsley was superb in his horrifyingly realistic portrayal of General Woundwort, and this was the only vase that Moorcroft simply couldn't complete before the Christmas launch. Pictured below is Kerry Goodwin with her first 'drawn on green' (the first stage of the design process) of the General. Like any dictator of a place or country, General Woundwort is a cruel rabbit who is the Chief Rabbit of Efrafa through violent accession. He grasped leadership over his warren by killing the past Chief Rabbit and all other rivals within the rabbit warren, Efrafa, who did not submit to his control.
It should perhaps be said that General Woundwort has lost the truth of who he was meant to be. In arrogance, he believes he can take on all his enemies under Firth in his own strength and refuses to listen to sense. He has lost sight of who he was created to be. Whilst he is a scary, haunting character, depicted in the series and within this limited edition with one bulging clear-blue eye, like a monocled army general, menaced with a hunger for violence, we remind you that pride comes before a fall. Cleverly, Moorcroft designer, Kerry Goodwin ensures that this creature is kept in the trenches, far from the rolling Downs and trees that pass like autumnal clouds above. Whilst he stands in a threatening pose, glaring with ferocity and holding terrifying maimed jowls, we know the end of the story. Brave Bigwig's finest hour allows him to take on the General by surprise and through Hazel's ingenuity, unleashing the Nuthanger Farm watchdog, the Generals fate is sealed. As the General’s fellow Efrafans flee in terror, Woundwort, despite being greatly wounded in his battle with Bigwig, arrogantly leaps at the dog without a thought or prayer. His body is never found. Some say he has been seen somewhere…
Enter the Moorcroft Downs with a twitch of the nose, and remember that Frith shines gloriously above, warning and providing testing exposure to The Thousand, enemies that you will eventually overcome as imagery of the natural world calms the soul. You will not be pounced upon by the Pfeffa with her sharp claws and fearful teeth, the Lendri with its black and white striped face will not give you a painful bite, and the traps and snares of the Elil will be far from you. These designs are all created in the light, and Inlé, the darkness, will not harm you. Even when you see the face of The General in Moorcroft’s hauntingly brilliant design, you merely see that the dark warrior is underground, look up and the natural world hold soft autumnal trees with leave that transform into billowed sails. In truth, you instinctively know, that together, he can be overcome. So rise up on your haunches and peer through the wild grasses and smell the faint scent of wild garlic in the breeze, as you journey through scenery entirely created by Moorcroft designer, Emma Bossons FRSA and rabbits carefully transported from their on-screen personas by fellow Moorcroft designer, Kerry Goodwin. Become at one with Moorcroft at its very best. Each vase represents a rabbit with unique and distinct qualities originally harnessed by author Richard Adams, and now, under the watchful eye of Moorcroft’s Art Director, Elise Adams.
Hazel, the main protagonist of Watership Down is a shrewd and energetic rabbit of average stature who grows into the mythical chief rabbit about whom stories are told in the honeycomb warren to rabbit kittens in years to come. Intuition and a desire to be like El-ahrairah, the leader of all leaders, allow Hazel to complete his destiny and become known himself as Hazel-rah, a leader of leaders. With great discernment and wit, Hazel holds both tunnel-vision and a consideration for all other rabbits, even the fragile and vulnerable, acting always for the benefit of all and knowing that all have something to offer the group at their appointed time.
“You can pluck up your spirits, Bluebell,” he said. “I think we’re close to the iron road.”
“I wouldn’t care about my spirits,” said Bluebell, “if my legs weren’t so tired. Slugs are lucky not to have legs. I think I might be a slug.”
“Well I am a hedgehog,” said Hazel, “so you’d better get on.”
