Laney Birkhead is an artist, print maker and bee keeper. In 2015, she embarked on a long held ambition to combine her art and her passion for bee keeping with the idea of creating a swarm of 50,000 bees printed on stitched calico.
With the help of the general public through workshops in Libraries, art spaces and schools, the Swarm was completed in June 2016 and will be on show at the North Yorks Moors National Park centre from 23rd July and at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley in October. This is the third artist film profile I have made and it continues my developing interest in collaborating with other artists, what drives them and how they relate and create from the wider world.
Like many, my experience of bees has been listening to that drowsy humming of the workaholic bumble bee on lazy summer days, and working my tastebuds around the never quite full jar of honey which has pride of place on the breakfast table. Suitably protected from a potentially aggressive squadron of guard bees - there were none, I was able to film Laney with her bees, close up and personal. For me it was a revelation - life inside this complex community, one of my favourite products in the making and especially the waves of sound which emanated from the bees depending on their mood and duty.
Most of the footage was filmed with two cameras more traditionally used for stills - a Panasonic GH3 (mirrorless) and Nikon D750 (Dslr). Sound and audio was captured using both on-camera directional microphones and an independent sound recorder (Zoom H4n) which was on one occasion, gently lowered into the hive between the frames. The Zoom’s furry windshield had to be removed given its similarity to animal fur. The bees would not take kindly to this unannounced visit and would likely try to repel it.