Something Stirred my Soul


by Inga Songbird


While walking through the grocery store with five dollars in my pocket for food, I noticed something called Rochester Magazine. It was new to me.  I leafed through the pages.  I was impressed with its presentation from cover to cover.  I purchased it right away and went without the food.  There are times in my life when I have lost all sense of time and forgotten when I last ate and can live solely on creative energy.

I returned to my ten by ten-foot artist studio and sat in awe of my new magazine.  I came to page 50.  Pictured, atop a hill, was a breathtaking Maize colored Italianesque villa. On the following page something enchanting caught my eye. In the background was a picture of an intriguing gazebo. As I read the article written about the homeowners, something stirred my soul: “The gazebo is cool in the summer and cozy in fall,” says Jill (the homeowner), “My sister and my seven-year-old nephew sleep out here in sleeping bags.” I found it magical and romantic. I had a burning desire to hand build a scaled down prototype of the gazebo to sell to the homeowners. I felt lucky to find their phone number and wrote it alongside their address, on the magazine page.

Using clay, I built the gazebo.  It was not an easy task.  I worked with wet clay so it easily lost its shape. I chose that way because I wanted it to meld into a character of its own. It was not only octagonal in shape, it also had a cupola bearing eight sides and it had as many windows as it had sides. I meticulously built each section and each tile on the main roof and on the cupola roof, individually sculpted, using my various tools. My favorite tool was a ¼ inch firm-bristled, flat-angled paint brush. That phase took approximately thirteen hours. There was a three week drying period for the clay to cure so it wouldn’t crack during firing.  It was up to Luka, the owner of the kiln, when my pieces would be fired. His full-time job was his pottery, he sold his work at art shows across the U.S. When there was space in the kiln some of my earthenware could go in.  My kindred spirit was also instrumental in finding me my art study at only $100 per month, and when I moved in he rolled over a wooden, flat bed, cart loaded with buckets of used clay.  “Most people don’t want to work with used clay,” he said. “It’s actually better because it has been worked. It’s stronger. Let me see what you can do with it.”

Luka had warned me to be meticulous in scoring the seams where the walls meet the floor, preventing air pockets that could easily blow up.  I thought I had done a good job of it until the gazebo came out of the kiln.  Luka and I were both stunned. The cupola was sitting “next” to the gazebo. It had blown off! Fortunately, it hadn’t shattered any of the other pottery in the kiln.  Luka advised me that the cupola should not have a floor in it, as that created an air pocket and was the reason it blew off. My sculpture was unusable.  I was so disheartened. I had painstakingly carved each individual roof tile and each window.  All of them were perfect in their craftsmanship and execution.  Woe is me.

I went for a walk on the canal trail to shake off my crushing disappointment. I desperately needed to lie down in some pine, it always smoothed my ruffled feathers. I came upon the little pine forest I had always wished to sit in but never had because there was a “Do Not Trespass” sign posted on a tree.  There are strict rules no matter where you go: your own made up rules, government rules, church and state rules and hornswoggle rules. All are man-made.  I am not one to break the law or hurt anyone to get what I want but this was a time when I needed to reach through and around the rule posted on that sign. I needed serenity and this was the only place to find it. Fearlessly I walked toward the little pine forest. I figured that if the landowner discovered me there, I would just explain. We lived in the same village and I couldn’t imagine anyone not understanding such a need.  Perhaps they’d even feel honored that I had chosen their land to seek my serenity. I felt sure that if I had called the owners they would have granted permission.  I reached my destination and lay down on the floor of soft pine needles.  I had found serenity. I rested for about a half hour and was fully revivified to create another gazebo. “When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  I buy into that.  If you truly want something, don’t give up on the first try.  “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work,” – Thomas A. Edison.

When I walked back I noticed something curious lying on the ground.  It was an old-fashioned wooden insulator pin camouflaged in the brush.  I saw great potential in this uniquely crafted piece of weathered wood that was shaped like a cone, and had markings that resembled an eaten cob of corn.  I screwed off one of the pins from the electrical pole half buried in the earth and danced all the way back to my clay.

I started my second gazebo, this time making it even larger.  Now I was feeling more proficient in measuring and building the sixteen walled structure. What really gave the gazebo the extra pizzazz it needed was my magical new tool that I used for creating the roof. Because it was magical to me, it naturally created magic for me.  I simply rolled the wooden pin around the clay of the roof and the tiles that emerged took on a unique new life. I was amazed at the end result. It was time to attach the roof to the walls of my gazebo. This time it would be perfect. There is no way this cupola would blow off the gazebo the second time. I did all that I could do by myself and then decided to go across the courtyard and ask one of the business owners for some help. I needed someone to hold the gazebo up in the air so that I could reach into the areas that I was unable to access without assistance. I looked to see who was available. It was already dark out, most people had left for the day. Nick was still there like me, preparing to burn the midnight oil. I asked him and he reluctantly said yes. He was afraid that he would do more harm than good. I reassured him he’d do fine. I did what I needed to do and as he handed it back to me it dropped.  BOOM! Right onto the cement floor. Nick was mortified, apologizing all over himself. The accident had jarred the gazebo which now leaned to one side. Now it had character – a lived-in look. I loved it! It’s exactly what it needed! The power of infinite wisdom is in the details. Throw it on the floor and make a sale. It was a smash hit!

The gazebo was still hot, right out of the kiln.  The terracotta textured roof glowed in my hand. I dialed the homeowners of the mansion and gazebo, all the while admiring the gazebo in my hand. Jill, answered the phone.

“Hello!  My name is Inga Songbird and I just created a clay prototype of your gazebo that I saw in Rochester Magazine.  I was inspired to create it having read that your sister and your seven-year-old nephew sleep out there in sleeping bags. I am wondering if you would like to see it?”

“Can you come now?”  She asked.

I wasted no time.  Next thing you know I was standing in her kitchen.  And with my hand on the roof of the gazebo I said, “It’s worth $300.”  Jill, wrote me a check on the spot.  She loved it!  She said she loved it and, yes! the money was great.  Who doesn’t like being rewarded with money?

There was something else in store for me – some things money can’t buy.

I received a grand tour of the extravagantly, decorated sublime villa, beginning in the grand entry way which boasted a large easel displaying a framed geo-spacial image of the villa. The homeowner explained that there was no other way to capture the breadth of their 7,300 square-foot home.

Jill and I walked outside along the meandering slate-slabbed walkway to see the life-sized gazebo there. It was thrilling for me. I had been working from only a picture. The real magic happened when I walked inside and looked up. I’d been wondering if the cupola had a floor or if it were open all the way to its top. I stared up in reverence. The inside of my clay gazebo looked exactly like hers. No floor – open all the way up.

Starry, starry night…





Inga Songbird is currently immersed in her clay and continues to see the bright light – in everything.