Thursday, July 31, 2014

Seeking Shelter, Finding Home

Storyteller's Creed:
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.
~from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten 
by Robert Fulghum

No matter how many birdhouses we have had, I have yet to see a bird take up residence in one of these man-made shelters.  At first we worked out the ones best suited for the neighborhood flock.  Added a few enticements.  Bird feeders, bird baths, etc.  They ate the seeds and bathe.  Then went to work building their own open air homes.  I knew we were doing this all wrong. Thinking and caring about it too much.  Hoping to find one morning wonder in a box. 

I thought about the decorative aspect of the birdhouses.  Was I seeking approval and the satisfaction of being chosen by the birds? What bird houses imply to us simply didn't apply to the birds. When I saw that Cooper's Hawk circling around a little light went on---okay.  Maybe the trees around here were a better place to roost.

We do have quite a few nests in the trees and eaves---swallows' mud nests, neatly woven ones from the Robins, some quickly made and messy ones of the cooing doves, tiny teacups spun in spider webs and lichens each holding a single 1/2" egg.  The birds around here need to prefer their own architectural foundations, to make their own custom homes.  They are forever in touch with the natural world after all.

Bird Puppet
(from Seeking Shelter, Finding Home series)
14" x 6" x 3"
Hand Built Earthenware, multi-fired cone 06-04
terra sigillata, engobes, oxide stains, glazes

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Clay myths and ceramic stories, pt. 2

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

  ~lyrics from Blackbird by John Lennon and Paul McCarthy

In the late spring and early summer I love to look for the red-winged blackbirds.  Such ordinary, every day birds flitting between the rushes of the salt marshes and grasses of the bay hills.  Even out in the central valley near Sacramento, where rice grows neatly in vast wet fields, one can spy them.  The males with their red and yellow epaulets are spotted easily hanging fiercely onto reeds and grass blades, ever gathering and searching...once...not long ago.
Cairn, bone dry and Within getting a critique

Noticing I hadn't seen any recently I began to wonder what happened to them?  Have I got it wrong and missed seeing them while looking for more exotic birds?  Maybe the drought changed their migratory route or seasonal timing?  Have they lost their faith in us and gone on to greener fields elsewhere?
little blackbird made of basalt clay

I thought about them as I built Cairn.  Wondering about faith and worship.  About ordinary things becoming so extraordinary present when they are gone.  Cairn sat unfinished until the cusp of summer.  My thought was to leave this piece mainly unglazed, but as the other pieces began to take form, shape and color, Cairn seemed to say, "Take care of me, now."
It was decided to keep most of the birds looking up and unglazed, but one needed to be black with red and yellow epaulets---a little warrior bird, defiantly turned and looking straight out.
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve (Coastal)
As Cairn cooled in the kiln, I decided to have a cup of coffee and watch the local news.  A naturalist came on and started talking about the disappearance of red-winged blackbirds in the Central Valley.  I sat dumbfounded listening...a great decline in population he said.  Perhaps pesticides killing off food source, harming the chicks.  A nearby organic farming area still had a population of blackbirds in the hundreds, but not the thousands once seen in the fields surrounding Sacramento. Not only there but all around the scruffy hills of the bay and grassy bluffs of the coast.  The only blackbird I had seen recently was one of memory and of making.  Not the wild, unfettered, now a mythical and extraordinary thing---this little warrior bird who is quietly vanishing from our ordinary, everyday life.

24" x 14" x 8"
Coiled Built ceramic with porcelain parts
terra sigillata, underglazes, oxide stains, glazes

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Clay myths and ceramic stories, pt.1


Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. 
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Porcellana Digitalus?

"Within" and "Shelter"
Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.

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