Surface Decoration & The Buckethead Story

Wood firing requires an approach to surface decoration that is different from other firing methods in which glazes are used extensively. After testing numerous techniques I am most enthusiastic about storytelling through illustration. I primarily use porcelain clay bodies and illustrate with black underglaze on a white canvas of porcelain slip.

I paint scenes of The Buckethead Story, an original parable of an apocalyptic future. This world is animated by good and bad robots called Bucketheads. The good robots work to save the few living things left. In the world of The Buckethead Story the only living things left are bunnies, turtles, carrots, a vine, a couple types of flowers, and an insect called a weta. Wetas are known for their ability to stay alive when frozen and to animate when thawed.

As the story evolved on successive pots, parameters developed. There is no electricity, no geographic location, no time frame except “future.” My pots do not tell a whole story or even a major event of the story. Each pot depicts a moment. The story is told on hundreds of pieces of work. They are not intended as sets and they become scattered through sales to different customers spread far and wide.

The pots intrigue people and spark dialogue. What caused the apocalypse that lead to the extinction of humans? How did bunnies survive? What is the power source for the Bucketheads? What role do recurring balloons play in the story? What do the bunnies represent? What makes a Buckethead good or bad? Sometimes I know the answer and other times I am as curious as they are to find out. A fun part of this two-way engagement is how their questions fuel my imagination and thus the story. I sometimes take commissions to illustrate a moment in the story they envision.

An earlier line that was also story-driven, Dragon Wells Steam Works, included functional vessels such as teapots, cream and sugar sets, lamps, storage jars, and oil cans. Illustrations were prominent in many pots in the series, particularly on vases. The central character, F. Emeril Carter, a machinist trapped in a collapsed room under the Dragon Wells factory in New York City, created the pieces for his use – as well as to stay sane.