Holiday Sale / Open House 2014

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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. (:

Yam Pancakes

I mentioned in  Kitchen: Old and New how much I love cooking, and eating. During highschool I studied in a culinary apprenticeship program - at that time I was certain I wanted to be a chef (at times I have also been "certain" that I wanted to be a surgeon, psychiatrist, model, archeologist, actress, film director, photographer etc). Though pursuing a culinary career is not in my future, I learned a lot in that program. As a child I grew up with two parents who loved to cook and there were very few nights that they weren't home. So we lucked out and had home cooked meals everyday -  however, this meant that I didn't know the first thing about making mashed potatoes, let alone a velouté or béchamel - I had never had to cook for myself. My apprenticeship taught me all of that and more. I learned a dozen ways to cook eggs, how to properly pour a glass of wine, and to love cooking with lots of butter. I think cooking school solidified the fact that I am a meat eater. I couldn't be a vegetarian to save my life. My love of food grew rapidly, and my love was not just for food in general, but for "fancy" food. I craved ornate salads with berries and nuts. I desired rich, creamy sauces garnished with herbs and carved fruit. My love of food presentation grew with my love of quality meals. Arranging a plate was like painting with flavour, texture, and colour; piling vegetables as high as possible was a challenge I delighted in. A plate's shape, the curve of a bowl, the width of a rim: these were all factors that influence the overall look of a plated dish.

I'm no chef, but I believe this part of my life may have been where my love of pottery started - even if I didn't know it then. It was definitely the beginning of my love for food, meal sharing, entertainment, hosting, and cooking.

I'm not a food blogger, but here's my dinner from a few nights ago. We had some leftover yams from yam chips the night before, so I made pancakes. I had never made them before, so I thought I'd share my revelation with you guys.

I used two yams for Jesse and I. It made three pancakes.

1. Grate yams into a bowl 2. Beat two eggs and add. 3. Add spices (in my case paprika, chipotle), salt, pepper, diced onion and garlic. (Again, not a food blogger (or a "recipe" type cook) so use your judgement and taste buds to figure how much you want to add!) 4. Mix with your hands - this is the fun part. 5. Sprinkle in flour little by little until the yam consistency just starts to hold it's shape (like cookie dough... but shredded yams). 6. Heat up coconut oil in a frying pan (Roughly 1/4" - 1/2" deep?) - you can get coconut oil by the tub at a bulk food store, for cheap. 7. When it is HOT, drop in a spoonful of yam mixture and flatten with a spoon. (You should hear crackling when you put the mixture in) 8. Flip over when browned. They are done when both sides start to look pancakey (that speckly brown look, ya know). 9. You can put your pancakes into a warm oven until they are ready to serve on a beautiful plate. Remember, half the taste is in the appearance!

photo(1)I served ours with HIGH-FAT yogurt (don't skimp on the fat, life is short), refried kidney beans, tomatoes, and sweet peppers. You could also use sour cream, salsa, or guacamole. Throw in some cilantro, parsley, and scallions and you've got yourself some Mexican yam pancakes.

I also think they would be delicious with bacon and marmalade for breakfast. With a drizzle of honey and icing sugar.

Here's my pancakes on the first plate I ever bought, made by Michael Connelly. I picked up a set of two from the Artstream Nomadic Gallery at NCECA 2012.

 

Kitchen: Old and New

The kitchen is, in my opinion, the most important room in the house. Not only is eating an essential requirement for life, but it's pretty enjoyable too. I love entertaining; preparing a delicious and wholesome meal for my friends and family fills me with the utmost pride. I revel every time I successfully make a new curry, or pan of rosemary focaccia bread. Eating is one of the main reasons I make functional ware. It is a delight to serve great food, on great pots. So, naturally, our kitchen was the first room we finished after moving to Jerseyville.

Here's Jesse and Alicia on our first night in the old kitchen (note the atomizer for removing wallpaper).

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And here's our new abode.

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Thanks to shelving (and the pantry from my childhood laundry room), we can fit all our stuff into this wee kitchen.

The Rat

RM3I first heard of Ron Meyers in second year at Sheridan, during one of our weekly morning chats with Tony Clennell. Each week we were given a new form to throw, be it cups, bowls, teapots or covered jars. First thing in the morning, we would sit around the table with Tony and start the day with tea, coffee and show and tell. Tony would bring in pots from his own collection, to show us some possible forms.

