Dear Amur Tiger original Biro drawing is the first design for The Conference of the Tigers ceramic tile series which was created in 2022 to commemorate the lunar Year of the Tiger and to raise awareness of endangered tigers. Inspired by Attar’s 12th century poem The Conference of the Birds which was also the inspiration for Jane’s tile designs Dear Hoopoe and Dear Nightingale, The Conference of the Tigers series in progress aims to feature designs of all six remaining tiger subspecies: Amur tiger, South China tiger, Bengal tiger, Malayan tiger, Indochinese tiger and Sumatran tiger. The Conference of the Tigers sees representatives from each tiger subspecies meet to discuss the demise of their kin generated by the most destructive species of all, humans, and which tiger should lead them in their quest for survival.
Dear Amur Tiger is dedicated to the majestic Amur tiger and the inhabitants of the forests of the Russian Far East. Key species of the Primorsky Krai region including the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl, near threatened mountain hawk-eagle, rufous-tailed robin, mandarin duck, vulnerable Siberian musk deer and brown bear listen to the Amur tiger’s whispered words. Layered through the tiger’s fur are Korean pine needles and cones. The Korean pine provides many species with shelter, its pine-nuts an important food source for tiger prey such as wild boar and deer. Yet logging of pines and over-harvesting of pine-nuts continues to threaten the region’s delicate eco-system.
Woven through the design is a traditional Udege pattern. Like the Amur tiger, the Udege, the indigenous people of Primorsky Krai, also face an uncertain future. As their way of life disappears, their population has dwindled to around 1,500 people. By the late 1930s the Amur tiger, revered by the Udege who call it ‘Amba’ the ‘spirit of the forest’, was hunted to the brink of extinction until biologist Lev Kaplanov revealed in 1941 that just 20-30 individuals remained and advised that tiger hunting should cease to enable species recovery.
Cherry blossom falling onto the tiger’s fur is not only symbolic of this realm of snow-covered forests it also a tribute to Kaplanov and his pivotal research. Kaplanov was killed by poachers in 1943 and found in the forest among blossoming cherry trees. Recruitment of the region's male population during WWII and conservation efforts have contributed to tiger numbers increasing to around 265-486 individuals according to IUCN Red List (2022 revision). However, the Amur tiger's presence on Earth remains fragile.
With kind thanks to Jonathan Slaght for species advice and for inspirational Blakiston's Fish Owl imagery.