My dad was a coal miner. That makes me, like Loretta Lynn, a coal miner’s daughter. For that reason, this particular Occuclaytion was a special one to sculpt. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I designed the characters back in early 2017. Although the Occuclaytions project has come in fits and starts, it so happened that I finished this sculpture right around my dad’s birthday.
I chose animals for each occupation based upon a real or perceived characteristic of those animals in the wild. I wanted to choose a digger for the miner, and since I had already spent so much time on a mole for the piece that inspired this project, I decided not to repeat. I didn’t really know much about badgers before this but found that their body structures are ideal for excavating. They are short and stout, with short, strong arms, perfect for scooping dirt. I also read that in medieval times, badgers were believed to work together to dig holes under mountains. According to legend, one badger would lie down at the entrance while holding a stick in its mouth. Its comrades would then pile dirt on its belly. Then two other badgers would drag the earth laden badger away by using the stick in its mouth as a handle. I’m not sure my dad ever played wagon in the mines, but I do know he worked, like these mythical badgers, in a team, each miner with his own specific task to achieve a collective goal.
Each of my sculptures includes some sort of prop to help tell the story of their job. I was really excited to find a bird cage charm in which to sculpt the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” as well as finding the perfect broken paint brush to use as the pick axe handle.
I’m really looking forward to painting this one. I am anxious to apply “coal dust” all over it to really bring it to life.
Up next: a seafaring sailor sea otter!