Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I am not sure whether it is good news. When my Grandma Desmond died in 2005, I was ambiguously happy to have thrust upon me a wooden serving tray of hers - small, Japanese - just the right size for someone to bring you tea upon, or breakfast in bed. No one else wanted it; it was one of the items left at the end of the day that no one wanted to leave behind because it was very "Grandma", but also no one else really wanted as it was at the same time a tray morbidly decorated with a gorgeous under-glass arrangement of wings of blue/purple iridescent butterflies and I guess my various cousins/siblings/aunts/uncles/parents thought - and I understand this - that it was just too emblematic of the fact that the butterflies had been killed to make something beautiful. I admitted to the same misgivings but in the end I guess I justified that because it was SO lovely and glamorous and the butterflies had been dead since at least 1937 then I might as well enjoy their shimmery blue beauty. It is basically a meat-eater's or vintage-fur wearer's argument and I am aware of this and I am aware of my hypocrisy.
However, I think the glass cracked even in the first post-funeral drive up from Long Beach, CA to Portland and the butterflies themselves were so old they were already crumbling to dust, though they were still so gorgeous blue. I researched stuff online yesterday when I was unpacking the tray, and I decided to "fix" it. The solution seemed to be epoxy resin, which would glassify over the pretty yet disintegrating wings and preserve them.
An hour ago, I picked out all the pieces of broken glass. I had to hold my breath and then turn away and breathe, because every time I exhaled I would blow away a blue wing; that is how delicate the wings were. I managed to keep the original arrangment (again morbidly, it had been fashioned to have a "butterfly" in the middle). Then I poured the resin over the tray.
It all turned brown as soon as the resin hit it! My gorgeous blue wings! Truly the prettiest blue colour I have ever seen - now brown! It was like a mummy was crumbling away when its bandages hit the sunlight. Er, bad simile.
Anyway, I am now waiting for the resin to dry and see whether it was just an effect of moisture or whether I now have a still-interesting but not-as-beautiful tray of dead brown butterfly wings. I have the slight rectifying sense that it would serve the humans right if the butterfly wings turned brown in long-delayed revenge (served VERY cold). I personally in the future likely will have less guilt when I'm served cups of tea on my pretty ill-gotten tray. Updates soon.
The wings stayed brown. I then had another inspiration and decided to paint the brown wings with iridescent blue, purple and green nail polish. A risky choice, but let's face it, authenticity isn't really an issue when you're dealing with an object that already involved butterfly murder and the "re-fashioning" of cruelty as objets d'art. The resultant wings look all right. Lovely, not as lovely as before the initial brownifying. I re-glassified the tray yet again and the second coat of resin is setting.
UPDATE 02.06.2012 - AFTERNOON
The butterflies in question are Morphea or Karner Blue.
Totally unrelated #1, I was enchanted by this commercial several years ago, which involves, appropriately enough for a sleeping pill, what I think is a Morphea - apparently there are many parody videos out there since I was not the only one obsessed with what some called the Butterfly of Death (No....!).
Totally unrelated #2, THIS is an Onion article that concerns Karner Blue butterflies. It's very wrong. I laugh every time I read it, so this is how I know that I am very wrong too. Okay, I seem to be having some synchronicity in my life concerning mysterious and possibly menacing blue-green butterflies...
Yep, this will probably be the last "butterfly" post I do for quite some time.