Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: friends, soda-fired, stamped, totem pole

Back at the start of the Covid Pandemic, my very first art fair friends Gerry & Rosene had a little “incident” in their back yard. A storm blew through Central Illinois and took out one of their largest trees. As if that weren’t bad enough… it also smashed my ceramic totem pole that was residing their yard! We had installed it in their back terraced garden about a decade ago. a beautiful addition to their incredible garden treasure. But that big tree coming down did a LOT of damage to their garden… and what with a pandemic just starting to take-over! Bad timing!

Luckily, we had cemented the totem pole into the ground… so their insurance claim covered as it was a “permanent” piece of their landscaping. With funds coming from the inurance company, Gerry & Rosene had me start making a replacement totem for them I threw the pieces, stamped them and started decorating them.

Once they were soda-fired, I packed them up in crates and stored them in my basement until Gerry & Rosene were ready to install into their yard. Turns out yesterday was the day!!! I I packed up my car with all of the stamped & soda-fired sections… grabbed my cousin Kim… and drove down to Peoria for the day yesterday!!!

After a tour of the garden… a lot of chatting & catching up in our masks… and some food, it was time to get started with the totem pole! So we set out all of the pieces in the beautiful sunshine and got the project started!

I started by digging the hole for the pole to be planted into. I used a great auger tool to make the hole, and a sledge hammer to pound in the pole. We then added a bag of cement around the pole to fill the hole and secure the pole.

Rosene & my cousin Kim worked to organize and sequence the pieces in the right order… not that there is a right & wrong… just a preference. They looked at colors, textures, patterns & shapes and tried to randomize them as much as possible to it all stacked together nicely. Not quite as easy of a project as it sounds!

As they continued to organize the pieces, Gerry & I started to stack the pole from the bottom up. Piece by piece, section by section. I finally made it to the top to put on the every last piece. The topper to the totem pole!!!

And then we were done… and ready for our “photo shoot.” It was so nice to give them back the totem pole they lost in the storm. I do think that this “version” is much nicer than the original. The pieces have a bit more stamping &detailing on them. The colors are a bit more vibrant… and they chose a fitting spot for it right in their front yard! They were SO excited… and SO CUTE!!!

So there it is… their NEW replacement totem pole. Bigger & better than the firs tone… thanks to State Farm and their homeowner’s insurance!

However, they also still had a few pieces left from the original one that had “survived” the tree crash! So I planned ahead and made a new base & a new topper for them “just in case” we could re-stack the survivors and make a smaller totem in the back yard. It worked great… as it is very close to the original location of the first totem. In fact, in the next photo, you can practically see the “dead space” where the tree fell!!!

So no they have TWO new totems in their amazing garden!!! It was a wonderful day playing in the garden, chatting, eating all the while trying to keep our safe distance with our masks on. Okay sure, we may have gotten a little close a couple times… but we tried... we really tried!!!

But in the end… THEY HAVE A NEW TOTEM POLEor two!!!

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