Flying

The summer has been passing by before my eyes at lightning speed. I have only have four weeks left in Wiarton, before I head back to the big city and try to make it on my own. The past few weeks have been filled with visitors, weddings and other wedding-related events, firings, pot-making and planning for the end of the summer. I have barely had time to sit down and read Game of Thrones (a novel I have been slowly getting through for over three months now), or play my piano - I just can't keep up! IMG_3732I will be doing another wood firing at the end of August, with four other potters in the Hamilton Potter's Guild. So, I have decided that it's about time I start making some mugs - as they are the most purchased and most intimate pottery item, along with bowls. Before working for Tim, handles always scared me, and as a lover of handle-less cups, I rarely ever made mugs. My customers have always been disappointed, "How am I supposed to hold it?!" they ask. Apparently, some people don't like toasting their fingers when they drink their coffee (though I argue you are more likely to burn your mouth if you hold it by the handle) so last week I happily conformed and started cranking out some mugs.

Of course, I couldn't help myself, so I HAD to make some mini mugs - perfect for your morning espresso, a shot of whiskey, or, if you want to make medication fancy, you could knock back a swig of Buckleys. Who knows where these little guys will find themselves? Once they're out in the wide, wide world, anything could happen.

 

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The Grotto

Days off are my favourite part about living in Wiarton -  I can spend the day going on adventures, and relish every ounce of the environment. There are so many treasures to find and so many lovely places to visit!

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Last weekend my friend Alicia came up to visit me and we went on a Bruce Peninsula road trip. We hit up Eugenia, Wiarton, Tobermory and Lion's Head in under 24 hours - sharing a meal in each one and taking time to marvel at the scenery. Tobermory lies at the tip of the peninsula that separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. Off the coast of Tobermory are dozens of shipwrecks that you can see if you take a glass-bottom boat tour, and many islands to visit, including Manitoulin. This little town is a huge tourist attraction in the summer, due to its fantastic hiking spots, gorgeous views and excellent waters for boating. In the winter, however, the population drops down to a few hundred.

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We spent the better part of the day poking around the gift shops and art galleries, took a walk to see the Chi Cheemaun ferry, and then drove out to the point to get a good view of the islands. I was particularly fond of the Marine Chart Shop, where there were stacks of maps to look through and lots of interesting marine books to peruse. I have been looking for marine charts for quite some time now, so was pleased to have found the hot spot for these lovely treasures. I will have to get back there and pick up a few before my time in Wiarton is done. I would love to plaster  those large nautical charts on my future studio's walls.

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On our way to Lion's Head we went to the Bruce Peninsula National Park (Cypress Lake) and hiked out to the Grotto. The Grotto is a well known cave at the edge of the bay. You can carefully climb down the cliffside to the dank cavern and go for a swim in its pool. Deep in the grotto is a tunnel that exits into the bay on the other side of the cliff wall. Theoretically, you can dive down into the pool, through the tunnel and out the other side. Not many people venture down, but there were some scuba divers making the trek during our visit. Apparently you can complete the dive and tunnel swim without an oxygen tank, but it's risky business. I am much too claustrophobic to enjoy such a daredevil act. However, the colour of the water alone makes the Grotto a must see.

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Wadding

I adore atmospheric firings, and the pieces that come out of them. These special kilns create a certain type of magic that no electric kiln could ever dream of. The wood kiln leaves deposits of ash in the bases of bowls, and leaves fire marks from where the flame licked across the pot's surface. Salt and soda attack the surface of the clay, leaving orange-peel speckling and a variety in colour and tone. While loading them with pots, there is a fleeting sense of anxiety, as the results will depend on the will of the kiln gods. john martelle

One of my favourite marks from atmospheric firings are the tell-tale "doofer" (or "wadding") marks. Doofer is a mixture of highly refractory materials that will not sinter at high heat. Due to the extreme conditions of atmospheric firings, everything in the kiln (including the kiln shelves and posts) need to be stacked onto little rolled up balls, in order to keep the pieces from fusing to the shelves (destroying the pieces, and the kiln furniture) and the furniture from fusing to each other. The doofer lifts the pieces up off the shelf, so the space underneath is exposed to licking flames, and drifting soda/salt vapours. This leaves behind little marks where the clay was not exposed to the atmospheric conditions.

While photographing some of my cups today, I was reminded of my love for these little hints of process, heat, and air. I can't wait to join Marcelina Salazar in her wood-fired soda kiln so I can get some more pieces with lovely little marks.

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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.

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.