The Fungus Among Us
See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada  
It's a Fungusful World!
Fungus in Our Lives
Fungal Science
Finding Fungi
Funky Fungi Facts
Fungal Folklore
Mushroom Models
Fungal Fun
Meet the Mushrooms: Fungi A-Z
  Mushroom Models
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 models.

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 and beyond.

Here is just a sample of this lovely collection.

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2003. All Rights Reserved.