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.
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!