Batty creations raise awareness of serious syndrome on P.E.I.

Art project way to bring awareness to the white-nose syndrome affecting the P.E.I. bat population.

Mitch MacDonald
Published on August 8, 2014

Four-year-old Elijah Opps creates a ceramic bat with guidance from Marilyn MacLean, of the P.E.I. Potters Studio, and his mother Marina Silva-Opps during a session in Victoria Park recently.

©THE GUARDIAN/Mitch MacDonald

Art enthusiasts and animal lovers are joining forces to make some batty creations that raise awareness for white-nose syndrome on Prince Edward Island.

A workshop called "Bats for Bats!" was held at the P.E.I. Potters Studio in Victoria Park last week, where individuals were invited to create their own ceramic bat.

Marilyn MacLean, of the P.E.I. Pottery Studio, said the bats were started during two sessions last weekend and will be used later this month during the Art in the Open celebration at Victoria Park.

"We're hanging all the bats from a tree and we're going to put spotlights on them and play bat sounds," said MacLean. "Then anyone who became really sentimental to their bat can pick it up on Aug. 24."

Four-year-old Elijah Opps and parents Sheldon Opps and Marina Silva-Opps were just some of the more than 25 individuals who stopped by the studio to make a bat during the morning session last Saturday.

"I'm keeping mine," said Opps while creating his masterpiece.

Once moulded, MacLean said the object are fired in a kiln, basically an oven, and becomes rock hard.

"This is called 'bisque' and it allows you to manhandle them," she said.

The bats can then be decorated, painted or glazed during another session today from 10 a.m. to noon.

From there, they'll get cooked again, this time at 2200 degrees fahrenheit.

"Then the glaze they're painted with basically turns into a glass coating on the clay," said MacLean.

While the process of creating the pottery can be fun, it's also for a serious cause.

MacLean said the display is being held as a way to bring awareness to the white-nose syndrome affecting the P.E.I. bat population.

The disease is a European fungus that was first discovered on P.E.I. in the winter of 2012-2013. It causes bats to wake up from hibernation during the winter and fly around looking for insects, which ultimately leads to more fat loss and kills the bat.

"This just brings awareness to the little brown bat because it's the most prominent bat on P.E.I.," said MacLean. "If you're noticing more and more mosquitos, (white-nose syndrome) is one of the reasons why."

Art in the Open is being held on Saturday, Aug. 23 from 4 p.m. to midnight, with Victoria Park being one of the event's focal points.