The teapot that Tony brought in of Ron Meyers' was grungy, eerie and hysterical all at the same time. Tony likes to joke that the teapot looks like it has been fired at with a shot gun - I agree with him. The piece looked bent, it had a crunched knob, and it was decorated with primitive clay smudges and stick scratches. I loved it. I had never before seen a piece of pottery that was so casual and confident. The marks of the maker were prominent and strong; he didn't try to cover up the touch of his hand, he emphasized it.

Since that morning coffee break I have fallen head over heels with Ron's pots. He is quite easily my favourite potter. At Sheridan we were lucky to have several of his demo pieces in the collection, and I spent lots of time admiring them and trying to gain some "looseness" in my work as well. I think what I admire most about his work is that IT'S HARD TO BE CASUAL, but he masters it. I have tried to make my pots gestural, for them to stand and slouch as humans do, informally. They only look sloppy and unintentional. Ron's pieces make sense. They exude confidence and reference the underground in a way that is witty and wise. The animals he carves or paints onto the surfaces are evil and mysterious, with no lack of character. I am in awe of all that this man does. If I worshipped a god, he would be it.

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This past weekend, Pinecroft Centre for the Arts hosted Ron Meyers for a weekend long workshop. Tony's family started Pinecroft 60 years ago - it continues to be the longest running pottery in Canadian history. I attended the workshop on Saturday, and was able to meet Ron for the second time and finally watch him make some pots. The way he works is directly reflected in the way his pieces turn out - he is casual, he is confident, he exudes strength and mystery and knowledge. These attributes are all noticeable in any given piece.

IMG_3459I already have one piece of Ron's in my own collection (remember that Cow plate from my blog entry "Cattle" in March?), but I see many more in the future. Bats, frogs, rats, birds, cats, dogs, pigs? I just can't control myself.

You can find Ron Meyers' work in the online AKAR gallery. www.akardesign.com

You can read more about Pinecroft on their website and on Tony Clennell's blog. www.pinecroftcentreforthearts.com www.smokieclennell.blogspot.com

 

Doilies and Drawing

IMG_1371 A new post is long overdue, sorry that it has been so long since my last update!

Over the last two weeks I have been spending endless hours each day at the studio, preparing for our wood firing, midterm critiques, and exhibition deadlines. In April the 3rd year students in the Craft and Design programs will be participating in several shows - for the ceramics students, there are only two more weeks until photographs of our finished work must be sent for catalogues and print materials. It is crunch time in the studio and not a day is wasted - many of us managed to make it to the studio on the Snow Day, when the rest of the college was closed. Rather than cuddling up by the fire and watching the snow pile up outside, I was on my way to Oakville in a blizzard - one of the few cars on the road. I only got stuck three times on the journey, but when deadlines are close, I can't afford to be taking any time off.

After a greenware critique with my peers and advisors last week, I started working away day and night on sets of cupcake stands, complete with ceramic doilies. I even started working on pillow forms, to play with the "chocolate on the pillow" fancy hotel tradition. Most of my forms are currently made with stoneware and slip, allowing me to play with surface treatment techniques - underglaze*, sgraffito* -  and provide a hazy, atmospheric backdrop for my glazes. The doilies are made of high-fire porcelain, for a minimal, crisp look.

Here are some photos of my cupcake-stand-making process, and the pieces prior to firing.

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*Underglaze is the ceramic artist's equivalent of paint. They come in a range of colours and are able to be mixed (like paint) to develop a wider range of hues and values. Underglaze can also be mixed with water to create a "watercolour" effect, or painted on in layers to create sharp blocks of colour. Most underglazes are made from stains - ceramic pigments that generally stay the same colour after firing. Underglazes are formulated to have a wide firing range so they can be used at a variety of temperatures, and hold the quality of their colour. Though expensive, underglazes are one of the very few ways to develop a bright colour palette at high temperatures. In my work, I use underglazes (like the red in this photograph) >> to create areas of visual interest and "PUNCH", a space to draw the viewer's eye.

*Sgraffito is a traditional Japanese technique where a dark clay body is covered with white or coloured slip, and an image is carved through to reveal the clay body underneath. I use sgraffito in my work to map out a network of roadways, paths and textures. Using a very fine pin tool, the lines carry the user through the world of the pot, over mountains, around valleys and competing through intersections. Line quality and direction is one of the ways that I invite the user to experience the pot.