Meanwhile, an Art Vacation

Last week I went to Minneapolis for Art is You.  I took three classes, and this is the project I did in Laurie Mika’s “Patron Saints” class.  In her pre-class instructions she suggested that we do some research on patron saints and pick one with personal meaning.

I discovered that a patron saint is the saint that one calls upon to intercede on one’s behalf.  So I chose a squirrel.  But not just any squirrel.  Annie!

I was a member of the squirrel team of Sierra Wildlife Rescue for about five years and during that time I had one (many, actually) of the most wonderful experiences of my life. 

One day, the center called me to come in and pick up a baby squirrel for home care.  When I got to the center, I was intimidated to see how small she was.  She was waiting for me in an incubator and weighed only 8 grams, or about 1/3 of an ounce.  Just the most basic care was challenging because she was so small.  And because she was so small she seemed especially fragile.

Fortunately, things started out well and she grew.  But twice while she was still a baby she suddenly collapsed while I was feeding her.  I was frantic and couldn’t think of anything to do but try to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Miraculously, she survived both times.  I was very close to her and spent a lot of time hugging and loving her.  Squirrels were the perfect rehab species for me because one could supposedly shower as much love and attention on them as one wanted and they would still “wild up” naturally when they weaned.  At least that was the theory.

I weaned little Annie and put her in the outdoor release cage for a few weeks to allow her to get used to her natural habitat in safety.  But as soon as I opened the tiny release door at the top of the cage, she made a beeline for my door and sat looking in the big window that was most of the door.  It didn’t seem to bother her that the cats were lined up on the inside of the door looking back at her!  Certainly, the situation wasn’t in her best interest, so I sadly relocated her to Cindy’s (the team leader and my best friend) release cage.

While she was in Cindy’s release cage she needed medication but Cindy absolutely couldn’t get near her – Annie would fight like a banshee.  So I went to Cindy’s house and sat in the bottom of the release cage.  Immediately, Annie came down from her nest box and sat on my knee.  I was able to give her the meds with no problem.  That was the last time I saw my little Annie, but she is always in my heart.

About the piece:  This is polymer clay over a wood substrate ( 5″ x 7″ by 2″ deep).  I made the head and paws ahead of time.  They’re sculpted from gray polymer  clay and then painted.  She also has whiskers!  I drilled tiny holes in her muzzle.  For each side, I bundled four pieces of 4lb smoke fireline (a beading thread), knotted the bundle in the middle, folded it in half, and glued the knot into the hole.

The piece is basically a collage of decorated polymer clay slabs.  The decorations are stamps for texture and embellishments of paint, mica powder, metal stampings, and various jewels.

Laurie is an amazing teacher. She guided each one of her fourteen students, some of them absolute beginners with polymer clay, to a beautiful, finished piece.  If you ever have a chance to take one of her classes, don’t miss the opportunity.  In fact, go out of your way!


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