Ice Age Oregon: Ceramic Sculpture


For millions of years large mammals in North America were peerlessly diverse. 13,000 years ago people triggered the extinction of most of them. Since 2003 I've been hand-building ceramic sculptures of those formerly in Oregon.

My siblings will tell you that as a boy, I wanted to grow up to be a dinosaur. Before I could read my father had shown me the rudiments of making a brontosaurus or triceratops; modeling clay had been a toy of his as a child. So as a grade schooler I took it to school with me and made small sculptures on my desk between assignments. But by junior high, my interest had turned elsewhere. Still, once in a great while I would pick up a bit of something and mold it.

Occasionally my wife would see me doing it. Being a painter, she encouraged me with an occasional gift of modeling clay for Christmas or my birthday. I'd work it for a couple of days, then set it aside for another month or year. But for Christmas 2002, she tried a new tack: ten weeks of classes at the local pottery studio. Three years later, I've been at it slowly but steadily, building up a portfolio of long-gone Oregonians.

Sean Cooper of Paleocraft and Max Salas are especially inspiring.

Gone for good:
  • American Mastodon: a browsing proboscidean, cousin to elephants
  • Colombian Mammoth: a grazing proboscidean, sibling to elephants
  • Giant Short-Faced Bear: a grizzly-sized running bear, acting like a giant hyena
  • Shasta Ground Sloth: a black-bear sized browser
  • Jefferson's Ground Sloth: a grizzly-sized browser
  • Harlan's Ground Sloth: a browser the size of a small rhino (1.5 tons)
  • Saber-toothed cat: tiger-sized big game predator
  • Scimitar-toothed cat: lion-sized big game predator
  • Western Horse, Mexican Horse, and Onager: they originated here
  • Western Camel: like a long-legged dromedary
  • Large-headed llama: llamas originated here, too
  • Long-nosed and Flat-headed peccaries: about the size of a European wild boar
  • California Tapir, like the ones currently in Brazil
  • Giant tortise, like in the Galapagos
  • Shrub ox: a temperate climate musk ox
  • Stellar's sea cow
  • Pronghorns: Conkling's, Shuler's, and Diminutive
Still living elsewhere:
  • Lion
  • Cheetah
  • Jaguar
  • Bison
  • Wolf
  • Grizzly
  • Moose
  • Sea otter
  • California condor