Like most ancient art, totems have a history of their own and have majestically stood on the soil of North America communicating a story to passers by. How does one resurrect this idea without replicating the work in this modern era?
Groups of us, ceramists made totems around lamp posts for the Ohlone College Campus, each choosing locations and ideas that go together. The beauty of the campus pond with its active turtles, huge, hungry koi fish and other pond life called me to choose this location for my whimsical totem, and others in my group had the same views.
My love for fairies and fairy gardening had to surface here and I wanted to dedicate this totem to my little fairy friends – my daughter, her two little friends, and their mom. Being their Fairy Godmother, I made this huge mushroom with a bark like spacer on top of it. This is my ‘Magical Mushroom Fairy House’ made in dedication to my three ‘Fairy Friends’ who relocated last year much against all our wishes.
Well, what a challenging project this was for a tiny, little fantasy world!! Unlike regular totems which are slid down a pole or carved directly on, this had to go around a tall lamp post which meant making the totem in two parts and somehow getting them to stay together outdoors. Of course, I had to make my project more difficult as always, and went crazy extending the totem horizontally too which needed a ton of patience, structure support, and requiring muscle power to lift and move the piece around. To top it off, the surety of this LARGE mushroom making it through the drying and firing process was a question mark. Seeing others’ totems either losing parts due to shrinkage or even worse, the whole thing blowing up in the kiln was another thing to worry about.
Weeks of struggles, frustrations, disappointments were in the end, worth it all when we stood around viewing our work. The reward of our labor was whimsically sweet. Each totem piece has a story to tell and has the magical power to stop passers by in their tracks, either to take a quick note of it or just take in all the stories and be transported to another world.
Here’s a close up of the fairy house from different angles.
Now back to my fairies – we all got together last winter and my fairy group got to see the Magical Mushroom House by the Ohlone pond. What a wonderful way it was to say ‘See You Later’ to each other before they hit the road to go home!
I would like to acknowledge the work of the other ceramists whose works are seen in some of the pictures on this post. Lisanne Gollub made the caterpillar totem piece and the cat-tails spacer. The koi fish totem piece and the dragonflies spacer were made very patiently by Anabela Wahl. Credits to Katie Frank for proposing the totem pole idea and supporting us all the way through. A special thanks to Phyllis for her continuous help, support and working with the kiln.