Grad Show at the Ontario Crafts Council

The school year is officially over and I've moved all of my things out of the studio for the last time. Yesterday I moved up to Wiarton, ON (about 3 hours North of the GTA) to apprentice with a potter for the summer. I start tomorrow. Until today I have not had a moment free to update with all of the recent events, shows and day-to-day musings. I have been taking photographs and notes however, so please bear with me over the next few days while I catch up on all the latest. [gallery type="square" columns="5" ids="597,595,596,598,599"]

Back in April we fired Scarlet again for our last time. We won't be returning to Sheridan in the fall so our access to atmospheric kilns has been cut off (unless of course the students next year invite us to put a couple pieces in). We kicked it into high gear during the last two weeks of school and tried to produce as much work as possible so we could fully stack the wood kiln and soda kiln with our work.

This time firing Scarlet we were smarter. We loaded her up on the Saturday night, went home for a good night's sleep and returned early Sunday morning to get her going. I had the first shift and relaxed in my comfy chair by the tiny fire for hours drinking tea. No heavy duty stoking required in that early morning shift.

After the kiln fired off we had a day's break to prep for two shows that weekend - one at the Ontario Crafts Council in Toronto, the other at the gallery at Sheridan. I went over to the OCC Wednesday morning to set up for the second part of This Could Work. The first part was set up the week prior to our opening and presented the work of the graduates from the glass and textiles studios. Here's a collection of photos I took at that event:

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The second half of the show was the work of the furniture and ceramics students. I met with a couple fellow students, Linda Sormin (our studio head) and our amazing installer Carmen to set up for the show. At the end of a long day we had all the wall work installed, all the plinths for furniture painted and the space was set up, ready to place the work. A big thank you goes out to Carmen for returning the next day to finish set up and look after the final details!

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Part of my work for the OCC included a performance piece, where I invited two people to intimately serve desserts to the audience at the opening. These lovely ladies, decked out in theatrical outfits and high heels, drifted through the overflowing opening and invited the audience to experience my dessert stands, by snacking on the macarons, tarts and rum balls that were delicately placed on their lace doilies. A strong interest for me lies in the human condition and how society acts and reacts in certain situations. This activity brought back a breadth of information on the ways in which humans interact with each other intimately. Some people at the show accepted the offer gratefully, with unwavering delight. Others were sceptical, not only pausing to question the food itself, but the kind gesture of a complete stranger.

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Finally, THANK YOU to the Ontario Crafts Council for hosting the event and continually supporting Sheridan College's Craft and Design program. So many of the opportunities available to us are thanks to their efforts and encouragement. For more information visit the OCC's website.

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"]

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.

Cupcakes and Wood Splitting

IMG_1338I have recently found that I quite enjoy swinging around an axe. Thursday morning I came into the studio and spent a couple hours chopping wood, a couple hours throwing, and many hours darting my thrown forms. I particularly enjoyed standing in the kiln pad, throwing around an axe and feeling the weight of the maul smash through a hard piece of tree. Physical activity has unfortunately taken the back seat in my day to day life. Apart from lugging clay around, I haven't had the need to exert physical energy in quite a long time. As a formerly athletic person, I have really quite missed the feeling of physical exertion. When I played rugby, there was a moment, just on cusp between "warm-up" and "game-play" where I no longer felt tired and spent, but rather like I could run a marathon and smile the whole way. That feeling of delight filled my Thursday morning - splitting wood was probably the most enjoyable part of my day. Listening to David Bowie, sporting my Lou Reed shirt and hearing the crack of wood splitting in half made me feel like a real badass. I may have to start incorporating wood splitting into my daily routine. With the wood firing just over a week away, I'm in heavy preparation and production mode. With the help of my partner's lumberjack qualities, we have finished all of the wood chopping and I am now pumping out as many pots as I can in the time leading up to the firing.

