Artists build life-sized whale used in protest

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A LIFE-sized grey whale which was seen on the River Thames last Tuesday was created in a Wattisfield studio as part of a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) campaign.

The 11-metre long model was designed and built by local artists Ray Brooks, Ned Pamphilon and Kieren Wimbush, in conjunction with events organisation Walk The Plank, in a workshop at Henry Watson’s Pottery, in Pottery Hill, Wattisfield, over the course of several weeks.

A life size western gray whale replica floats past the Houses of Parliament in central London as WWF highlights the plight of the  last remaining 130, PRESS ASSOCIATION picture date Tuesday 07 February 2012. The western gray whale is teetering on the brink of extinction and their critical feeding ground of the coast of Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, is now under threat from further expansion of oil and gas projects.  WWF is calling on the European project lenders to take action and oppose the plans.''Caption should read Geoff Caddick/PA

A life size western gray whale replica floats past the Houses of Parliament in central London as WWF highlights the plight of the last remaining 130, PRESS ASSOCIATION picture date Tuesday 07 February 2012. The western gray whale is teetering on the brink of extinction and their critical feeding ground of the coast of Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, is now under threat from further expansion of oil and gas projects. WWF is calling on the European project lenders to take action and oppose the plans.''Caption should read Geoff Caddick/PA

‘Watty’, as it was affectionately named by its creators, left Watson’s Pottery last Monday on its journey to West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London, and was towed up the River Thames on a pontoon, through Tower Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Brooks, a freelance professional sculptor and art consultant who headed the artistic team, said: “Watty the Whale has been a joy to create, is symbolic of the spirit of the Pacific and was a surreal sight to behold in the midst of the East Anglian countryside, let alone London.”

The WWF aims to raise awareness of the plight of one of the world’s most endangered whales – the western gray – and hoped Watty’s London visit would persuade a meeting of financiers to locate a planned oil rig away from important whale breeding grounds along the Russian coast.

Two drilling platforms already exist next to a key feeding ground off the coast of Sakhalin Island, where there are plans to build a third oil rig.

Jeremy Watson, director of Henry Watson’s Pottery, said: “We should all take an interest in protecting our environment – what we’re looking after today is not just for here and now, it’s for future generations.”

Mr Watson is one of the few people who witnessed the whale’s ‘interesting’ development on a day-to-day basis, from its initial construction through to it finally being painted.

“It’s very unique, we have ceramics in our warehouse but it’s very rare we have a life-size whale as well,” he said.

In constructing Watty, the artists used as many environmentally friendly and locally sourced materials as possible, including bamboo, willow cane ‘withies’, recycled foam, solvent free natural rubber latex, eco-friendly paint and cup cake casings from the gift shop at Henry Watson’s Pottery.

The paper cup cake casings were turned upside down, spread out on the whale and stuck on to make convincing whale barnacles.

To see Watty’s construction go to: www.nppthewhale.blogspot.com/2012/01/30.html or for more on helping the western gray, visit: www.thelast130.org