Introduction by Robert Maxwell

When I was a young boy, my mother would gather seedpods from trees in our yard that had nice round shapes with beautiful textures and long stems. I watched my mom transform these pods into miniature turkeys. She glued them to small pieces of paper and with names added, they were used as place cards at Thanksgiving. Come Christmas, my mom had a different idea. A big round red apple studded with toothpicks and raisins was topped by a marshmallow head and a red felt cap with a tuft of cotton. Cloves were used for buttons and eyes. Watching her, I became fascinated by the resourceful use of simple everyday things to make charming Santa Claus decorations. I realized then and there what a creative imagination can do!
I was lucky to be a boy in the late thirties and early forties. There was no television, no video games, and no plastic toys. In fact, very few toys at all were available. My brothers and I, like all the kids of that generation, created our own play. For me, it was scraps of wood, holes dug in the dirt, and mud puddles. Floating across these "lakes" would be a small piece of wood with a mast and a paper sail. If a breeze came up, then-- wow! I was sailing across the ocean. I built an airplane that I could actually sit in. And, guess what? It was made from wood and cardboard. This gave me a wonderful chance to pretend I was a pilot flying my own plane. Of course, it never left the ground but my imagination sure did! Later on in my young adult life, I would actually learn to fly. Sure, our generation had radios, books and stories told to us at bedtime. All of this stimulated my imagination and, I suppose, helped make me what I am today. I still love to create, be resourceful, and make my very own "play." Click on image for additional drawings
As a young boy, I was given the chance to take a Saturday morning drawing class. I drew mostly trees, flowers, and birds. I really loved doing this; almost as much as playing in the dirt. When I grew up and finally arrived at U.C.L.A. as an art major, I enrolled in a ceramics class. The clay instantly brought back my childhood memories of playing in the mud. Drawing, painting, two dimensional design, and, even calligraphy are subjects I love to teach today. But, I love taking a nice soft piece of clay and bringing it to life as a three dimensional work of art.
I’ve always had a fascination with animals-- cats, dogs, dinosaurs, African animals—but creating clay animal sculptures came about quite by accident. One day, when I was throwing a small bottle shape on the potter's wheel, the narrow necked form I had made somehow flopped over. Well, I looked at this and imagined a round body with a bent neck. I trimmed the bottom off nice and round, put on a tail, then eyes, a horn, feet, and some hair-like texture. This was in 1959 at U.C.L.A. and that’s when it all started. I guess my "signature" in the ceramic world would be the imaginary animal sculptures that I’ve created. Don't be confused if you see them called "beasties" or "critters" or simply animals. You can call them whatever. During the sixties, I handcrafted several thousand of these little animals. With production molds, many more thousands were made. I didn’t want to copy animals in nature; I wanted to create my own animals. Group of handmade animals ready to fill a Gumps order
In conclusion, let me offer a suggestion to all you kids, young adults, older parents and even grandparents. If you want a new lease on life, get off your mouse and go outside. Look around at the abundant resources nature provides. Take a camera or a basket and be creative with what you find. And, always remember what Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is far more important than knowledge."