Zora Verona: Feathered Collaborators
Zora Verona creates bird nests. Intrigued, Fibre Arts Take Two talked to Zora about her relationship with birds and her remarkable work.
Zora Verona’a Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Appearing delicate and often seemingly fragile, nests are resilient enough to withstand many weather elements. There’s something about them that invites curiosity. If we find them unused, we see them as treasures fallen from above.
You’d also be forgiven for thinking that the beautiful work of Zora Verona was a gift of nature. Her intricate weavings are nature’s replicas, reenvisioning nests held in Natural History Collections worldwide, giving us a rare glimpse into some of the oldest nests on record.
Zora celebrates the beauty of natural fibres inspired by the bird. As an artist and architect diving into the history of past creations, Zora Verona weaves her works, saying every bird and its nest has a fascinating backstory reminding us just how precious our natural world is and how potentially precarious.
With a deep love for nature and history, her first solo exhibition: The Art and Crafts of Nests, poses the question: Could birds have inspired our art and craft traditions? Fibre Arts Take Two discovered more about this invitation to awaken the understanding that every bird species is worthy of our wonder and awe.
Zora and Verona
Zora Verona is a nom de plume, “Zora and Verona are my two grandmothers,” she says, “Zora on my father’s side, Verona on my mom’s side, and when I thought about a name I was going to create under I couldn’t think of a better name than to honour these two women who had very complicated lives. They lived through difficult times, and I thought, ‘How beautiful to be able to honour them?’. Zara also means the light at dawn, and Verona means truth, and I thought, what greater truth-telling is there than the sound of birdsong at the light of dawn? It had a lot of synergies for me, but my friends and family know me as Laurie.”
Zora has lived all over the world but has finally settled in NSW, “My father was born in Slovenia,” she says, “and came to Canada after World War Two. My mum’s mother was born in Canada, but her mother was born in Slovakia, and they came to Canada in about the 1800s, so my mum and dad met in Canada. I was born in Canada, but I’ve lived all over the place, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, and the UK, but I came here on a working holiday visa and fell in love with Australia. It’s just such a beautiful, beautiful place.”
Nature has always been a part of Zora’s life, “I’ve always been connected to the natural world,” she says, “but I think it began when I moved here to Warburton. I still remember the first windstorms. Windstorms in the country are nothing like they are in the city because the house shakes and the trees are just bending. But I went out to check the fences in the paddock the next morning, and this beautiful glimmering tumbleweed was going through the paddocks. I ran after it and caught it in my hands, and it was a bird’s nest, and I looked down at it, and it was the most exquisite thing I’d ever seen. I’ve been fortunate to encounter these wonders over time, which lodged in my mind.”
A significant catalyst in Zora’s work with birds nests was the fires in 2020, “I was up here in the valley in 2009,” says Zora, “during the Black Saturday bushfires, and I was seeking a sense of restoration in 2020, and I knew that creativity was a wonderful way to have that restoration and have that sense of flow return to you. So I looked around me, and beautiful spinebills were feeding on the salvia blooms outside my window, and the lyrebird was singing in the distance, and fairy-wrens were jumping on the lawn, and it just clicked. I could use natural fibres to create those nest sculptures, and then it just snowballed from there.”
Zora’s embrace of creative practice first took root in Montreal, “I was thinking about pursuing a career as a potter,” she says, “and I was going to sign up for a course, but there was a lot of stigma about art being a hobby and not a career, so I packed away my materials, and that’s when I went travelling and came here to Australia. So it wasn’t until 2020 that I thought, ‘This is an essential part of my life to explore those things’.”
There was more to Zora’s passion for creation than personal exploration, “It was also the message,” she says, “there were so many animals that were displaced or lost their lives during those bushfires, so I wanted to tell the stories in a way that most people didn’t experience. When you live in the city, you don’t necessarily see bird nests; you don’t have that privilege. That was something else I wanted to bring that sense of wonder to people. I truly believe that if we recognise something, learn about it, and are inspired by it, we will care about it. That was the impetus behind my work, but also the exhibition. It’s called The Art and Craft of Nests, and it’s very much that narrative of how humans and birds have evolved together and perhaps our arts and crafts practices have been inspired by one another. Birds are artists, and they’re craftsmen, and they’re architects, and I wanted people to gain that understanding.”
Birds are much more than abstract in Zora’s life; they are also a vibrant presence and occasional collaborators, “I always feel like I have a soundtrack here at home,” Zora says, “I’ve got about 35 species of birds and a bird bath right outside this window. They’re always there singing along, twittering, and keeping me company, and I love it. When I was making that big contemporary magpie nest, I went inside to get a glass of water, and I came back out, and this raven was sitting on top of it. It’s quite an interactive process.”
One other incident highlighted to Zora the parallels between her and her feathered neighbours, “It was a particular bird that had made a nest in a tin can,” Zora says, “so I was looking for like a rusted paint tin can, and I looked at them, and I thought, well, I’ll take this one, and I couldn’t believe it, a few months later, I found the other can be knocked off the plant table. It was on the ground, and sure enough, a bird’s nest was inside it. It was so extraordinary that I had chosen one, and it had taken the other, and we had both made a bird’s nest in these two almost identical rusted tin cans, so yeah, I feel like they’re watching me.”
Observe the birds
Zora would like to encourage all Australians to help their native birds by working with Birdlife Australia, “It really takes so little time,” says Zora, “So you register on the Aussie Bird Count website, and you just watch birds. I think it’s 20 minutes, one day a week, in your garden, and you send back the information of whatever birds you’ve seen during that 20 minutes, but it is so helpful for them to build a picture of how our bird life is doing. I do encourage everyone to sign up. It’s fun as well. It’s like a meditative process; take 20 minutes out and spend it in a beautiful spot and just observe the birds that you see.”
About the artist
As an emerging, interdisciplinary artist exploring the complexity of nest forms, Zora Verona’s sculptures honour birds as both artist and architect.
Her work intersects visual art, environmental philosophy, avian science and natural history.
Zora’s driving force to document, create and communicate is the legacy and trajectory of loss – of habitat, ecosystems and ultimately, species. The focus of her art is to awaken an understanding that every bird species is worthy of our wonder, awe and, most importantly, our protection.