One of the most important things I learned this summer is how crucial comfort is to the efficiency of a studio. I've never thought of myself as someone with high standards, but I have come to appreciate a few simple things that I feel are necessary for an inspiring and enjoyable studio space. 1. Running water.

2. Vertically accurate table heights.

3. Natural light.

4. Heat.

Over the summer I slowly migrated my ceramic belongings to my sister's townhouse basement, where my studio will be located for the next phase of my pottery career. The room is spacious and ready to be covered in clay.

I have shelving. I have a handmade step stool to reach the top of the shelving. I have a rocking chair. I have a sound system. I have a glaze kitchen (ish). I have tea, and a mini-fridge. I have a brand new wheel. I have packaging, boxes, and bags. I have clay.





I have acquired a work table at a vertically accurate height. I have running water. I have heat.

I do not have natural light.

Electricity will have to do. Next trip to Home Depot = lights, and lots of them.

Working Towards The End

The school term is winding down, and yet I feel busier than I have all year. The final semester for the graduating class means three shows and three show openings to plan, critiques to look forward to, and the beginning of our lives as entrepreneurs. Today was my last official college class, and it feels great. But unlike students in other departments and other years, we are not finished yet. Our next two shows are not until the end of April, and so we will be spending the coming weeks making work and coming to terms with the end of our student careers (at least for the time being). The past week has been a whirlwind of excitement and anxiety, a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Last Thursday was our opening at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. Over 150 people came to celebrate with us as we presented our work to the public for the first time. It was a lovely evening; moving speeches were made by the faculty and students and an overwhelming energy took hold of the building and all its occupants. We almost needed to kick people out, the building was full to the brim. I have rarely felt so high.

The days after an opening, however, are full of lows. All of the thought, energy, and suspense that surrounded the event came abruptly to a halt, and a disturbing silence followed. Thankfully, my weekend was still packed with many activities. The next two days I worked at PSH and spent hours in the studio, keeping myself busy. I even kept my hands busy once I was home, and made pinch pots while I watched some pottery videos. On Sunday I attended Craftstock, a new monthly pop-up shop in downtown Hamilton. Despite the raging winds, many Hamiltonians made it out to the event and helped support the growing local art scene. What a lovely group of people to spend a Sunday afternoon with.

My friend Ioni did a feature about my work on his blog - he attended the event at the Gardiner and took photographs (something I didn't have the time or mentality to do in such a busy environment). To check them out, visit his website . The photographs below highlight some of my pieces at the Gardiner Museum. (photo cred: Ionatan Waisgluss)[gallery type="square" ids="548,549,550"]


IMG_1825This week I am in Houston, Texas for NCECA - a massive conference where clay people from all over North America flock to look at work, buy tools and equipment, listen to discussions and lectures and most of all, socialize. This is my second year attending with The Pottery Supply House (my part-time job). We are exhibiting in the resource hall along with dozens of other companies that supply/manufacture kilns, equipment, tools, glazes, literature etc. As enjoyable as a week immersed in clay-related activities and networking is, I was at the point of a nervous breakdown prior to my departure from Canada. The Gardiner show is only three weeks away and I am taking an entire week away from my clay work in order to spend some time in Texas. Bad, bad, bad. So I spent the weekend pumping out dozens of doilies while watching episodes of BBC's Blue Planet and had some much needed outdoor time. We took my parents' dog Bentley (I call him Boo) on a long hike and then went to the beach where he dug big holes in the sand and repeatedly dropped his ball in the lake.

IMG_2040Monday afternoon we were off to Houston! Not only is the temperature significantly warmer, but the immediate arrival of sunshine and plants that are GREEN were extremely comforting. We set aside our winter jackets, boots and wool socks and donned sandals, sunglasses and shorts. It's lovely here in the South.

Houston is a beautiful city! Though this concrete jungle lacks in small pubs and quaint diners, I have rarely been to a city so full of joy - the abundant stretches of lawn, bamboo stalks and palm trees reflect rays of cheer as you walk down the street. Maybe this past winter in Toronto has felt particularly long - I have never enjoyed hot, humid air so much.

IMG_1922Yesterday we went to the NCECA Biennial and the NCECA National Student Juried Exhibition as well as several other small shows in Houston's Museum District. Though not impressed overall with the work at the Biennial, the Student Exhibition was quite delightful and had many lovely pieces that provoked wonder, thought and concern. Some of my favourites belonged to Shasta Krueger and Heather Davis.

IMG_2066[gallery type="square" ids="490,494,496,495,498,500"]

Today after 8 hours selling at our booth, my colleague Becky and I went to Santa Fe Clay: La Mesa, where 150 potters had work set out on long tables for the public to peruse and purchase. Unfortunately all of the pieces I wanted to purchase had already been donned with little red dots - somebody else had got there first.

Thankfully, NCECA has no shortage of pots. I went up to the Gallery Expo and bought myself a plate by Ron Meyers. I've always admired his work and came very close to buying a piece of his last year, when again, I was thwarted by that red dot. So on Tuesday when we arrived I started scoping out for his pieces and found several galleries at the Expo that showed his work. I had been eyeing this plate ever since and finally mustered up the courage to add it to my collection. My wallet is hurting, but I'm not - this may have been the best purchase I've ever made.


