Arts & Culture
Michelle started horse riding aged three
Creating a 'humanist, Rastafarian' lion
If you attended either Glastonbury Festival or The Big Green Gathering in 2008, you may have been surprised to see a dancing nine foot elephant.
If so, your eyes did not deceive you - it was actually the work of 22-year-old artist Michelle McCullagh from Keinton Mandeville.
Animals have always featured in her work - ever since childhood Michelle has been inspired by them - but it wasn't until 2005 that her use of animals took an unusual turn as she was approached by one of the organisers of The Big Green Gathering who knew of her talent and interest in animals to create a festival 'mascot'.
What resulted was a gigantic horse made from wire and material, standing at nine foot tall.
The gigantic sculpture is moved by two people who are harnessed into the inside of the sculpture, like a Trojan horse, and they keep it in place by attaching themselves in like a rucksack.
Oils are used to create her paintings
The horse was then paraded around the festival with a guitarist and violinist providing the music alongside.
It was a trip to India in 2006 which inspired her next project, a larger-than-life elephant.
Michelle went with her father Steve who runs a classic car journey company whereby he organises rallies to India, Budapest and The Himalayas.
She fulfilled a life-long ambition when she went (travelling in an Ambassador car) as she sat on top of an elephant. The idea for her next project was born.
After taking over two months to create, the elephant toured around Somerset's festivals in 2007, with chocolate balls being sold out of its bottom.
Michelle created these sculptures while she was at home during the summer from Falmouth University. Having completed her Fine Art degree in June, it was only then that Michelle could move home to the family's six-acre farm to focus on making a living from her talent.
The face is made from leather
"I love painting and sculpting. And now I have the space and facilities to be able to do it," she said.
After exhibiting at Somerset Art Week, Michelle was inundated with commissions for her work. Although most of them were for painting owners' horses, she did receive one unusual request - a dancing reggae lion.
Bridgwater Reggae Sound System is a collective of DJs based in Somerset. John Shearlow from the collective approached Michelle with a brief of creating a "sexy, Rastafarian lion" which will dance alongside them during their sets.
Slightly different than the elephant and horse, the lion has more freedom to move and works more like a Chinese dragon in that the performers are not harnessed in but operate the lion more like a pantomime horse.
All the focus of the lion will be on the head, which has been sculpted from livestock wire (which will be removed) to get the right shape and covered in leather.
It will then be held by a bar which will allow the performers to move it.
The lion is set to be unveiled on 6 February - a tight deadline however Michelle is confident she will meet it and also paint two more commissions in time for her to go to Australia where she'll paint her brother playing polo.
"I didn't expect it to go as well as it has done as a career," she said. "But I am enjoying it."
last updated: 16/01/2009 at 16:44