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. (:

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.

Monday Morning

I'm back in the studio this morning and the clay is awaiting my touch, but I've decided to start this morning with research and reflection. I've found the long break from working with clay to be disruptive and stalling - I have become lethargic and unmotivated after three weeks of clean hands. Though I am anxious to produce work, I am unsure of what work to make and how to get started. Today my dilemma is "what is a cake stand, anyway?" - What purpose does it serve? Where will it exist in the world? Who will see it, who will touch it, who will wash it and view the underside before putting it away?

I'm sitting here listening to The Tallest Man on Earth's album Shallow Grave and mulling all these questions over in my little head. My first reaction to these questions is a yellow house, with sunflowers blooming in the front garden on a sunny June afternoon. The house wife of choice has just pulled a homemade cherry pie out of the oven, with fresh cherries from the tree in their backyard. She sets the cherry pie on a tall stand, rustic and elegant. The stand is equally intriguing and supportive. A piece of art and beauty in itself, it is the skeleton that focuses the consumer's attention to the dessert it bears. The stand is comfortable in the hands, easy to pick up and place down - it provides a pleasurable experience for the person who will turn it over and over when the pie is consumed. When the water and soap bubbles run over it, the surface will absorb the holder's attention entirely. Their fingers will run over the ridges and crevices, reading each rise and fall, the lines and patterns speaking of direction and atmosphere.

With any new project I find myself beginning with research and planning. I start each week with a general schedule to follow - goals for each day, and a firing schedule. I sketch ideas for new forms, spend hours on the Internet and listen to a lot of music while quietly laying on the couch and writing lists. The forms I plan almost never make it into my body of work, but I sketch and make lists as a tool to get my thoughts rolling. I am a neurotic and theoretical person - lists and research are my launchpads for creativity. My excitement to make something from these lists and research will take hold of me, and from excitement, motivation follows.

Getting my hands into clay will come next. But first, more research.

Here are a couple of the maps I found on Pinterest this weekend.



Map of Prague

Here's to a productive Monday morning - I hope yours is swell.