Thursday, August 30, 2012

The birds...

As I have noted a few times on these pages in the past, on my lunch break I often go walking along the Finley River, on the trails south of the Ozark Community Center.  They have a paved trail and a loop trail through a wooded area along the river.  More often than not I will walk the wooded trail.  Today I went for my lunchtime walk in the woods, and noticed something that seemed downright peculiar to me.  It began when I startled a large flock of grackles resting on the forest floor, just off the trail head.  Once they took off, the woods sprang to life.  Every 30 to 40 feet down the trail, I would disturb another group of grackles roosting in the leaf litter.  It just seemed odd to me that there would be that many grackles taking refuge in the woods, on the ground.  This went on for a good 100 yards down the main trail.  As the last of the grackles dispersed into the canopy, I began to see flocks of robins (half a dozen to a dozen or more in a bunch) on the trail ahead of me. Some of them were even reluctant to take flight, waiting until I was nearly 10 feet from them before they scattered into the nearby trees.  At every bend in the trail, without fail, I would come upon another large group of robins.  As I said, the whole thing just struck me as odd.  I'm no ornithologist, but it sure didn't seem like typical bird behavior in my experience.  Normally there is also a small band of crows that routinely scold me from the tree tops as I make my way along the trail; they were nowhere to be found. Temperatures are in the upper 80s to low 90s, and it is muggy, with a pretty good breeze in the tree tops.  And that may be the key, right there.  The remnants of hurricane Isaac are headed our way, with the first bands of showers predicted to arrive tonight.  That's really the only thing that I can think of that's different from any other summer day around here.  The wind blowing in ahead of the storm may have them spooked, or maybe the change in barometric pressure is messing with them.  It has been very dry these past few months, so it also may have something to do with the promise of heavy rain coming our way.  A nature mystery.  I asked several of the birds what was going on, and not one of them would tell me.  Hmmm, bird brains.                    

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm still here...

This morning, a couple of minutes before running out the door for work, I was down in the basement checking on a bowl I made last night, and I noticed these pots sitting on the drying rack together, just hangin' out.  I figured it was about time I documented a small bit of what I have been doing these past few weeks, so I pulled out my phone and snapped a couple of quick pictures.  The form of these pots is based on a style of prehistoric pottery made by Native Americans who lived within the central Mississippi River catchment, during a period of cultural florescence which began several hundred years prior to European contact.  This is the same culture that built huge ceremonial mounds such as Monks Mounds at Cahokia, in east St. Louis.  There is some Mesoamerican influence in the designs, as well.  This is my humble attempt at recreating some of those pottery forms.  Over the past 20 years or so, I think I have made maybe half a dozen of these "effigy" style pots, mostly out of local clays, fired in charcoal. Very few of them have survived (as with so many of my early attempts) although we do have one pot similar to the guy on the far left, who has sat in our TV room for many years, partially hidden amid the foliage of a heart-leafed philodendron.  I also made a stoneware version of that same pot form early last year, and had it kiln fired (a couple of pictures of that one can be seen in a post from April 11th).  That pot now resides about 3 feet underground, in my front yard... spreading good karma over a repaired section of our water main (ha!). Hopefully it will be there for hundreds of years, and some archaeologist can dig it up and ponder its purpose.  It's always good to leave little notes to the future. 
Anyway,  all of these new pots were made of red earthenware, and were hand built using slabs and sculpting. They will be fired in our kiln to cone 04, glazed on the inside, and fired one more time.  The guy holding the fish is a rattle head water bottle (not to be mistaken for the deadly water mouth cotton rattler).  No, this poor fisherman has rocks in his head.  I put a small bundle of clay balls in his head before I attached it, and when it is fired, they will add a rattle effect to the bottle.  There are examples of this being done in prehistoric times, so it's certainly not a new idea.  Not sure why they added the rattles to some of their pots back then; it may have had some spiritual significance, but I can't help but believe that maybe it was just for fun. When I set my mind to make one of these pots, I can normally finish it in a single evening... four hours or so from start to finish; to the point where it can be set aside to dry.  After that, I normally will go over it with a piece of fine sandpaper, or one of those green ScotchBrite pads, to smooth out any rough areas before bisque firing.  I have a few more to make, along with some other things, before the next bisque firing.  I'm shooting for the first week of September.