Clockwise from top right: Bird magnet (Kathryn Finnerty pot in background); Robin candlestick (John Glick pot in background); Hummingbird from a French deco/vintage bird illustration calendar; and Owls on tandem bicycle tea towel.
I made my first bird stamp during a workshop I taught in spring of 2006 at the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts in Asheville, NC. The idea of incorporating animals into my patterning had been brewing for a while, and a little chubby bird was the first to make his way around one of my pots. Since then I have made over 20 animal stamps, but birds are definitely the dominate animal in my stamp bin.
Clockwise from top right: Glass chicken from my Great Grandma; Beaded Hornbill by an African artist; Bird ornament;and a Kiwi (?) on a reclaimed brick from the Non Fiction Design Collective with a blue, glass bird from my Grandma.
The birds pictured in this post came from almost every room in our house. I don’t consider us collectors of bird items and imagery, but noticed one day how many keep us company. I did a post recently about pattern in our home and how those things we see every day happily creep into our creative minds. I imagine this bird menagerie has certainly influenced my work.
Clockwise from top right: Earthenware Rubber duck from Benjie Heu’s Trophy sculpture series; Female Mallard Duck painting by Andrew Woodward; Cockatiels in cage image; and Cuckcoo clock image.
There are three primary reasons I began to incorporate bird (and animal) imagery into my pots. One, by adding a bird into the layers on a piece, the surface is more than just a pattern: it becomes an environment. The second is my continuing interest in Art Nouveau pattern and decoration. There are many gorgeously rendered animals with flowing lines and curlicues I admire depicted in illustrations, textiles and objects from that era. A Nouveau bird as a repeated motif blurs into a lacey pattern and then re-emerges as a stately flock as our eyes choose on which lines to focus. The third reason is because they make me happy.
Clockwise from top right: Porcelain and fabric Kiwi by Roberta Massuch; Angry Bluebird fridge magnet;Soda-fired porcelain Bird by Joe Bova; and Glass Dove by Beth Lipman.
I developed the fascination for animals and plants from my family of ardent nature-lovers. From my fifth-grade science teacher Mr. Morton, the love for birds, their names and calls grew even more. (He could imitate any bird, and I thought that was super cool.) I have binoculars sitting on my desk by my computer to see “who” is flying through the trees in our backyard. I plant perennials to attract different species, and was ecstatic this summer to see gold finches treating our garden like their own private, gourmet hangout.
Clockwise from top right: Nuthatch in Gingko ink and color painting by Liang Wei; Blackbird toy; Hummingbird glass candleholder; and Wind-up caged bird.
I imagine artists are drawn to animal imagery for a variety of reasons. Aside from the long, long history of birds depicted in ceramics by every culture imaginable, the use of animals in contemporary ceramics imagery—and birds in particular—has become popular in the last couple of years. (I’ve indeed heard that “birds are the new fish” for pottery.) We see birds every day (fish, not so much). Their image represents everything from hope and history to peace and protection. In this era of technology and fast-pace, I wonder if makers now are drawn to nature and its animals for the same reason we hope the general public will continue to be drawn to handmade objects.
Clockwise from top right: Barn Owl photograph by Sharon Montrose; Toucans in a Guinness beer sign;Porcelain Bird Flock Man Bowl by Sandy Shaw; and postcard of Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade.
“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” –Victor Hugo
Details from my work: Two Sparrows Flower Vessel (Corset series)
and a grouping of stamped bird cups.