Nesting Instincts

I was inspired to make this series of ceramic bird’s nests after learning of several ceramic artists using fabric dipped in slip (liquid clay) to create sculptural pieces. I have always been moved by the beauty and artistry in nature. So, when I found a nest on the ground I thought; if a person wove this I would be amazed by the craftsmanship, how much more incredible is it that this was made by a bird? I wondered if the same principals would apply to dipping a bird’s nest in slip as to fabric.

It took me 6 months after dipping the first nest in slip to get brave enough to fire it. Leaving organic matter in clay is contrary to what I learned about ceramics. I had always understood that there couldn’t be debris or air bubbles inside the clay or the piece would explode in the kiln. After a lot of research I finally ran the bisque firing very slowly letting it soak at a low temperature overnight before ramping up the temperature. I opened the kiln the next day to find a very delicate nest, now made completely out of hollow ceramic tubes. The grasses and sticks that made the original nest had burned away. By firing the kiln slowly enough, the gases produced by the organic matter burning away are able to escape at a faster rate than the clay shrinks and nothing explodes.

I was in awe. In their bisque form they can hardly be handled as they are so fragile. I spray a thinned glaze onto them since dipping them in a glaze would cause them to crumble. After the glaze firing they are far more stable though still quite breakable.

As a contrast to the hard edges of the clay I have needle felted eggs from wool in a representation of those that the nests would have protected.

I enclosed them in acrylic display cases on a handmade wood base (made by my lovely partner) to protect them as they travel to your home as they are simply too fragile to even wrap in tissue paper.

I hope you enjoy the wonderful craftsmanship of the birds that made these beautiful nests and the artistic touch that I have added.