speaking of whimsy

Ladybug motif tea set
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
. . . these pieces are among the most whimsical that I regularly produce. When Gary and I first married, we lived in an old farmhouse in Rossville, Tn. The house was then (but is no longer-the city creeps eastward) in deep country, surrounded by fields, forrests, ponds, and the occasional foxhunt* coming through our driveway. Every other year the house would be swarming with ladybugs- hundreds and hundreds of them.

In 2001 Gary made me a combo pottery drying shelf/seed-starting shelf with grow lights for my first attempts at vegetable gardening. That year was the first time we experience the ladybugs everywhere- walls, windows, plants, furniture, floors- but what do you do? My solution was to make pottery commemorating the invasion of the ladybugs- rolling tiny little balls of clay and sticking them on cups, mugs, plates, and later teapots, creamers, and sugarbowls.

The tiny cups and saucers are popular baby gifts- the larger mugs are popular with many women. I started making teapots late in 2004, so I alwasy make a few ladybug teapots for sales and festivals.

Glazing these pieces can be taxing- I tend to make a large number of these pieces at one time so that I can dip the bisqued pottery in white glaze, let it dry, then paint in the details. I go over the bug spots with red glaze and paint the spots, head, and antennae with a tiny brush with black underglaze. Painting the ladybugs takes about an hour per six small pieces.

Most people love this line- with a few exceptions who report that they're afraid of ladybugs. While they do bite (really!) and are truly pesky once in the house, they also eat many of the "bad bugs" in the garden, which is why I always tolerated their presence in my studio. My mother lives in the old house now, and has reported that the winter of 2007/2008 looks like an infestation year. I have to say, even though I feel for her, the results of that first ladybug army makes me, and many others, smile.

*unlike foxhunts in England, no foxes are harmed during these Southern-style hunts- the hounds and riders chase coyotes -when they can find them. My former neighbor, a woman who spent her life riding and raising the dogs, reported that the dogs would come screeching to a halt when they reached ponds to let the coyotes drink, get a head start, then go off chasing again. She also hunted with William Faulkner, but that's a different story.