Friday, September 30, 2011

woodland pottery class

Last weekend was amazing.  I had signed up for a woodland pottery class offered by the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and had such a wonderful time.  I learned to dig clay, gather tempering agents, and fire pots in an open pit but I learned more than that too, more than I can squeeze into a blog post.  If we ever get together for coffee I'll tell you all about it.  For now, a condensed version.

While in class we worked on small pottery pieces and learned about the history of pottery in our area and how it was used by the Ojibwe.  Really there isn't as much information about this pottery as there is about southwestern pottery.  A wet climate and harsh winters probably play a part in that as the pots would be exposed to some pretty harsh conditions.  It is assumed that the tribes didn't take their pottery with them when traveling, rather they would find a source of clay at their new locations and build anew.  The pots would have been heavy to carry and clay is plentiful here so that makes sense.  I wondered if there were designated potters in each group or if pot-making was a skill that each family had and when the time came, pot-making was just as much a part of their day as gathering food was.  I wondered how they cooked in these earthenware pots and marveled at their ingenuity for slaking, shaping, and finishing the clay.

I made a couple of small pots and a few tiny decorative pieces.  This is local clay that our amazing instructor Nancy dug and provided us.  We shaped our pieces and added decoration using natural materials like sticks and shells.  The texture on the outside of this small smudge pot (above) was made with a bumpy seashell as was the neck design of the small unfired pot below. 

I used the end point of a stick to texture the inside of the smudge pot and when the piece was dried to leather-hard I burnished it with a smooth stone.

You can see that the clay started off a grey color like the unfired piece on the left below, and once fired the earthenware took on a rusty color with black reduction marks.

My little bird turned a lovely orange color, very much like terra cotta, even though he's made of the exact same clay.  Interesting, isn't it?

Sitting in a room making pinch pots and talking about native american culture and history, eating some wild rice soup, digging clay, standing in front of a fire on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs on a crisp autumn morning, mingling with people with similar interests...well that's just about heaven for me.  I enjoyed it so much that I've already started slaking a batch of clay from my yard and tinkering with the clay we dug while in class.

Come on, you knew there would be mushrooms popping up, right?  The clay from my yard is a dark red color so I'm really curious to see how it will look once fired.

If you're in the area you should make a stop at the museum.  They offer a number of classes throughout the year including birch bark basket-making, beading, mitten-making, and much more.  Check out their website for a list of upcoming events:

they're on facebook too:

Have a great weekend everyone!


Diane Sullivan Photography said...

Love your pots. I love it when people fall in love with clay. There is nothing more calming to me than having my hands in clay. The potter in me LOVES the textural work you did with your pieces.

Just bought some of your work and I can't wait to receive them in the mail and add to my decor. So glad to have stumbled upon your site.

meganarline said...

Love it. Would love to take the same course some day.

Anonymous said...

I am jealous that you have a class like this in your area and the fact that you have access to clay so easily. Those are really cute bowls and I like the little birdie. Have a great weekend.


StubbyTate said...

This is wonderful! I had always wanted to take a pottery class and you've inspired me to go for it. I remember the last time my hands were in clay was in high school. (too many years ago to mention *wink*)

susan said...

it sounds like you had the perfect day! that museum.sounds wonderful. we used to go to indian summerfest and it was a wonderful learning experience. maybe i will get up to st.paul for a class sometime
adore your wee pots and shrooms

Anonymous said...

I dearly miss pottery class - LOVED wheel throwing, and seeing how the glaze turned out after firing. I especially loved raku glazes, which I know is something I can probably do at home. Ack, another craft to set up! You're pots and pretties are just lovely, Lisa. Please keep it up. = )

Margie Oomen said...

this looks and sounds like heaven to me

Scrapiana said...

What beautiful vessels! I live on clay but had never thought of using it: another overlooked resource right under my nose. You always lead in such interesting directions, Lisa. Thank you.

Erin said...

How beautiful to learn some knowledge people used to have about the resources in the area and how they connected to the earth in this way....!
What a lovely learning experience..:)

Anonymous said...

Wish I had known about this class. Would have loved to take it. Love your pots. And would like to know how to fire them. Is this something you can do at home?


joanie said...

Can you hear me squealing with delight all the way over there?! What a perfect way to spend a day, fantastic! We have lots of clay if you want some. Of course you have to dig through flint stones the size of footballs to get it (not the Fred and Wilma kind ;)

Paul Baxendale said...

Those are some terrific looking pots! Nicely done! I would surely visit that museum if I was in the area.. I bet they have some good info on birch-bark canoes, which is what I am getting ready to work on (a two foot long mini version!) this weekend. Again, your pots turned out very well indeed!

Annie said...

Oh how envious am I ! But there's an ocean between me and those classes :( I shall just have to live vicariously through your lovely photos :D Can't wait to see those mushrooms fired!

julochka said...

wow! so super cool! i wish i'd known about this at our old house..we had both very clay-ey (is that a word?) soil and a fire pit. here, the soil is super, i wonder if i can make glass? ;-)

you're such a natural - your pots look totally professional on your first attempt! well done!!

Tara said...

Lisa, I so want to sit down with you and share a big pot of coffee while sucking information from your brain. (That sounds a little more gruesome than I meant it.) At the same time that you had mentioned the class on FB, I had picked up a box of clay from the local craft store. I have soap dishes with proper drainage on my mind. I love your pieces. How interesting the change in colour once the clay has been fired.


Related Posts with Thumbnails