1001 Pots 2016

This year, I was invited to participate in the annual 1001 Pots in Val-David, Quebec. After many years of visiting the show and admiring the talent of these artists, I took the plunge and was an exhibitor there for the first time this summer.

The community at 1001 Pots is INCREDIBLE. Not only did they put up with my poor excuse for French (I'm going to take classes before next year guys, I promise! ;)) but they are among the most welcoming and caring people I have had the pleasure to be in company with.

On top of an insane amount of pottery in one place, 1001 Pots is located on a stunning property, at the home and studio of working artist Kinya Ishikawa. The buildings are immaculate, the gardens are beautifully kept, and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed.

1001 Pots ceramic mosaic path

The highlight of the property is the "Jardin de Silice" (Silica Garden) - a magnificent cathedral made from intricate metalwork, filled with ceramic shards. Exhibitors bring their scraps and seconds to the event and the next year will find them renewed, tediously placed into this curious piece of architecture, whether it be an addition in the growing labyrinth of walls, or mosaic tiled walkways. The peace and serenity of this space is paramount.

Kinya's Japanese heritage and artistic sensibility are apparent in everything he does - from ikebana arrangements in the quiet corners of the garden, intricate chandeliers and poetry readings, patterns in colour and form, and of course his Furoshiki paintings. I have admired these fabric paintings every year at the show - his brushwork, sense of space, and softness are breathtaking. The smallest piece speaks volumes.

Emma Smith 1001 Pots Furoshiki

I was delighted to be voted by my fellow artists for the Potter's Choice Grand Prix for 2016. Kinya made this stunning piece for me, with reflections of my forms and drawings. I was SO shocked to be considered, let alone to have won.

I am already looking forward to next year - to new friends, the great outdoors, and a beautiful life.

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.