Four Odd Birds and One Demented Creator

Once upon a time I was making a thin-walled bowl form on my potter’s wheel when I got a little too thin with the wall and it collapsed inward. It was my great luck that the collapsed shape it made reminded me of a bird’s body, and got me onto sculpting odd birds of no particular species–some have reminded folks of chickens, others of pigeons, and master potter Jon Higuchi once likened one to a turkey buzzard, but in their struggle to become alive and unique they are at best transcendent of genetics.

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I gave this one to my girlfriend Denise, who enjoys its primitivity.

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This one is the first raku piece I made in Sedona, where I now live, while I was taking my first Sedona Arts Center ceramics class. The class’s instructor, Dennis Ott, accidentally broke off half of half the beak. He was apologetic, but to me it was like the final stage of the classic La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (“The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even”) by Marcel Duchamp: legend has it that the glass of the composition was shattered via the clumsiness of offloaders; though he’d worked eight years on it, Duchamp was not shattered by the shattering, but delighted; “Now it’s perfect!” he is said to have exclaimed. And when the estimable Mr. Ott broke one half of half my bird’s beak, I could not but break the other half of the other. The bird isn’t perfect, but he’s better: now he looks like he’s laughing with a Bert Lahr mouth. (Unfortunately, the bird’s head is turned away in this picture, so you can’t tell from this. Perhaps you will come visit.)

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Here is a pit-fired bird, which the blog software has turned 90 degrees, I know not why. Pit firing enables a piece to reveal the fiery fury of the process that made it; and this bird is a tortured soul, and so I am glad to show that it has been through the fire and yet still strains for Heaven (or, at this angle, for the other side of the room). Note the triangular cutout. More on that in a bit.

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Well, son of a gun if this one wasn’t turned sideways too. Must be accommodative of the columnar nature of the blog. Live and learn! –Anyway, this Clown Bird, jester’s hat and all, also has a cutout. I often do that with my pottery and sculpture. Long ago master potter Hallmar Hjalmarson asked me why. “To give them an interior,” I told him; and he stopped calling me “young man” and started calling me “holy man.” (He is a treasure.) But this one’s cutout went awry. It was supposed to be an omega symbol. The interior negative space of the symbol broke off, and I turned the former symbol into a primitive window. Alas; I wish it were an Omega.

4 comments
  1. This one made me laugh out loud, lucky I’m home and laid off for a day; it might seem strange otherwise…

    Michel Lamontagne

    • I’m glad you got a laugh out of it, Michel–that’s what I was going for!

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