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Fine Lady

A new Fine Lady takes centre stage

"Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.”

This nursery rhyme has made my local town of Banbury famous but even many of my Banbury friends don’t know that the ‘Fine Lady’ bronze statue located near Banbury Cross was only created 15 years ago.


 An artist friend of mine called Rosy Burke helped me to understand the interesting quirks and features of the Banbury sculpture and their historical context. The Fine Lady represents the Queen of the May with the word Fine coming from the ancient Briton word ‘Finn’ meaning white or beautiful. Her white horse symbolises good luck. On the sculpture there are also lucky charms buried in the plinth, including Morris bells, a four leaf clover, spring flowers and heather. 

Last month I got the chance to create my own Fine Lady using Powertex fabric hardener, for exhibition at the TEDx Banbury event, where I had been invited to do my own TEDx talk entitled ‘Creativity has no bounds’. The common theme for all the speakers was ‘It’s the Little Things’ & I talked about how a chance meeting changed my career, the little rules of Textile Sculpture to get the best results & & how everyone can be creative in their own way, by looking at the world from a slightly different angle. I’m now able to share my Fine Lady with you in all her glory and explain how I made her.

Step 1 – taping and draping

I started with an ordinary shop mannequin but as she’s plastic I had to stick some masking tape on certain places so that the Powertex would adhere to the surface. I draped green t-shirt fabric around the mannequin for a skirt and used transparent Powertex to harden the folds and ripples of the material.

Step 2 – a secret horse

I layered more green fabric around her arms and body and finished the sleeves with some lovely lace. On the left wrist I hid a lace horse’s head to set a challenge for people to find the Fine Lady’s horse. Only one person actually managed it without help! For some depth of colour, I sponged on in Aqua acrylic ink along the folds of fabric.

Step 3 – finishing touches

I finished off the clothing with a darker green cloak fixed with a recycled buckle and some decorative thread around the arms and bodice. Along the edge of the cloak I stencilled a sun design with metallic acrylic ink, a symbol used in Banbury since 1584. She wouldn’t be complete without the ‘rings on her fingers and bells on her toes’ – I made the rings from StoneArt clay set with semi-precious stones. In the rhyme the rings symbolise power, wealth, status and privilege whilst the bells were originally bluebells, a symbol of constancy: seven bluebells for the days of the week.

Step 4 – crowning glory

My Fine Lady’s hair started off as a cotton mop head. I styled the strands and fixed it with Powertex and added a spray of brown bister to get the right shade. I set silk daffodils and roses in Powertex to adorn her hair, In fact a real daffodil leaf were dipped in wax & woven into her floral crown on the bronze sculpture.

My Fine Lady will be visiting Banbury Library on a tour of Banbury and I hope she might be involved in the 15th anniversary celebrations of the Fine Lady bronze statue in April. If you’d like to find out more about the symbolism and history of the bronze Fine Lady, a card by Rosy Burke is available to purchase in Church Lane Gallery in Banbury.

If you’d like to find out more about how I use Powertex fabric hardener in my sculpture, why not join an Artistic ReTreats workshop. From a two hour taster session to a full day figure sculpture, there are many to choose from and details are available at www.artisticretreats.co.uk  

 Photos of the TEDx Banbury event can be found HERE.