Daily Archives: May 28, 2011

Clay mushrooms as garden art

Last year, I made my first mushroom, an amanita muscaria, reminiscent of life in Germany, where it is considered good luck. Each Christmas, I get out my little collection of the red and white mushrooms and put them on our tree. While I don’t like things that are cute, I do like well-made representations from natural materials. My mushroom can be said to border on cute and many people have said just that about it, but they didn’t know my background and why I chose it for my garden. I put it right outside my front door over the year, by the red twig dogwood. I knew it would always look cheerful, no matter the season. It looked neat buried in snow in the winter…but while I glazed it inside and out, I did not glaze the rim and tiny bits of it broke off from freezing and thawing. I might see if I can scrub it up, glaze the edges, and refire it inverted to seal it. Amanitas are one of the most beautiful of fungi, but it has a bad rap because it is both highly toxic and hallucinogenic. If left alone and just admired they won’t hurt us, though. I remember when my friend, Gary, took a mycology class in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, a locale not much different from here. The place was teeming with mushrooms and there is nothing like cooking with a fresh morel or chanterelle mushroom! I would like to take such a class here. Also, I would like to make small versions of these to nest in clusters outside my greenhouse. Morel mushroom look almost brain-like. I know my Mom used to pick them in the wild, chanterelles, too. Both of these mushrooms have an uncanny resemblance to marine organisms. The chanterelles have soft, golden, leaf like parts that look like sea cucumbers. Nature is so amazing! I think I could make some out of white clay, then use white underglaze with red Shino over to make a nice representation. I know I can make this work and it’s the perfect little project for me at the present. Yesterday, I made someĀ  ‘toadstools’ of white clay. The stems are stylized and squiggly, as I want a nested group that fits together a certain way and is sort of funky. The caps will be textured with fork tines. I plan on staining them with iron oxide, then wiping it off. The stems will be reinforced by wrapping copperĀ  wire around them before they’re placed. It will age nicely. I hope to get some nice natural mosses growing on them, too, but not covering them up. My husband was game when I asked him to hold them up for a slideshow, which runs below and includes all the mushrooms, too. He held up the three outsize ones I’d made, a small, medium and large. I’ll nest these together after completion. I learned with my red and white one that the base doesn’t have to be as stocky as I made it. The ‘stems’ I’m making now, with their fanciful curves and twists are less stable, but maybe my wire-wrapping will strengthen them. If not, I’ll see what else I can do. I really like the idea of these little guys in my garden, though!

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