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Totems. Did I Mention That I’m Making Totems?

Totems.  Did I Mention That I’m Making Totems?

Totems….geez! what a lot of work!  I think that I’ve bitched about them quite alot lately – to my friends, family, social media, etc.  My previous posts on totems describe the totems pictured below.


I moved the original totems from in front of the studio to just inside the gate of our property.

If I had designed them all up front that could have saved me time, money and a huge amount of effort.  But, why spoil all the fun?!  Make it a challenge.  Make it harder than it should be.  Just start out making pieces and see what happens.  That’s what I did.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

Extruded pieces awaiting decoration.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

Flower topper

Thankfully, about half way through the process, I had a vision and a plan developed.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

The totem topper of the she-totem is a crazy lady head – symbolic of worms in her head, a third eye as an indicator of intuitive powers, and three tongues to demonstrate the speaking without thinking.

I figured out that the high fire glazes that I love were NOT going to be bright enough and I followed the sage advice of Brad Hunt at Picasso’s Ceramics and used the Duncan Concepts range of underglazes which combines underglaze and glaze.  This was a huge help in that it eliminates painting each piece with a clear glaze – 3 coats… on each little piece!

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

Decorated divider pieces…you cannot have enough of these!

I also found that the Cesco line of Goldene Gold gave me just the glitzy look that I wanted.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

Laying the totems out on the table before erecting them assisted in the process.

Putting them together is always a challenge.  But with a great installation crew (Ronnie, Darren, Lyndall, Morgan, Todd and Krista), it only took two days!

Numbering each piece before moving to the installation site is critical…you think you’ll remember what order they go in…but you won’t!

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

The flower grouping is made up of 3 7 foot totems.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

These three totems are playful and are adorned with squiggles.

totems, clay, ceramics, australia

This grouping is red, black and white with gold accents.

totems, Mt warning, australia, pottery

Totems on a tree stump with Mt. Warning in the background.

Some tips if you want to make totems:

  • Draw out your design
  • Make little connector pieces for each other piece (to fit) and make more than you think you need.
  • Stick with a colour scheme and plan it ahead of time.

All of this is great advice and easy to say AFTER I’ve finished, but a word to the wise…just sayin’.

Anyway, they looked great, everyone loved them and I’ve sold a bunch!

Written by Marian Williams


  1. Renee Martin · August 25, 2016

    I LOVE the totems. The bottoms do not look heavy enough for stability. How much do the pieces weigh and what did you use as a base? Thanks so much. Renee

    • Marian Williams · August 25, 2016

      Hi, the steel rods are into the ground about 3 feet- so very stable. I didn’t want a permanent installation, so didn’t use concrete or another method. As they are now, they can be easily disassembled and moved (sold!).
      All the best,

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