Indeed, fragile Fiver’s visions of red mist are not readily dismissed as madness by his older brother Hazel, who knows him well, but are taken so seriously that Hazel gently gathers a group of rabbits to leave a doomed warren. Almost immediately a power struggle emerges between Bigwig, a tough and rather rough defector from the warren’s ruling clique, the Owsla, and Hazel. Hazel does not claim leadership himself, instead he refuses to be bullied, knowing that his time will come, and that wisdom eventually trumps coercive control - the timid rabbits now having a sanctuary in Hazel-Rah. Captured in pensive stillness on one side of the vase, and in motion on the other side, contemplation before action is demonstrated. Around Hazel-Rah, Emma Bossons FRSA uses a protective canopy of vibrant-green bean plants, which in the original film, is a field where the rabbits are able to rest on their journey home. Overhead, a soft-blue butterfly flutters to reassure and to allow us to treasure the moment within this still, safe and tranquil place.
Bigwig’s very name is cleverly used by Richard Adams to depict the honour of title. As you journey through the book, Bigwig and his strengths only become treasured when harnessed for the good of all. Firstly, as a member of the Owsla, Bigwig’s title, like any officer of rank, commanded obedience, but sadly, also fear. Yet it is only when Bigwig becomes part of something bigger than himself, a rabbit that defends his group almost to the death, that he truly becomes the substance of legend. His size and strength are carefully captured by Kerry Goodwin as he tears through the long, wild-grass of the natural world carefully designed by Emma Bossons FRSA. Dandelions, wild garlic and grasses are drawn in acute angles to represent his swiftness and dog-eared determination. If not held back by another rabbit, he would be spent on a worthless mission impossible. Fortunately for Bigwig, he is planted with Hazel, and is used to defeat evil personified. His yielding to the authority of another is represented by his attentive stature on the reverse on the vase, standing in sentry duty with ears raised and alert.
In stark contrast to Hazel, Fiver first appears in the novel as "less at ease" than his brother, and emits ‘a kind of ceaseless, nervous tension.” Appearances are not always accurate. This diminutive, frail and unassuming rabbit has a prophetic gift and as such, is aware of dangers before they come to pass. If there is not a danger, Fiver strives forward, utterly fearless. Fiver isn't frightened of pylons, and bridges, even if his Lapine (the language of rabbits) name is "little thousand" (Hrairoo) which means that he was the smallest rabbit of at least five in his litter, since rabbits cannot count above four! It is Fiver that pushes aside fears without substance.
In much the same way as William Moorcroft allowed the horrors of the red-hot blasts of trenches to wash his Hazeldene design with an amber tide, so too, Emma Bossons FRSA allows a ‘red mist’, depicted in the television adaptation, to roll over the hills. The Moorcroft designer’s use of pathetic fallacy goes further still, and Hazel is placed in a stormy environment with trees bending in the wind and leaves tumbling past him to create a sense of uncontrollable foreboding. A storm is approaching, not only relating to the weather but also to their lives. Cleverly crafted by Moorcroft designer, Kerry Goodwin, Hazel sits in full realisation of the horrors of the future, shaking and terrified Fortunately, Hazel-Rah knows that this is not merely irrational nervousness but a tiny, vulnerable creature, weak to defend himself alone, but able to help all escape a horrific reality.
Clover, a hutch rabbit, was rescued from Nuthanger Farm by Hazel after he recognised that their band of male rabbits needed does to facilitate the continuation of life. In consequence, Moorcroft designer, Emma Bossons FRSA, wraps Clover in a shield of femininity as delicate blue harebells, creamy buttercups and golden dandelion seed heads nod gently to the whispers of the Downs. The first doe to bear a litter in the new warren, Clover has been depicted by Kerry Goodwin sat on her haunches, with one paw raised as if she is protectively ushering her rabbit kittens away from danger. In truth, she adjusts to the wild life better than any of the others, and she mates with Speedwell. Captured in another pose on the reverse of the vase, you can see her looking back at Nuthanger Farm, nostalgically recreated in Emma’s mind’s eye, with ears bent backwards as if slightly annoyed that she was trapped for so long - she knows she has come into the freedom of the Downs to be a mother, to nurture and to love.