Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The artist lacked patience required to work in clay

Summary: Jann Higgins of Mexico, Mo., wanted a life-size cowboy made of clay, so she joined my clay class. She had sold many framed drawings of Western cowboys, so I hoped to learn by teaching this talented Western artist to work with clay. Her hands stayed clean because I did the messy part. I called myself a "mud dauber." My husband, Chub, and our helper, J.D. Russell, made the kiln taller and did the heavy lifting with ropes and pulleys.

I couldn’t believe what was happening! "Stoney," Jann said, was going to "a gallery in Buffalo, Wyo." She left the motor running as she and her husband loaded Stoney - and his legs. I had removed them by cutting with the wrinkles of his Western jeans. Epoxy glue and epoxy putty would reattach them.

Chub and I watched their taillights disappear to the west. My investment in time, clay, know-how, food, work space, equipment, labor and more now amounted to nothing! Jann was eager to have a cowboy but not willing to make the sacrifices it required to make it. Hurt, Chub and I began to "lick our wounds." I made a list of things I should have said and done before we started working on Stoney. If I ever saw Jann again, I was ready.

I saw her months later and said, "We must make another cowboy." I didn’t say this one would be mine! She snapped up my bait.

"He’s Josh, and he’s shaving," she said.

I said, "I visualize a wash pan on his knee."

"Oh no," she corrected. "Josh is shaving dry! He sharpened his skinning knife and is shaving with that."

"If we ever do work together again," I said, "we will work separately. I could call you when the sculpture is ready for your art."

She wasn’t listening.

"I’d not be in your way, and I, too, would work by myself."

Then, to protect my chances of getting even with her, I set a date when I could start building "Josh."

"I’m neither teacher nor student," I said. "I am the boss!"

She heard that and agreed.

Jann suddenly warmed and said, "I refused $1,800 for Stoney from a man from New Orleans."

I said, "Oh?" and kept working. I turned Josh’s head, neck and hat on the potter’s wheel. Jann altered and assembled them appropriately. She made a final trip for "detailing."

I followed her that time.

Jann and her husband joined Chub and me on this final viewing of the ready-to-fire Josh. It was time for me to say, "Jann, I have traded whatever was my part of Stoney - which you took - for your artwork. You have worked 10? hours on my Josh."

We stood silent for a long time. Finally, she said, "I’ll think about it."

Jann Uber Higgins, divorced, moved West and took her maiden name, Uber. She released Josh to me; I sent a check to make it legal.

Josh has been displayed at the Columbia Public Library, Columbia Gallery of Western Photography and Friends Together Antiques. He went to Mexico, Mo., for Clay Days; to Engler’s Block Branson in Branson; to Missouri’s largest Western store in Springfield; and to two locations in Florida. He might be offered for sale in 2005.


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