It would appear, at least in Nova Scotia, that fungi arise not
just from soil and wood and dung, but also from a small pottery
studio in Lantz, Nova Scotia.
In 1949 on a fateful fall day, Alma Lorenzen stepped on an Inky
Cap while searching out mineral deposits with her husband, Ernst.
Both were potters and Ernst was a keen naturalist. Given the
scarcity of minerals for glazes and the difficulty of gathering
clay close to their New Brunswick home, they had moved to Nova
Scotia and the small rural community of Lantz.
Up to that point they sold sculptures, figurines of birds and
animals and pottery for the table through the small shop attached
to their home and studio. As Alma began to search out more and
more mushrooms and fewer and fewer minerals, her husband is
said to have commented, "If you like them so much, why don't
you model one?" So she did.....for nearly 50 years she produced
thousands of models of mushrooms, as Alma preferred to work
with the gilled species. Ernst preferred the non-gilled fungi
and added even some lichens to his repertoire.
Each mushroom is modeled from fine Nova Scotia clay, often from
drawings or paintings made from the live models. No two ceramic
model are exactly the same. Glazes are developed from locally
gathered minerals whose formulas still remain secret. All models
receive two firings. The unfired base of each is inscribed with
its scientific name.
A single mushroom takes about two weeks to complete, not including
the time to collect minerals for glazes and experiment with
colours. Over 200 species have been modeled in clay by the Lorenzens
and it takes about a year to complete the entire set.
Sadly Ernst and Alma passed away during the 1990s. Their daughter
Dinamarca and her son and other artisans-in-training, have carried
on the family tradition of crafting these charming, botanically-correct
The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History holds 400 models of
Lorenzen mushrooms, making it one of the largest single collections
worldwide. Large public collections may also be found at the
Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), Museum of Civilization
(Ottawa), University of Victoria, Brandon University and Dalhousie
University. Private collectors abound all over the continent