I haven't posted in a couple weeks because Father's Day was coming. Then it came, and then it went, and I wanted to write about my dad but I just didn't know what to say. Part of blogging is sharing a message with readers, but the other part of blogging is keeping a journal for myself.  I often find it difficult to put my thoughts into spoken word, I stumble over sentences and am never satisfied with how my ideas are articulated. But I can write my heart out, spill my guts onto paper and feel relieved.

I wanted to write about my Pa sooner, but I wasn't sure how my gut-spilling would be received on my business-related blog. Yesterday during one of my all-too-often self-analysing-pep-talks , I decided, f*** it. I make functional objects about community. They are made for family dinners and afternoons on the patio with friends. They are made forsharing food, sharing love, and sharing moments with the people you care about. They are MADE for gut-spilling - for crying your eyes out with the warmth of a cup of tea in your hands, tears dripping off the end of your nose and splashing into the contents within. My WORK is personal, so my blog can be too. So, here's a blog post about my dad:

This is my dad. He went by Dave, except for his sisters and mom who called him David. He went by Dad or Pa or Pops or "Father" (my sisters and I), he went by Mr Smith (my mom, or friends of ours who were scared of him), he was an uncle to 6 nieces and nephews, father to three girls, a dog and two cats.

He was a man who worked with his hands - he was a carpenter, a roofer, a plumber, a welder, an electrician, a landscaper, an arborist, a gardener, a chef, a mechanic, a photographer - he was a craftsman.

He had high expectations of himself and the people around him - he took pride in his work, and never half-assed anything. He drove that into us early - we were working by the time we were 8, delivering newspapers every Sunday morning before 8am - if we wanted to see a movie, we had to work to make the money to pay for it. He took us to work with him in the summer time during school break. He taught me to build fences and decks, haul bricks, use a hammer and drill, and lay patios. And because he worked so hard, I couldn't help but want to work that hard too. We had our first real jobs at 14 and worked at least 20 hours a week throughout highschool. If we wanted to work more, we could always work for Dad. On days that we worked together, he wouldn't wake us up and make sure we were ready - if we weren't up he would leave without us. "It's up to YOU to get up and go to work" he would say. After work on a hot day we would go through the "McRaunchy's" drive-thru in his big black truck with trailer in tow, and have chocolate milkshakes on the way home.


He loved to cook and make food from scratch - always baking bread and trying out new recipes. He was the kind of dad who had his best friend over to make homemade sausages on the weekend before the football game, or you would come home from school to the house filled with the smell of cooked cauliflower, while he blanched and vacuum-sealed pounds of vegetables for use over the winter. He made homemade waffles on Saturday mornings, and had just about every kitchen appliance that ever existed. We have a photograph of him in the kitchen, cutting a frozen roast apart with a handsaw - this photograph sums up my dad in many ways.

He was the pioneer of our family camping trips. We spent the days laying in the hammock while Dad swung us back and forth, or at the beach while he floated around on an air mattress or stood us on his shoulders and flung us into the air. At night we played Monopoly and Cribbage by lantern. He flew kites, and took us on bike rides - we played charades around the campfire, sang songs, and he'd dance and make us laugh.


He was a GREAT dad.

This was the first Father's Day without him - he died on February 10 of this year, just over four months ago. The whole experience is still very fresh, the wounds are still raw, and I'm still f***ing heartbroken. I've always loved my dad, but it was only in the last few months of his life that I truly realised how similar we are, how much of me is me because he was him. I believe he knew I loved him, but I feel now that you can never really love somebody ENOUGH - not in the way they deserve. I want to give him a million more hugs than I gave him, I want him to give me a million more bristly cheek kisses than I let him. I want to ride bikes with him, play cards, go swimming, play catch. I want to go to work with him - have him tell me to lift something heavier than I think I can because "you'll be fine" (he was always right). I want him to reassure me in the easy way he always did that it will work out, not to worry, that I can do anything I want to. I want to tell him about my day even when I've done nothing in particular. I want to sit with him quietly on the swing at the bottom of their garden and listen to the water fall into the pond he built. I want to make the planters he kept asking me to make him and I never f***ing did, because I was too busy. I want to take him to see a comedy show like I promised, and never got around to.

Get off your butt and hang out with your parents. You're too busy? Bullshit. Cook them dinner, go bike riding, play cards, sit in silence together. Write them a heartfelt card and tell them how much your life is enriched because of them - write it on a day that isn't Father's Day. They deserve it, and you will never be able to love them enough, but you can love them as much as you can.

