Fat Birds

Fat Birds

  For some reason, I like to make birds and things with birds on them and I have no idea why. I don't have a bird feeder and I don't birdwatch, but I love to make them, especially fat birds.   When you take a pottery class one of the first things they teach you is how to make pinch pots. You can attach these pinch pots together to make roundish things, so I made a cat, a pig, an owl and then other birds. One bird blew up in the kiln because I forgot to put a hole in the head for air to escape when firing. One is sitting on piece of driftwood as the top of a wind chime another friend in that same pottery class made and I recently gave another to a friend for a bunco gift since she had not purchased anything and was on her way there.  I liked those birds, but they were some of the first things I made so was happy to give them away. Now that I think about it, I’ll have to make more to see how my style has changed since then. 

From pinch pot birds I moved to slab built ones and then I never looked back. Slabs are clay rolled out to usually a quarter inch and you cut out your patterns, kind of like making sugar cookies I guess. Oddly enough, one of the first birds I ever made from a slab is still my favorite. I added the feathers where I used underglaze to blend the color. I was ambitious, probably too much so because the feathers kept breaking off transporting them or even just getting into the kiln. It is a fabulous look, but breakage became a problem so I started the next variation where the feathers didn’t stick up so much and there was less loss due to damage. 

I made more templates and tried different styles of birds and then came my first crow. I actually made it as a Christmas present for my brother since he loves crows and ravens. I am usually more whimsical in my taste so black would never have been a color I made my birds but crows are black so into the kiln it went, feathers painted in shades of yellow and orange and the body black glaze. Crows don’t have yellow feathers, but shoot, I had to get my style in there somehow. 

I’m going to digress for a minute to talk about one of my favorite things, kiln unloading. I take my classes and fire my work at Old School Farm Pottery, so it is what you call a community kiln. There is nothing more fun than opening up that kiln and getting glimpses of what everyone has fired. Some make you gasp and others, well, not so much. Believe me, I have been party to those “not so much” pieces as everyone else. You think what you have made and glazed is going to be spectacular and then you get your first look and the disappointment is crushing. They don’t talk about kiln gods for nothing. Sometimes they work in your favor and other times they just don’t. 

Well, back to the black crow. We actually unloaded the kiln one night as class ended and truly, there was a gasp as the crow came out. The glossy black was just beautiful and frankly so unlike my usual color palate that it was almost shocking. Well, I gave him to my brother as planned but everyone loved it so I decided to make another and that sold within days of being on Etsy. The person told me that they saw it on Pinterest and knew they had to have it so I guess there will be more black crows in my future. 

Next up in my bird progression are the roosters. Lots of people have requested a rooster and yes, I made one but really was not happy with it.  Here’s another side note. One man’s fail is another man’s treasure. I was not pleased with the rooster vase and probably would have tossed it, but cooler heads prevailed (my sister) and I went ahead and put it on my site and wow, it sold pretty quickly. Even more surprising the person bought it for a gift, but loved it so much they decided to keep it. 

Okay, so maybe I need to rethink the rooster vase thing. It must have some qualities I can keep and refine on at a later date, but while mulling that over my teacher decided that our class needed to do a project for the next session and that was to make a pouring vessel, like a teapot. I do drink tea but a teapot just didn’t interest me so what if I make a rooster pitcher with egg shaped cups instead? That was the start of my rooster pitcher adventure and is still going as I write. I’ve made them out of all kinds of clay and in different sizes and I just keep experimenting and probably will for a while. There is just something fun about them. 

Finally, we come to the fat bird in the title. I mentioned that I make all kinds of birds and I’m sure will add to my designs as I go long. Recently though I have been trying to plump out a bird after I have attached him together but frankly, I have big hands and feet. My mother used to say that for such a short person, she could not believe how I could have such big feet. I’m just over 5’4” and yes, I wear a size 10 shoe. My hands are equally large so it is just hard for me to get my hands inside the bird deep enough to really push the clay out without tearing the whole thing apart. Once again, my teacher to the rescue who told me about a tool called a baby bump and I am in love.  It can reach down and really push out the clay without wrecking the seams so I think for the next little while I am going to be making every bird fat. I’m sure it will pass as I move on to the next thing, but for right now, here’s to fat birds! Long may they roll.  

Unglazed fat bird

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