Somethings Wonderful This Way Came

Somethings Wonderful This Way Came
1970's Vintage Caftan in At Play

Monday, January 9, 2012


A roadrunner has recently moved into our neighborhood.  Most often seen in undisturbed, natural habitats, I was a little surprised to see him racing around suburbia.  I first saw him running atop our block wall fence in the back yard.  Now, I see him most often across the street or darting between houses.  Today, he took advantage of the pleasant sunshine and hunted in our front yard.  That gave me a wonderful opportunity to observe him up close from the window.  I was awed by the remarkable markings on this bird---so vivid and distinctive.  No wonder Harwood Steiger used them so liberally in his designs! 

There is no doubt that roadrunners capture our attention and imaginations. They are large, move distinctively and have such unique plumage.   And, after all, we grew up watching the roadrunner outwit the coyote.  Roadrunners must have made a powerful impression on Harwood Steiger.  These birds appear in dozens and dozens of his fabulous designs, either singly, or grouped in a scene, or showcased among the cacti. 

The first Steiger example I purchased was a table cloth and it was the comical roadrunners that captured my affections.  Since then, I have collected quite a few of the birds in a variety of depictions.  Steiger presented the birds in realistic renderings and abstractly, too.  The birds appear portraited, shown hunting and running, nesting and resting.  And, in each representation, one can clearly see that this is no other bird, except a roadrunner.  The long tails and head crowns are unmistakably roadrunner.  If they were not so humorous, one might call them regal.  Be sure to scroll down at see them in At Play, Square Dance, etc.

The Aztec style roadrunner appears in several different examples.  The one shown here has two facing birds and the pairs are set wide apart in the fabric run.  Sparingly used in this instance, the birds appear with great effect on a heavy, nubby cotton that is much like linen.  Printed in one color only, Steiger produced them in black, deep red, blue, forest green and brown.  The same bird is incorporated into what I call my Aztec tablecloth.  Not precisely the same, the birds are woven into a visual jig saw puzzle of Aztec motifs. So ingeniously done,  I did not recognize them at first.  Scroll down to see the Aztec dress panel,  the Aztec border print and the table cloth.

By far, my favorite roadrunners are the simply rendered ones that are so busy being desert dwellers that they make me smile.  I love the way these two in Paisano seem to be figuring out how to split that little lizard, or more likely, who's going to have it for an appetizer.  I wonder how much time Harwood Steiger spent bird watching.  He captured their behavior so perfectly.  For example, in Running Birds, the border print, the roadrunner's legs are completely outstretched, capturing the idea of just how fast these birds run.  They are fast, very fast. 

I also greatly admire the way Steiger presents the birds in an almost stately manner, as in the cholla dress panel.  They are highly detailed and shown in their full splendor.  Depicted in their natural element, these birds are right at home, and to me, look like a courting pair. 

Harwood Steiger had a real gift for capturing the nature of these wonderful Sonoran desert birds.  I am grateful that he took such a fancy to our avian friends and shows them in wonderful variety.

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