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.  

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.



 

Holiday Sale / Open House 2014

photo 2

Our annual Holiday Sale is this coming weekend (December 6/7) from 10am - 4pm both days. We have been working tirelessly to set up a great shop space filled with handmade gifts by local artists. At the sale you will find beautifully crafted bags, scarves and pencil cases by Toronto-based textile designer Fionna Hanna, quirky and thought-provoking original artworks by fellow Hamiltonians Sean Gadoury and Caitlin Eady, hand illustrated letterpress cards by Papillon Press (Westmount ON), and of course, lots of quality porcelain pottery by yours truly. Along with several sizes and shapes of mugs and bowls, this year I've designed brie bakers, serving trays, wine cups, spoons, creamers and more - you will find something for everyone!

Come visit and cross some of those names off your shopping list, check out the new studio and enjoy some refreshments!

Thank you for shopping handmade this holiday season, and for supporting your local artists. (:

The Crawl

I've been an official Hamiltonian since February when we moved into the old general store, but I never truly felt one with the Hammer folk until September's annual Supercrawl. I must begin by expressing my love for Hamilton - I have long been a fan of this city and the people in it. I have fostered many relationships at the Ben Thanh, enriched my life through programming at Cathedral Place on James St N, and the monthly art crawls are always on my calendar. The city is full of life and love, excitement, entertainment and best of all, art.

supercrawl 2

"Art is the new steel!" they say of Hamilton, ON. Once the home to a booming steel industry, the city is now a hub of arts culture and events, live music, street performance and craft beer. It is home to hundreds of galleries, vintage clothing shops and specialty food stores that sell cupcakes, organic goods and vegan smoothies. Every month James St N hosts an art "crawl" where the studio artists open their doors to the public, galleries put on sweet spreads, buskers serenade the passersby and vendors spread their wares across picnic blankets.

In September, the street completely shuts down to host Supercrawl, a weekend long crawl that brings in traffic from across Ontario. This is the crawl of all crawls. Art is hung on every alleyway wall, fences are decorated with chalk art and graffiti murals, large installations take up intersections and at night there are acrobats riding giant tricycles that shoot flames into the sky. Over 150,000 people descended up downtown Hamilton to share the experience. supercrawl I had a booth this year, to start my relationship with the city as a TRUE Hamiltonian. The feedback from the crowds was excellent, the weather (if chilly) was merciful, and I even got to play some music with my band inside the beautiful Cathedral.

Thanks to everyone who helped make Supercrawl an enjoyable and successful event!

Wood Season

brazil

Over the past few years I've found that I work best under pressure; I need deadlines and commitments to work efficiently. At the beginning of each week I set myself a schedule of what I'd like to accomplish, on which day. It's wood firing season, and with a woodfiring on the horizon, time management becomes imperative. For each firing I plan the days I will sand and glaze, when I need to get my last bisque firing in, and how much time it will take for pieces to dry. This planning activates a side of my brain that I really enjoy using – I feel joy while filling out calendars and date books.

Last week I unloaded work from my fourth firing this year, and will be loading my fifth this Saturday. While I still need to sand and wash the pieces we just unloaded, I am instead pulling handles on cups and jugs, finishing up details on prototype vases, and adding rims to serving dishes for the firing coming up. Studio life is a constant balancing and juggling act – one that I am starting to get comfortable with. While one tray of bowls dries you throw creamers. While the creamers are drying you roll out slabs to get them stiffening and then start to trim your bowls. When the slabs are stiff enough to work with you build the walls for vases and slowly dry them while you finish the creamers. On it goes, a carousel.

Here are some photos of the pots that came out of last week's firing. It was my first time leading a firing in the Manabigama, and was delighted to have a great time of eager potters who wanted to learn about firing with wood. The pots turned out delightful.

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