Friday, February 14, 2014

Anthrozoology 101

In looking at the idea of how we relate to and view animals I am curious about the effect of putting clothing on them.  Growing up seeing clothed animals in fairy tales and in Walt Disney movies I wondered what would happen if one animal is clothed and another isn't. Does our heart go out to the one who is humanized by having clothing even if the animal, in this case a snake, is one that we don't often feel an affinity for?

Mouse vs. Snake

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Inspired by these pigeons roosting on an old billboard frame, I jumped into mold making and pit firing a flock of my own. Pigeons are one of those creatures that people seem to love or hate.  When I lived in New York City people referred to them as "rats with wings."  After sculpting several out of Plasticine I made press molds and molded 19 pigeons.

So far in my work with clay, figuring out how to finish the pieces has been the greatest challenge. Glazing is a vast area with seemingly zillions of options but for the pigeons I really wanted them to have the soft, sooty look you get with pit fired ceramics.

I built a pit in my backyard using cinder blocks then had some fun collecting horse manure, shavings, banana peels, corn husks, coffee grounds, and kindling for the fire. A couple of sheets of metal made a cover for the smoking and the adventure began.

Pigeons ready to be covered with coffee grounds, banana peels, corn cobs, and leaves.

Pigeon with combustibles. I thought that firing them in garbage was somehow fitting with their being categorized as "trash animals."

The pit at the start of the firing.

Pigeons burning and getting sooty.

Part of the finished flock.

What is It About a Road Trip?

So last fall while driving through Eastern Montana I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for a clay workshop.  (It is amazing what you can accomplish with a laptop and wireless modem when you are in the passenger seat.)  Ever since my experiments with concrete earlier last summer I had been thinking about trying kiln fired clay in the hopes of making something that would be a little less susceptible to the elements.

I ended up taking a weekend workshop with the very talented artist Thaddeus Erdahl at Saratoga Clay Arts Center.  It was my blind date with clay.  TJ is a wonderful teacher and the Clay Center is an amazing place.  I left the workshop wanting more so signed up for a six week clay sculpting class with Lars Turin, another amazing artist and teacher.  I had been thinking a lot about Hermes and Joseph Campbell's description of  Hermes as your guide in finding your true path.  Dogs are associated with Hermes so that is what I focused on in my first attempts with clay.  This is who emerged:

It's now a year later and my studio is filled with ceramic animals of all shapes and sizes, I have tried six different types of clay, have had my first kiln explosion, pit fired a batch of pigeons (that's another blog post) and am excited to be "on the scent" and following this trail to see where it leads.