Camping: How to fill your soul's "empty well"

I like to think of the soul as a deep well. It drains and it fills, drains and fills.

My well has slowly been draining for the last several months, without being re-filled. There is a drought, and my well has been in serious trouble of drying up entirely.

It just so happened that I had a show in Quebec last week, so since we were already away for a few days, we tacked on an extra few and went camping. I feel refilled, so felt inclined to write some tips on how to keep your own well filled.

1. Take a drive
It doesn't matter where you are going – in fact, a lack of destination can be all the more inspiring (and, no stress for a deadline!). Get yourself set up with some good tunes (I'd like to recommend David Bowie – Hunky Dory), crank up the stereo, and get gone. If you don't have a car, get on the next city bus to nowhere and let the world flash past.

2. Get out of your house
I live where I work, so I find it hard to have a healthy work-life balance. There is always something to be cleaned, or fixed, or maintained. There are cats to feed, pots to make, laundry to do, plants to water. Sometimes the only thing to do is get AWAY from where the work is. Book a campsite. Drive to the beach, put the seats down and sleep in the car. Treat yourself to a B&B in no-place in particular (Air BNB is affordable, and easy). Find a friend who needs to get out too, and swap houses for the night - or a week!

We paddled out to our campsite, and other than cooking food and drying all our belongings that got rained on, we spent three days swimming, paddling, reading, napping, watching the fire, drinking tea, and making friends with the woodland rodents. Bliss.

3. Quiet your surroundings
Resist the urge to turn on the radio. Take your earbuds out. Find a place where you can hear the birds, the bugs, and the breeze. Or find a park bench in the city and listen to the sounds of traffic, children laughing (or screaming), sirens and car horns, and footsteps on the sidewalk. Close your eyes, listen, and maybe, fall asleep.

That leads me to:

4. Take a nap
I don't know why, but there is something particularly magical about falling asleep in the mid-day sunlight. Regardless of if I finished working in the studio at 3am and was up again at 8, taking an afternoon nap feels like I'm playing hookey, and there is no better feeling than that. Throw in falling asleep to an afternoon movie (bring on the guilt!), and you'll be filled up for an evening of work.

5. Give your eyeballs some beauty to look at
Take a walk and look at the wildflowers. Notice the perfectly spaced needles on a tree branch. Visit a museum or art gallery, by yourself, and instead of blasting through at top speed to get through the whole thing, resolve to only see a fraction, and spend more time with each piece. Sit and stare. Stay up late to see the stars, wake up early and watch the sun light up in colour. Pay attention to details. There is beauty to be found in the world, you just need to notice.

Home Sweet Home

It's only been three weeks and I'm already starting to feel like my little house in Wiarton is "home". Not only do I have the space to plant a vegetable garden and have campfires, but I have seriously enjoyed the kitchen. One of my (self-diagnosed) obsessive compulsive tendencies, is my need to be in complete control of the food that goes in and out of the fridge. I like to buy the groceries, put them away, and keep a mental inventory checklist in the back of my head. I feel the need to know every item in the fridge or cupboard and when they need to be eaten. It just makes planning meals so much easier. Now that I live somewhere where I control the food, I find I am eating much healthier and making conscious decisions about the things I consume. IMG_3219

Yesterday I left Burlington at 5:45am and got to Wiarton in time to eat some breakfast and head to work. Surprisingly, the drive was quite enjoyable. I hate driving in the dark, especially for three hours with no one to talk to. Waking up early, however, I got to watch the sun rise and listen to the am DJ on CBC Radio 2. It was light enough out to enjoy the scenery on my ride.

This week I'm making medium-sized bowls, the kind used most often for serving at meals. It is the perfect size for a two-person salad. Three and a half pounds, 4 1/4" tall, 10 1/2" wide. I'm getting pretty good at throwing to a gauge.

Walk in the Rain

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After work yesterday I got into my little red car and drove back down to the GTA for a couple days. For the first 45 minutes it was bucketing rain but afterwards the drive was pleasant, and all of the plants appeared to have exploded with colour from the past few days of drizzle. A highlight of the road trip was the little town of "Scone" just a half hour south of Wiarton. Having missed the turn off to the main highway, I took several smaller roads to get back on track and stumbled my way through this little area. Not only did I see some Menonites on a horse and buggy (always humbling to see), but the farmland and lush orchards at the side of the road were breathtaking. There is something very inspiring about wide open fields of green. The large expanses of space make me feel much smaller and much more insignificant, something I always find liberating.

Today I took my parent's dog on a hike through Dundas Valley Conservation Area with my friend Tom. We started out at Sherman Falls and hiked through to The Hermitage (the ruins of a 19th century mansion) before looping back through an old orchard. I haven't been on a nice long hike in a while, but I'll have to scope out some good places in the Bruce Peninsula so I can get back into shape. I would love to hike the entire Bruce Trail one day, but at the rate I'm going, I wouldn't have the stamina. Bentley quite enjoyed the hike as well, he even saw his first deer.

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I'm headed back up to Wiarton tomorrow with more of my clay and equipment, so I can start producing some of my own work during my days off. I will be firing a wood-fired soda kiln with Marcelina Salazar (another Sheridan alumnus) at the end of June, and need to start making some work for it.

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Until next time, enjoy your weekend!

Variations on Symmetry

IMG_1704 Thursday night was the opening of Variations on Symmetry, a show presenting the works of Eliza Au and Ying-Yueh Chang. I have always admired Ying-Yueh's work in photographs, never having had the opportunity to experience her installations in person. Ying-Yueh previously taught at Sheridan and though she never taught me personally, I heard many stories of her dedication and passion for ceramics. Believe me, the work proves it.

The OCC's Janna Hiemstra curates a fantastic show. From the sidewalk of Queen West, the view through the gallery's front window is enticing and enchanting; Ying-Yueh's "Winter Garden" hangs at the front, inviting the public into a wonderland of detail, precision and repetition.

The show was frankly, breathtaking. Each piece boasted hours of labour, meticulous detail and intentional composition. Eliza Au (a former student of Ying-Yueh's) presented equally as complex and delicate forms. Using primarily ceramic, glass and paper, Eliza's works reflected elaborate tessellations, pattern and repetition.

Variations on Symmetry has been in the works for FOUR years and has been touring across Canada for several months. It's next stop will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For more information on the show, go to www.craft.on.ca

Better yet, check out the show - it's on until April 13th at the Ontario Craft Council (990 Queen St. West, TO).

Here are some photos from the opening.

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