Choo Choo

I've been away from the blog for a few weeks, as I was at a conference, and then studio reno-ing (more on that another day) and then Supercrawl. A start of a busy September indeed!

Hamilton mugs! 

Hamilton mugs! 

Now that I'm back in the swing of things (and the fire bans have been lifted), I've stuffed my van with pots and have headed up north to start firing for the holiday season! This is my first time firing a train kiln, a kiln design that looks like a train car, and when fired correctly should make that warm and cozy chugging sound. My kind of sound. 

Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

This firing is particularly special, as it is the last firing this kiln will ever see! After unloading next week, Duncan Aird and I will be tearing her down, and giving the bricks a new life in our very own kiln back down in the Hammer! Buildings are underway and we're hoping to have the beauty built before Christmas. 

So I'm up here toasting this sweet kiln many thanks, with good company, and good food, and looking forward to many firings ahead!

Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

Stacked.  

Stacked.  

1001 Pots 2016

This year, I was invited to participate in the annual 1001 Pots in Val-David, Quebec. After many years of visiting the show and admiring the talent of these artists, I took the plunge and was an exhibitor there for the first time this summer.

The community at 1001 Pots is INCREDIBLE. Not only did they put up with my poor excuse for French (I'm going to take classes before next year guys, I promise! ;)) but they are among the most welcoming and caring people I have had the pleasure to be in company with.

On top of an insane amount of pottery in one place, 1001 Pots is located on a stunning property, at the home and studio of working artist Kinya Ishikawa. The buildings are immaculate, the gardens are beautifully kept, and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed.

1001 Pots ceramic mosaic path

The highlight of the property is the "Jardin de Silice" (Silica Garden) - a magnificent cathedral made from intricate metalwork, filled with ceramic shards. Exhibitors bring their scraps and seconds to the event and the next year will find them renewed, tediously placed into this curious piece of architecture, whether it be an addition in the growing labyrinth of walls, or mosaic tiled walkways. The peace and serenity of this space is paramount.

Kinya's Japanese heritage and artistic sensibility are apparent in everything he does - from ikebana arrangements in the quiet corners of the garden, intricate chandeliers and poetry readings, patterns in colour and form, and of course his Furoshiki paintings. I have admired these fabric paintings every year at the show - his brushwork, sense of space, and softness are breathtaking. The smallest piece speaks volumes.

Emma Smith 1001 Pots Furoshiki

I was delighted to be voted by my fellow artists for the Potter's Choice Grand Prix for 2016. Kinya made this stunning piece for me, with reflections of my forms and drawings. I was SO shocked to be considered, let alone to have won.

I am already looking forward to next year - to new friends, the great outdoors, and a beautiful life.

Patterns: Part One

 
 

The studio operates like a creaky tin man. When well oiled, it's smooth sailing and I get through throwing weeks or decorating weeks exactly as I had planned. I throw. I decorate. I do the work.

Sometimes I forget to oil the tin man.
And I usually forget to oil the tin man right around 1 week before every firing, and the studio falls into pieces. A shit show ensues. Our regular programming of efficiency, scheduling and organization crumbles to bits, and minor hysterics take place.

I've wondered why this happens, every time, like clock work. The rest of the time goes by so smoothly! What the hell happens one week before every firing?!

Spoiler alert: I'm a little crazy.

I have a thing for nicely stacked pots. I like to see them in neat little rows, lined up like soldiers ready for battle. I like to see stacks of bowls piled high, patterns made from their matching silhouettes. I like to stack my bisque kilns efficiently, with pots inside pots inside pots. Every space is filled, rows of jugs lined up in concentric circles spiralling out from the centre of the kiln to the edges. I like pattern. I like repetition. But after most of the work has been put through the bisque kiln, there are always weird tid-bits left over. They never fit properly. They don't make nice clean rows. They're never the right height. There's always one damned vase that needs to fit on a shelf with a whack of plates (because, of course, I hate firing plates, so I leave them until the very last firing, which only encourages this predicament). The bisque kiln is chaos, the leftovers on the shelf are chaos. Chaos breeds chaos. And a chaotic space makes for a chaotic mind. A chaotic mind means I forget that I shouldn't have coffee in the morning, or that eating lunch is important. I start to misplace my tools, stop taking breaks, and end up working longer days, every day.

Thanks to this pattern of week-before hysterics, there's always a "last-minute day on the schedule. It's tomorrow. Last minute decorating, last minute speed-drying, last minute bisquing. Wednesday and Thursday are glazing and wadding days. We'll be back on schedule by then, just give it a few all nighters.