Culvert Operation

Culverts were my friend, when I was a kid. You know, the big corrugated steel tubes that kept spring run-off under the local dirt roads, rather than washing out through them. In summertime they were wonderfully cool and echoey, half full of water, surrounded by cattails and home to polliwogs, leopard frogs, water skimmers and... dragonflies. Flying jewels, in iridescent blue or green or even bright red. Scary big sometimes, and sounding like a jet engine if one buzzed too close to your head, particularly if you were distractedly daring each other to go through the culvert to the other side. (Which none of us ever actually tried, least of all plump, claustrophobic me.)

I'm not sure why I waited so long to try them on pots, beyond the occasional tiny one distracting a duckling on teapots, but it finally took a special order, plus a photo-essay full reference pictures from an old wildlife magazine, to get me to take them seriously as a pattern.

I started out with blue and green darners, best suited for my oxides palette, though the pied skimmer, with bronzy patchwork wings, looked pretty wonderful too. I did a few tiny red ones, mostly on Empty Bowls donations. I finally settled on a blue darter, flying over a big bunch of sword ferns. Oregon natives, all.

Since I started painting them, they've flown onto soup bowls, stew mugs, painted and tall mugs, dinner and dessert and pie plates, the occasional tumbler, pilsner or creamer.

The buzz has been excellent.