Playing Curator

IMG_1733Over the past week my studio mates and I have been anxiously (and frantically) preparing for our upcoming show at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto. An annual event, the Gardiner show is cause for celebration, pride and anxiety among all graduates in the Ceramics program. Not only will we be presenting our current work in public for the FIRST TIME, but it's at the only Canadian museum dedicated to Ceramic Art. Making work for the exhibition, though important, is not the only cause for fluster in the studio. We've also been working on developing our promotional material. This week we have "played graphic designer", fiddling away for hours on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and diving into the worlds of typography, dimensions and the digital layout. Last night I must have looked at my name in over 200 fonts, in a variety of pt. sizes and colours. The variety never ends, and it is overwhelming.

We have also been "playing curator" in our studio, marking out dimensions of the show space on the floor while navigating around wedging tables, damp closets and throwing wheels. We have tacks on the wall with plinth heights, paper templates of the plinth dimensions on the floor, and an Excel spreadsheet so we can even continue playing with floor plans when we are at home in bed.

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Monday morning we marked out our floor plan in chalk and started to lay our work out, in order to imagine the space. The time change and early morning may have been a factor, but I felt as if I were in a life size version of a Sims game, where the furniture keeps rearranging.  There were nine of us shifting around "plinths" here and there, pulling out the measuring tape and tiptoeing around fragile ceramics on the floor. Our print out of the Excel spreadsheet had us moving around miniature cut outs of plinths and playing lego with them on the table. Chaos would be an understatement.

Though eternally frustrating, the process was helpful. We were able to better visualize the space, and account for room between plinths to move around. After a few hours we had settled on a floor plan, where everyone's work would be and what height they would look best at. I guess real curators do this too.

gardiner logoOur graduate show will be at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Ontario from April 4th - April 18th. The opening (where you can meet myself, my studio mates and have free food and drink) is April 4th from 6-8pm. The opening will be a great time to network, learn about the artists and talk to us about our work!

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Reading Week

IMG_5198Today was the last day of reading week and I rarely spent time with my head in a book. As much as I would have loved to curl up on the couch with a big cup of Earl Grey and settle into The Hobbit, unfortunately "no school" meant "more work". Outside of my regular ceramic responsibilities I had another list of places I needed to be, work that needed to be done and thoughts that I needed to be thinking. The least of which included:

1. Go to band practice and learn new songs for gig on Saturday 2. Go to This is Hamilton: After the Steel Rush 3. Go to The Artist Project 4. Go to work at your part-time job, more often than you should, because it is reading week. 5. Attend Niagara Youth Conference staff meeting. 6. Pay attention at all of these events.

IMG_5347Though my intentions for reading week are always to get myself ahead so that I am under less stress in the coming weeks, this week I spent relatively no time making work. Instead, I spent 5 hours photographing my fired work in preparation for our upcoming shows.

There are seven of us with studios in the loft of the Ceramics department. On regular school days, the air is filled with laughter, discussion and sighs of frustration and exasperation. The energy in the studio is at its max on Monday mornings in particular. All 31 students have class, and therefore everyone in the department is present. I've given up any hope of working in common areas during the day - the plaster room is often used for slide talks or demos and the glaze kitchen feels cramped with only two people working in it (and there are often half a dozen at a time). I try to avoid common spaces at all cost, until the evening. On Friday evenings, most people choose to leave as soon as possible, and during reading week the majority of the studio spends extra time at home, paying attention to their family and friends. Many nights I spent by myself up in the studio, listening to Spiritualized and working at an efficient pace. I absolutely LOVE being the only one there. In fact, I will seek out times of the week when I am guaranteed to be one of the few people there, to work in my space. Though my studio is a private work area for myself alone, there's something equally eerie and magical about the larger studio being available and vacant.

Tonight was no exception. As the last person in the studio I was granted the novelty of silence (aside from the constant hum of the ventilation system) and allowing my mind to wander, if only for a few short hours. I will post more photos, soon.

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.

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.

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Map of Prague

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

Cheers