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A 21st century pirate

Estacada resident Mark Heimann is known by some as Captain Morrigan Quicksilver
by:  Mark Heimann aka Captain Morrigan Quicksilver

When most people sing, 'Yo, ho, yo, ho, a pirate's life for me!' it's nothing more than a line in a song and a movie. For Estacada resident Mark Heimann, however, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Heimann, also known as Captain Morrigan Quicksilver, has been known to dress, talk and work like a real-life pirate.

Heimann, 60, was born in New York and raised in Connecticut before graduating from Princeton University with a degree in art and archaeology.

Two years after graduation, after having moved around the country, he settled in Florida, where he opened 'The Wheel,' a clay studio and gallery. That adventure lasted seven years, before he moved to Oregon in 1981.

Not able to find the right studio environment, he studied advanced paramedicine at Oregon Health and Science University, and he spent the next 10 years as a paramedic. Aside from his time in the streets, he also served as the coordinator of emergency medical communications for Multnomah County.

In 1991, he moved to Estacada and built Lost Mountain Clayworks.

In addition to his full-time work producing claywork for numerous shows, festivals and sales, he also worked as a public information officer for FEMA, responding as a media contact at disasters all over the country. His time even included a three-week stint with Urban Search and Rescue in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and during Hurricane Rita.

While all of this describes part of the working career of Heimann, it fails to explain who he is.

'I've been doing historical reenactments ever since the mid-'70's - medieval, fur trade, gun-spinning cowboy, and Confederate mounted cavalry, but for some reason this pirate thing really bit me,' he said. 'So I started looking for others of like mind. Wonder of wonders, I found the Festival de Piratas - produced by Captain Bogg and Salty, a now-legendary Portland pirate band.'

At that gathering, Heimann met Splinter McCormick, and together they formed the Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries (BOOM), which has become well known for stage combat work and cannon demonstrations.

Heimann's claywork began to reflect his piratical mindset, and he established a popular market with Quicksilver's Pirate Pots, which prominently features the jolly bones. His works include sturdy tankards, jugs, bottles, tumblers, shot glasses and 'scurvy dog' bowls for pets in addition to custom designs and monogrammed pieces.

'Claywork has been my main source of income for over 40 years, with influences ranging from Oriental kanji to Viking to Columbia Gorge petroglyphs,' he said.

What Heimann loves most about his lifestyle is that it contains the spirit of a pirate, even if he isn't aboard a ship.

'Every day is different - I wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee and figure out what I'm going to do next,' he said. 'As a self-employed person, as every pirate was, 'I has to swab the decks, brace the lines and chart the course by me own self, in order to keep the ship a-sailing.' '

Quicksilver's status in the pirating community continues to grow. Recently, he teamed up with other local pirates from Oregon and Washington in a group named The Rogues Guild.

The group was organized by Jeff MacKay, the owner/operator and hat maker for the Pirate Trading Company. He and his wife, Rebecca, are the main subjects of Icarus Arts' docu-based reality show about life as a pirate in the 21st century, 'A Pirate's Life.'

'The people in the cast are independent, free souls, all artists making a living from some sort of piratical endeavor, be it claywork, hat making, oil painting or portrait photography' Heimann said. 'We really are like a pirate crew, putting all of our different skills together to make everything work.'

In early 2010, Heimann and MacKay were elected, in a national contest sponsored by Pirates magazine, as founding members of the Devils Dozen, Order of the Leviathan, an honor that continues to bring them customers, friends and notoriety.

Heimann and the Rogues are also in the business of debunking the myth that pirates only do evil in the world.

'As MacKay says, it's a new world and a new age of pirates who give back instead of plundering,' he said.

An upcoming charity event that Heimann helps organize is the second annual Swashbuckler's Ball, which benefits the Oregon Humane Society.

'We may be scurvy dogs, but we like dogs,' Heimann joked.

While some people would view this type of lifestyle as nothing more than a hobby, the success of Pirate Pots indicates more than that. It's a vocation and an avocation.

'I often attend my booth at art shows in full pirate regalia, and attendees and customers alike enjoy it,' he said, 'because it's a great icebreaker.

'Whether they favor Johnny Depp or Robert Newton (Long John Silver in Disney's original 'Treasure Island'), most people support the romantic notion of pirates as freedom-loving scallywags. Occasionally a person will be upset and wonder why we 'support those pirates in Somalia,' but that idea couldn't be further from the truth.

'The point of creating pirate characters who interact with the general public at festivals, in movies, or on television is to entertain people and provide a respite from the stress and pressure of modern-day life.'

'I've always had an active imagination. My pirate character, voice, and clayworks continue my personal mission to be creative and have fun with life. Peter Pan, a pirate hunter, sang 'Never grow up,' and to a great extent he meant to keep your imagination alive. Words to live by, says I.'

As for whether he considers himself a real pirate, Heimann says it depends on who's asking.

'If a pirate is someone who is independent, self-employed, responsible for his own welfare and captains his own ship, then aye, I'm a real pirate,' he said.

For information on Pirate Pots, visit PiratePots.com.

For more information on the upcoming show 'A Pirate's Life,' visit: facebook.com/piratefamily.