When I made the owl for her, I had no idea I was making the Octavia Butler commemorative pendant. It was at Baycon in the late 80’s, and she told me that the owl was her totem – could I make one for her. I told her I would be delighted to make it for her, and that if I could also keep the design it would be much, much less costly. She was happy to have me keep the design and since I’d been wanting to make an owl for a while, I was equally delighted. (I was an early admirer of her work )
She wanted an iconic owl rather than a particular species. The Butler Owl design was influenced by the great horned owl, but it isn’t meant to be a particular species. The out-stretched wings as it lands on the branch were my concept of her owl. I carved the original in wax before casting in into silver, thinking about Octavia and what she wanted from it. I was very happy with the final design and she was extremely pleased.
Octavia died much too young in 2006. Kate Schaefer asked me to make the first pendant that was given by the Carl Brandon Society in 2007 and I’ve been making them ever since.
“The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship enables writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It furthers Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.” (Carl Brandon Society web site)
The Butler Owl is a commemorative pendant for the scholarship recipients.
“The first Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarships were awarded in the summer of 2007, and they have been awarded annually each subsequent year at the conclusion of the Clarion and Clarion West Workshops. As of the summer of 2018, 21 Butler Scholarships have been awarded.” (Carl Brandon Society web site)
I was invited to participate in an award ceremony at a San Diego Clarion and it was very moving and special.
It turns out that the owl has a profound meaning for those who receive it. They have told me that receiving Octavia’s totem feels like there is a way that they are in touch with her. And that it is extremely meaningful. I am very grateful that I am able to do this for them.
When Nisi Shawl called me up and asked me to do the cover for their anthology Bloodchildren, I was astonished. Not because they asked me, but because I knew I was going to say yes. I’ve never done a cover and my photography is normally unsuited for an SF anthology. But two days before they called, I had for the first time a clear sense of a new direction for my photography, and this request fit the areas I was thinking about. It was very intense time consuming work, and a joy to do.
I can thank the Carl Brandon Society for the fact that I have made 21 Butler owls and I’ll continue to make the Butler Owls for as long as possible.
Behold Naomi Day, recipient of the Octavia Butler Scholarship for Clarion West’s 2020/2021 class, clad in glory, and a celebratory silver owl pendant and holding the mic for Erik Owomoyela, recipient of the Octavia Butler Scholarship for Clarion West’s 2010 class. And why is Naomi holding the mic for Erik? Because he’s about to present an owl pendant to the Octavia Butler Scholarship recipient for Clarion West’s 2022 class, the formidable Wen-Yi Lee. Don’t believe us? We have proof:
Meanwhile, back east in San Diego, Clarion 2022 Butler Scholarship winner Shingai Kagunda is also very, very happy to receive her silver owl pendant and shows it off against a matching sky-and-sea background.
This is the 15th year that Laurie T. Edison has created beautiful reproductions of the owl pendant she designed for Octavia Butler, then donated them as presentations for winners of the Octavia Butler Scholarships. In the photograph below you can see some of the stunning detail of her work.
Here are moments from just a few of the joyous presentation ceremonies–and their aftermaths–made possible over the years by your donations and Laurie’s artistry:
I was privileged to know and love Octavia during her lifetime, and now I get to write about that, and about the aftermath. Here’s my most recent piece, an essay on Octavia’s legacy commissioned by her epublisher, Open Road Media. Lots of gorgeous photos and lively links, too.