solar system girls - special set
It has long been a dream of mine to make a set of wood girls inspired by our amazing solar system, and this has finally been realised - this special set took several months to complete. Reading and learning about the planets is a constant wonder to me, especially as there is no end to the surprises that many of them offer with each new research mission. I love that when scientists think that they have something worked out, a new discovery throws all previous beliefs into the air and often reveals more questions than answers – it's a riddle I hope we never fully solve. When painting these girls I went with the natural visible colours for most planets, except for Mercury - the colours I chose for this wood girl are based on an artificially coloured image from NASA that show the mineral and chemical elements present on the surface. Uranus is meant to turn to one side or the other, as she offers each of her sideways orientated poles to the sun for such long periods of time, and when viewed from the front her rings are harder to spot. I have chosen not to show the other planets on their tilted axes for fear of not quite getting the angles right! Saturn has shinier eyes than the rest because her atmosphere rains diamonds, and Pluto will forever be grumpy that she was downgraded...
The Rocky Planets:
Mercury – The planet with the shortest and fastest orbit around the sun, but a slow rotation (one rotation lasts 59 Earth days), Mercury is only a little bit bigger than Earth’s moon. Due to its elongated orbit and slow rotation, from some places on Mercury's surface, the Sun appears to rise briefly before setting and rising again. At sunset, the reverse happens, with the Sun appearing to set twice.
The planet spins almost vertically on its axis, so its poles are never fully sunlit. The lack of tilt also means that the planet does not experience yearly seasons like Earth. 58 million km from the sun.
Venus – The hottest planet in the solar system, with an average surface temperature of 462°C and a dense, toxic atmosphere. Venus is only a little smaller than Earth and also has an iron core. If viewed from their northern pole, most planets spin anticlockwise, but Venus rotates clockwise. On Venus, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. It's thought that the planet rotated anticlockwise until a massive impact flipped it upside down, resulting in its opposite rotation direction. 108 million km from the sun, with the most circular orbit of all the planets.
Earth – 4.54 billion years old, with 70% of the surface covered in water. Earth's magnetic field and ozone layer play a key role in protecting life, deflecting and absorbing potentially harmful solar radiation. Earth's insulating atmosphere results in a generally temperate climate, providing excellent conditions for complex life. 149.6 million km from the sun.
Mars - The rust coloured appearance of this planet is caused by the iron found in the surface oxidising in the thin atmosphere. Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons – 25km in height, and 624km in diameter. A day on Mars lasts 24.6 hours, comparable to a day on Earth. But its years are far longer, at 687 Earth days per trip around the Sun, and it has an elliptical orbit, so its distance from the sun varies – between 206 and 240 million km from the sun.
The Gas Giants:
Jupiter - The largest planet in our solar system with an atmosphere primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, is crossed with swirling clouds of ammonia that give the planet its banded appearance. These bands are driven by winds of up to 360 kilometres per hour. Each travels in the opposite direction to its neighbours, leading to tremendous turbulence where two bands meet. Near the equator lies Jupiter's Great Red Spot – a storm that has raged for more than 300 years – its size varies, but in 2014, images from the Hubble Space Telescope showed it to be similar to the size of Earth. As a gas giant, Jupiter has no solid surface, just getting hotter and denser towards the core. 778.6 million km from the sun.
Like Jupiter, Saturn has an interior heat source which provides two and a half times more power than Saturn receives on average from the Sun. Famous for its rings which are made almost entirely of water ice and likely to have been made by a moon which broke up as its orbit got too close to the planet. The diameter of the main rings is about 280,000 km but they are very thin, averaging only 20m thick. The planet has 62 known moons as of 2019 with hundreds of ‘moonlets’ within its rings, each smaller than 500m diameter. 1433.5 million km from the sun.
The Ice Giants:
Uranus – Discovered in 1781, this planet’s atmosphere is the coldest of any planet in our solar system, and contains clouds of methane, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. The methane gives the planet its blue colour, as it reflects blue light from the sun. In 1977 it was discovered to have faint rings, which are tilted completely on their side. This means that as the planet orbits the Sun, each of its poles experiences continuous sunlight for around 42 years at a time, followed by 42 years of complete darkness. 2872.5 million km from the sun.
Neptune - Discovered in 1846, Neptune is the furthest ‘proper’ planet from the sun, the deep blue colour comes from the methane that exists within the gaseous envelope around the planet. Although mainly made up of hydrogen and helium, the small amount of methane also present reflects the blue light from the sun. It has the fastest winds in the solar system. 4495.1 million km from the sun.
Dwarf Planet Pluto – Discovered in 1930, Pluto was once considered to be the ninth planet in the solar system, until the 1990’s, when it was discovered that the Kuiper Belt, where it orbits, is filled with large objects – one of which, Eris has about 30% more mass than Pluto, but is denser, so also fractionally smaller. Since 2006, Pluto, Eris and the two other of the largest Kuiper Belt objects, Makemake and Haumea, have been officially classified as ‘dwarf planets’. This was because after definition in August 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a planet in our solar system must be: 1) in orbit around the Sun; 2) Have sufficient mass and therefore a strong enough gravity to pull themselves into a round shape; and 3) have cleared their own orbit. Pluto fulfils the first two, but is not large enough to clear its own orbital pathway of other objects.
My pieces are painted in a naïve and simple style, with visible brush strokes and differing paint consistencies. It is important to note that these dolls are made from real wood which will have naturally occurring markings and grain, and sometimes there will be small amount of bleeding along the grain, or knots, which is to be expected when using untreated wood - please make sure you consult the pictures carefully before purchasing. They has been finished in a top coat of matt acrylic.
A note about 'Wood Girls'
My wooden girls are turned from lime or linden wood by a production turner and then hand painted in the U.K. by me, a British artist, exploring patterns and scenes encountered by me on my travels and in daily life. They were inspired by the kokeshi dolls made in Japan, and with every new purchase I include a leaflet explaining a little about the history of kokeshi in Japan and how they are made. I prefer to call mine 'wood girls' to distinguish them from the traditional folk craft of Japan, but they are very much in the spirit of kokeshi.
Stamped underneath with ‘nakamura’ characters [中村] in red ink. The Sun also has the title "Solar System Girls - September - October 2020" written on the base. Girl heights vary from 15.5 to 20cm tall, the sun measures 15cm diameter, 7.5cm height.
Please note: THIS IS NOT A TOY and should be kept out of the reach of children.
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