Wednesday, May 28, 2008

dead birds

We are crawling to the finish line right now at the studio, and by that I mean almost all of the spring orders I took at Philadelphia are shipped. I say "crawling" because there have been the inevitable plethora of small issues and problems that delay orders: poppy plates that keep sagging and sticking to the kiln shelf--but only in the white glaze--, a blue glaze that keeps pin holing and requiring a second round of firing, my matte white glaze that started pin holing on flat surfaces--only on flat surfaces--, birds that fall over on cake stands during firing.

This has become a huge problem, these birds that up and die during firing. For a long time now I've been adding the birds on right before glaze firing, and it's not a problem. I do it that way so I can make a bunch of plates and stack them during bisque firing, then I can turn them into any kind of cake stand I want. But all of the sudden, the birds started falling over. First just here and there, now all the time. And only on my biggest, most expensive size, not my small or medium size. After a packed kiln of dead bird cake stands came out-- and for good measure some injured birds too, (birds with these crazy glaze crawls under them)-- I gave up my method and made a round of plates with deep divots carved in, birds added while green, and dried slowly to prevent cracking. The way you are "supposed" to do it. Sara glazed up a bunch yesterday and they are in the kiln right now.

When we were loading them in the kiln last night, I said to Sara, "I think we need to make a sacrifice or do some kind of ritual to make sure these birdies come out right". Sara, in her very practical way, said, "I think we need to procure some Xanax so you can take one before we unload on Wednesday." I laughed. Then about a minute later I asked hopefully, "Do you know where to get some?"

When I first started making pottery 15 years ago, I had a good friend who told me her mother used to be a potter. Her mom was serious enough with it that she had a garage studio with a wheel and a kiln. "Then one day," my friend told me, "she just stopped making pottery. She just walked out of the studio and never went back." "Why?" I asked. My friend shrugged, "She didn't want to talk about it, and I stopped asking." At the time, I could not begin to understand this, it made absolutely no sense to me. I think I get it now!


  1. Dear Whitney. If you want to sell a large dead birdy stand to a girl who can appreciate it, drop me a line. Oddly enough, a cat just dead birded one of my chickens, so it could be in her honor. Appreciate your blog greatly; I started reading on April Fool's and was totally fooled until reading more...

  2. michele d.2:19 PM

    Sorry about your birdies. Maybe this could be the catalyst for an underground version of your work. Dark colors with dead birds on them. You could sell to all the goths.

  3. "Resting birds" sounds a little nicer. Almost peaceful.

    Hope this next lot comes out good for you!

  4. Whitney...
    You continue to kill me...
    In a good way...

    I mean... you just always hit the nail on the head... the WHOLE thing...
    If it's not dead birds, it's something else and then I think... unglazed is the answer... but we all know... There is no ANSWER!
    Except for perhaps what your friend's mom did......
    I recommend preparing yourself with the procurement of something helpful...

    Find your inner CHIRPING.

  5. Virginia6:31 AM

    Hi Whitney,

    A suggestion: try adding the
    birds in a 3rd firing.
    Leave a bare spot on the pot,
    then after the glaze firing,
    dab some low fire glaze on the spot,
    set the bird on top, fire
    at low temp., just to attach
    bird. ( A teacher of mine used
    this to produce delicate stemmed
    drinking vessels- the stem ans
    cup were fired at cone 10-separately, then connected with
    a dot of very low-fire glaze-
    no moving or bending of stem!

    The birds are lovely, it would be sad to see them go!


  6. How frustrating! Good to see you still keep a sense of humor in the face of adversity!

  7. after a couple of 14 hour days in my studio, wondering how I could possibly keep up the pace, I sit down to read your blog, and have a nice laugh!
    Thanks so much for your wit and delightful insight!

  8. Anonymous9:06 AM

    you are fabulous--- sorry you are experiencing such aggravation and frustration from the birds-- but damn, you are funny.