Reading Week

IMG_5198Today was the last day of reading week and I rarely spent time with my head in a book. As much as I would have loved to curl up on the couch with a big cup of Earl Grey and settle into The Hobbit, unfortunately "no school" meant "more work". Outside of my regular ceramic responsibilities I had another list of places I needed to be, work that needed to be done and thoughts that I needed to be thinking. The least of which included:

1. Go to band practice and learn new songs for gig on Saturday 2. Go to This is Hamilton: After the Steel Rush 3. Go to The Artist Project 4. Go to work at your part-time job, more often than you should, because it is reading week. 5. Attend Niagara Youth Conference staff meeting. 6. Pay attention at all of these events.

IMG_5347Though my intentions for reading week are always to get myself ahead so that I am under less stress in the coming weeks, this week I spent relatively no time making work. Instead, I spent 5 hours photographing my fired work in preparation for our upcoming shows.

There are seven of us with studios in the loft of the Ceramics department. On regular school days, the air is filled with laughter, discussion and sighs of frustration and exasperation. The energy in the studio is at its max on Monday mornings in particular. All 31 students have class, and therefore everyone in the department is present. I've given up any hope of working in common areas during the day - the plaster room is often used for slide talks or demos and the glaze kitchen feels cramped with only two people working in it (and there are often half a dozen at a time). I try to avoid common spaces at all cost, until the evening. On Friday evenings, most people choose to leave as soon as possible, and during reading week the majority of the studio spends extra time at home, paying attention to their family and friends. Many nights I spent by myself up in the studio, listening to Spiritualized and working at an efficient pace. I absolutely LOVE being the only one there. In fact, I will seek out times of the week when I am guaranteed to be one of the few people there, to work in my space. Though my studio is a private work area for myself alone, there's something equally eerie and magical about the larger studio being available and vacant.

Tonight was no exception. As the last person in the studio I was granted the novelty of silence (aside from the constant hum of the ventilation system) and allowing my mind to wander, if only for a few short hours. I will post more photos, soon.


Over the years I have found that days of celebration are often more exhausting than you would originally think.  There have been countless numbers of holidays, birthdays and special events that though promoting joy and cheer, have only left me exhausted; celebrations have a consistent way of pulling you into a deep sleep when they are finished. For my family, the act of celebrating is an involved 4-step process. Our celebrations include: (first) cleaning, preparing, planning, cooking (second) eating, drinking, chatting, laughing (third) more chatting, more laughing, more drinking, more eating, and (fourth) "the crash period" (where everybody just wants to sleep).

They sometimes include: stress (when events don't go as planned), annoyance(when someone leaves early), unnecessary anger (when you're not allowed to do the dishes) and joyful frustration (when our 80 lb golden retriever won't stop stealing napkins).

They always, however include joy, connection, acceptance, love and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

birthdayYesterday was my birthday (it was also, by no coincidence, my twin sister's birthday as well). This day was no exception to the rule of celebration=exhaustion/gratefulness. Along with an 8-hour day at my part-time job, I managed to fit in a gallery opening, family dinner, a trip to the book store, dessert and drinks with a friend and an episode of Family Feud with my partner's dad. It was a great day, and I was blessed to have been able to share it with so many people I love.  I had a good night sleep last night.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get into the studio on my birthday which, really, was the one thing I really wanted to do. Instead, my clay experience for the day involved loading customers' cars at The Pottery Supply House, calculating glaze recipes and organizing pottery tools. On the bright side, my coworkers at PSH are awesome and I arrived at 9am to a lemon filled cake and a Happy Birthday note.

It has been three days since I put my hands in clay, so I am anxious to get back into the studio, where I have two rings of test tiles and a tray of cupcake stands awaiting my arrival. This week's feat will be to make some sense of the cupcake stand forms I made last week by cutting them apart and editing (I also foresee myself reclaiming the majority of them).

testtile ring

I will also start developing a new style of imagery for my work. Keeping with the "map" theme I've been using this semester, I will be looking to a variety of new sources for travel, distance and location inspiration. Before the holiday break I was mostly using urban road maps for imagery development. My text of choice was a book of road maps from the Greater Toronto Area. My favourite lines to draw were freeways, rivers and waterfronts.


During the holidays when we were forced to take a vacation (they literally locked us out of our studios for three weeks), I spent a lot of time doodling, drawing and looking through atlases and photography books. One of my current favourite sources is The Atlas of Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad. I won't be using her exact maps in my new work, but I am enthralled with the line quality in her images. I am particularly fond of her mountain ranges and forested areas, the way that she uses line to create dense and atmospheric maps. Here are two puffy test tiles I made last week, inspired by a map of Rohan, with its first three layers of imagery. I'll be adding more layers to these tiles this week.


On an end note, I've added more links to my "About Me" menu. You can now follow my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, as well as Emma Smith Ceramics on Facebook.

I'm off to buy new tools with my birthday money and enjoy the beautiful day that's forming outside. Cheers,