We went to Hutches on Sunday, had fish and chips like our family often did. We sat on the beach, flew kites, and celebrated our dad.

This song's for you, Pa.

"I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you "

Sink or Swim

Tonight was my last shift as a part-time waitress.

For the last three years I have been building my ceramic business while juggling various part time jobs, sometimes several at the same time. With a new first home (and a new first mortgage!)  I didn't have the guts to go headstrong into a ceramic career and hope to make it. I worried I would fail.

What I've discovered in the last little while is that there is no "hope" - one doesn't HOPE to succeed. They succeed, or they don't succeed. I often ask my partner "What are the chances that___ will work out?" His response is always wise (though sometimes irritating)  " 50/50. It will work out, or it won't."

Two months ago, I decided it was time to remove my personal flotation device, and see if I will sink, or swim. If I will succeed, or not succeed. If I will make it, or not make it.

The funny thing about a flotation device is you can never truly swim with it on. You can bob around with your bum wet, kick your feet and splash your arms, and maybe get a face full of the sea when a wave crashes by. You won't sink, but you won't swim either. Sometimes you just have to cut yourself loose from the ropes holding you back, so that you can fly. You have to step off that ledge, rip off the bandaid, and SWIM!

So after a long last night at work,  I'm sitting in my living room with my two cats and toasting to stepping off that ledge. "I will make it! I will make a living from clay! I will work in my studio and make pots to bring joy to people's lives. I will teach classes and share the love of clay with others! I will succeed!"

Old Milwaukee

I'm sitting in the B&B at Pinecroft Centre for the Arts, waiting for my shift to stoke the wood kiln. - my fellow woodfirers are either on shift, wandering the property, or making lunch. So I thought I would take this much needed, FORCED down time to catch up on some blogging that has been neglected. (Sorry, again, for being such a brutal blogger).Last month was the 48th annual NCECA conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the third time, I flew down to the States to spend a week in a hub of clay related enthusiasm, education, celebration, and engagement. I finally got the chance to see Emily Schroeder Willis' work in person, purchase a few new pieces for my collection, and touch a LOT of pots. Some of the highlights for me included the National Juried Exhibition "Flow" that was installed at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Gallery Expo (being able to touch pots is always a highlight) and the exhibition put on by the Archie Bray Foundation.


The week is magical, but I always leave NCECA with a mixture of emotions: inspired, motivated, depressed, frustrated, euphoric... the list continues. Experiencing such a large amount of clay work in such a small period of time is WONDERFUL in so many ways. Through looking at work up close and personal I can try to understand how they were made - what techniques of process were used, what conceptual ideas were at play. The opportunities to learn and discover are endless, helped along by the fantastic panel discussions and speakers.

For me, there is also a sadness that comes along with the territory. There are feelings of incompetence and failure, herded along by loneliness, "nobody-ness", and confusion. I leave the week with questions running through my head like a hamster on a wheel. They are cyclical, never ending:


What do I need to do to make work of this calibre? What skills do I need to learn? What level of education is most necessary? What am I doing wrong? Or right? and How can I feel comfortable with the work I make now, at this point in my life? How can I accept that growth is a process, and a long one at that?

When I come back from NCECA I feel a little empty, and at a loss for what I SHOULD make, and where I SHOULD be taking my career. I end up spending days cleaning the studio instead of making work. I organize my glazing area, I mop and soak the tables, I stack wood and water the plants, and pace. I stand in the middle of the room, with my hands over my mouth and pace, and stare.

The House is the Person

Well, it has been a long week. This is our first house and first move, and like anything else it has been an amazing learning opportunity. The Jerseyville General Store has thus far been a lesson in: patience, teamwork, organization, multi-tasking, and staying calm. It has also been a lesson in: tearing up floors, stripping wallpaper, drywalling, painting, plumbing, electrical, tearing down, re-building, cleaning, and heavy-lifting. Our renovations are non-stop from the moment we get up to the late hours of the night.

kitchenMost of our household items are now downstairs in the store, slowly making their way up into our house, but my studio is still in tear-down mode. I have a wood firing scheduled for the beginning of April though, so I am motivated to get my work space up and running as soon as possible.

Part of me loves the home-reno process. As an artist, there is nothing more exciting than a fresh slate, a blank canvas. This is the first time I have really been able to make every room my own (and Jesse's of course). I look for my home to reflect the same attributes that I hope to see in my pots:  calm, usefulness, delight, simplicity, quiet, and joy.

"The pot is the man: his virtues and his vices are shown therein—no  disguise is possible". - Bernard Leach

If Bernard Leach is right, then I guess I'm looking for those attributes in myself too.