When it comes to opinions my Muse has a mind of her own.
This is Toby. He's a Bird Dog. Once upon a time I was pretty well known for clay critters like Toby.
Recently, I got an email from Toby's owner who explained that Toby has been a cherished member of their family for many, many years. The owner's son’s real-life dog was even named after Toby––and if that isn’t a Velveteen Rabbit moment, I can't say what is.
The owner shared that Toby’s life experiences had taken a toll. Toby had withstood curious grand-child hands, plethoras of enthusiastic pets, and three separate household moves . Toby's Bluebird of Happiness' tail-feathers had been snapped off multiple times, and finally, during the last move, Bluebird cracked clean off Toby’s nose. Toby’s owner wanted to know: could Toby be fixed?
Just to clarify, by “fixed” Toby's owner meant “repaired” and, as a long-time supporter of Sacramento’s SPCA, I feel it’s important to highlight this distinction.
I asked if Toby could come to my studio and we’d see what might be done.
When Toby arrived later that day my first thought was, "Damn! He looks pretty darn good for an old dog." His tag told me that he’d left my studio in 2002––which would make Toby about ninety-something in dog years yet , ironically, a mere pup in pottery years. Fun fact: the earliest known crockery dates back 20 millennia to what archeologists refer to as the Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age Period.
After a brief examination––let’s call it a CAT scan, or would you prefer Toby’s “Lab” report?––besides the overall fading of his original copper color, the tip of Toby’s ear, one eyebrow, and part of his tail had been "docked", Bluebird had no tail feathers, one of her toes was missing, and her beak had been badly chipped.
Artistic choices were made. As Toby's coat had faded to a lovely shade of platinum-gold, I decided not to return him to his original copper. Besides, isn't it unnerving when old-timers dye their hair to the colors of their youth? To my eye, it rarely translates well.
My final thought: years from now, when all of us are dust, might a future archeologist unearth Toby-shards and wonder about the civilization that produced him? Who can know? What I do know is this: as a living artist I’m grateful that a creation of mine has been loved both long and well. It was a pleasure to assist in Toby's preservation.