"MR. SEPTEMBER".... A LABOR OF LOVE
Let’s see, I was first mesmerized by POLANDS when I nonchalantly picked up some “chicken books” from my local library. Thank God for the nice folk at the Catawba county library in Hickory,NC, who actually said ”Oh, you MUST see this other book which is at a different branch at the moment, we will get it for you!” “Extraordinary Chickens” , by Stephen Green Armytage, blew me away totally! To see such beautiful birds, so up-close and personal, and “in all their naked glory” as Stephen put it, was a huge treat. Their beauty, attitude and pride was undeniable and captured with passion by the camera lens. What a pure, natural and artistic inspiration to turn every page. Since I knew I would quickly splatter the library copy with clay in the studio, I ordered my own personal copy to have my way with. I was thisty for more from this guy, and found another book, “EXTRA Extraordinary Chickens” PLUS his 2007 calendar. Every day I was graced with a magnificent chicken to enjoy and brighten my world. Altho’ attracted to ALL of the poultry breeds, somehow I could not take my eyes off of those royal polands. Having never seen one in person, I had no idea such a chicken even existed..Mother nature’s creative design work, especially regarding the polish FRIZZLES ,was absolutely ridiculous, and most intriguing., Loving my chicken calendar so much, it had a prominent spot on my kitchen wall as I walked in and out of the studio every day…many times a day..When the month of September 2007 rolled around, and ther was the turning of the page, a stunning silver-laced polish rooster stood ever so proudly. His royal highness had his head turned all the way around, lookin south. His crest was sooo magnificent, he had no visible eyes. Yet what a presence..a royal entity! “Mr. September” charmed my heart and stirred my soul every day from then on. Here comes October, another turning of the page, life rolling right along..I could not live without his love, so I tacked his calendar page up in my studio. I dreamed of creating him, in all his righteous glory…some day. Six months later, I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I just had to try my hand (literally) at making him. I knew he would take the better part of a month to create, but I was ready to devote the time and energy to such a detailed sculpture..I really had no choice. Regretfully, I did not take pictures of his very beginning stages. ( I have learned since then to document the entire process, not just the final results) . I started out with a single coil of clay to begin the pedestal base. His body was also built coil-by coil, smoothing out the clay and paddling to create the desired form. It hit me that i needed to photograph “Mr. September” after I had spent 4 long days in the studio just on his head and mighty crest. I realized he was already a force to be reckoned with. When I started making his tail feathers, there he was..lookin at me …uh, with NO EYES! It twas a bit freaky, it was like he was supervising me. He obviously EXPECTED me to do a good job and finely hand-craft ever single feather. Once all the tailfeathers were in place, I finished by intricately engraving his whole body...which makes a huge fine dust mess, let me tell ya! After all the engraving was complete, I left “Mr. September “ alone to dry…well, not EXACTLY alone. He had wonderful companions to hang out with while drying, and they would all eventually join each other in the fiery kiln. The first firing is the “bisque”, which fires the clay to 1850F. The clay is still porous at that temperature, yet much safer to handle. It is truly a feat just carrying them bone-dry to the kiln and placing them inside safely..I hold my breath and pray to the powers that be for strength and concentration any time I load my kiln,but especially in the greenware stage.
Whew! This load was particularly impressive with MONTHS of work inside. Along with “Mr. September”, we had my first hen, a beautiful white Poland, “Susie Pauline” (named after my maternal grandmother), “Longneck Redneck” #8 (named after all the longneck rednecks in the world…. And I personally think there are way too many of them), and my first “sitting hen, “Ms. Henrietta”. Glazing is critical, so a couple weeks were spent hand-painting or spraying different glazes. Patience is key . I make myself calm down and not get in a hurry at this point.
In the final glaze firing, I fired my natural gas kiln to around 2300F for these particular glazes to reach maturity. Often a 12-14 hour firing, the sculptures are usually too hot the next day to unload. Lots of excitement and anxiety occurs on that “cool down” day. I looked into the peepholes, and what I could see looked good, but you never know what transpired until you open the door. Boo!..it can be Christmas time or Halloween, according to the results. Fortunately, this firing was superb! Every chicken was just as I had invisioned. I was so relieved and grateful. Mounting bills could be paid and I could breathe much easier. “Mr. September” was adopted quickly by a loyal collector who just hadto add him to her growing brood of tammy leigh’s children. Ms. Elsya is one serious rooster moma with an unbelievable clay collection and mighty good taste. She has paid my rent and health insurance more than one time. Support like that is never forgotten when you are a struggling artist. So, enjoy these pics of my boy. I He was the first poster I ever had printed…what a love!
FANCY FOWL USA SEPT/OCT ISSUE 2009
(now known as THE POULTRY MAGAZINE)
CFANCY FOWL USA...... JAN/FEB 2010
FANCY FOWL USA AUGUST 2009
by Terry Beebe, United Kingdom