IMG_1328As of late, I have been primarily working on developing a cupcake stand form. I started with a variety of shapes that I had thrown and altered, and have been generating a size range for two forms that I felt were the most successful. The first stand is a voluminous pillow shape with a flat "cookie" on top and a textured foot ring. The second is a closed form that acts as a mountain or solid pedestal for the cupcake to sit on. I have been experimenting with the size, function and decoration of these two forms, designing stands and servers for single, couple and multiple cupcakes. I will be working this week on fusing tea service and cupcakes together.

Part of my research for dessert serving involves visiting cupcake boutiques, sampling flavours and finding inspiration from the elegantly decorated treats. This week I made it to three different bakeries, purchased a treat and tested it out on my forms. Some of the boutiques even have cupcake stands that I can stare at and mentally dissect in their showroom.

IMG_1343Yesterday I treated myself to a Chocolate Cheesecake cupcake from Beyond the Batter in Waterdown after visiting my hairdresser. I didn't go to the studio so instead used my porcelian dessert plate "Glacial" for the first time, and treated myself to a cupcake, earl grey and Battle Royale.

I'm off to the studio now to decorate a few dozen stands and prepare for my critique with the famous ceramic artist Leopold L. Foulem. He will be coming to Sheridan tomorrow to give a talk on professional practice and critique the work of the ceramics students. His work is amazing, and as one of the most influential and well-known artists in the ceramic industry, I'm sure he will have many important and inspiring things to say.

Preparation

In my first semester of our second year at Sheridan we had Tony Clennell twice a week to teach us throwing, altering and hand building.We would meet every Monday morning with our coffees, sit around the work table, and Tony would tell us stories and tales of wisdom. He would bring in a group of pots from his personal collection each week for us to look at and discuss. I severely miss these mornings. They were such a refreshing and thoughtful way to start the day.

Among the many sayings, thoughts and advice that Tony divulged over the course of that semester, there is one piece of information that I have been thinking of all week. One of those Monday mornings we were having our weekly chat, and along came the thought of "how long does it take to make a pot?" Tony had the answer. In fact, he had written out a step by step process on how a pot is made and all of the chores that are necessary for its making. From picking up clay and materials at your local pottery supply store to photographing and packaging your finished work, there is an extensive list of work that needs to be done in order to make a salable/show-able item.

In Professional Practice last week, our instructor mentioned the statistic that the actual MAKING of work takes up only 30-40% of the tasks necessary for a successful business in art or craft. That means all of the other aspects of a ceramic business: emailing clients and galleries, loading and unloading your kilns, mixing glazes, reclaiming clay etc. constitute more than two thirds of your time as a maker.

This week, I've found these two pieces of information to be particularly true in my own studio.

IMG_1316Two classmates and I are planning a wood firing for the week before our mid term critiques. Along with Tony's list of activities in the life of a pot, he also notes that in the case of a wood firing one must add an additional list of chores to the original activities. Unloading wood, cutting, splitting and mixing wadding and door slop are only the beginning of the extensive requirements for firing with wood.

With the help of our outstanding studio tech Hugh, we cut half of the wood necessary for the firing and will be splitting it over the next few days. We will repeat the process next week.

Along with preparation for the wood firing, I found myself spending the majority of Monday drawing images for my silk screen. After three hours of drawing, we spent the afternoon coating our screens with emulsion in the textile studio, and returned Tuesday morning to expose and clean up. I will be using this screen to develop a new layer of imagery on my future work. I will update with photographs when I get around to trying them out!

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With all of these additional chores, it's easy to see that I have not made many pots this week. On Monday I threw, trimmed and decorated a dozen teabowls, made half a dozen side plates and started to make some porcelain cups. Tuesday I finished up the cups, made another half dozen side plates and finally went out to buy cupcakes to test on my cupcake stands. These at least, are ready for the first firing.

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I'm leaning towards the second form from the left and the form on the far right, but it will take glazing and firing to see which ones really work. The cupcakes make me happy though.

Until next time.