A Lot Can Change in a Year.

At this time last year, I was in my final year at Sheridan College and was preparing to spear head my first woodfiring. I had participated in three up to that point, merely showing up for a shift in the middle of the night and receiving a few finished pieces out of the deal. This firing I organized myself, chopped the majority of the wood, filled one third with my work and spent 24 hours stoking the flames. At that time I was preparing to move back in with my parents, while my partner moved to the West Coast. A lot can change in a year.

In the past year I graduated college and exhibited work in Toronto, Philadelphia, Waterloo, Hamilton and Burlington. I moved to Wiarton and worked for production potter Timothy Smith and spent the summer re-learning how to throw. I moved back in with my parents (again). I had 8 firings in 4 different wood kilns. I ran my first workshop. I went to NCECA 2013 in Houston. I bought my first and second Ron Meyers pots. I made pots in three different studio spaces. My partner moved back to Ontario.

We bought our first house.

On Friday we are joining the "homeowners club" in the quaint village of Jerseyville. Our new home is just outside of Hamilton, far enough from the city to feel like the country, and close enough to take advantage of concerts, show opportunities, and Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl. We will have our own store, studio and garden. We might get chickens. We will have our own kitchen! ... and I will have lots of wall space to display my pot collection.

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I wonder what next year will bring.

TOAE 2013

At every Toronto show that I attend, I can't help but feel that the art and craft communities seem to be shrinking. However after this weekend, I have come to realise that the communities are not small, rather I am starting to know more and more of the members. Take this year's Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE 2013) for example. A former classmate and I went down to the show yesterday morning at 10am, planning to be home by the time the sun was highest in the sky. Instead, it was nearly 6pm when I finally arrived home - sporting a wicked sunburn and blistered feet. I've been lucky to make it through a (large) art show in under 3 hours only once before. This is a feat that was relatively impossible, especially when it seemed that every other booth had somebody that I knew, and stopped to chat with (not to mention all of the enticing artwork that one could spend hours feasting their eyes on). IMG_3587

The technician at Sheridan jokes that TOAE should be called the SAAE - Sheridan's Annual Alumni Exhibition, as there are so many former grads who participate in the show. My classmate and I stopped at one of our colleague's booth and within ten minutes, there were 7 Sheridan students (current and alumni) all crammed in, catching up and admiring the work. We joked that it was as if a fog horn had gone off, alerting Sheridan alumni everywhere to congregate at Yellow Booth 259.

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It was hot and humid, but a delightful day for a show. Nathan Phillips Square was packed with a sea of white tents, and a larger sea of moving bodies. The range of work at the show was enticing - installation, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, glass, jewellery, painting, photography, and more! Much more! After spending seven hours looking at prices, checking out booth designs, networking and catching up with friends, I feel strongly encouraged by this venue. Maybe TOAE 2014 will be in the cards for me next year.

Until then, I'll just keep making pots.

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These are some juice cups fresh from the wood-soda kiln. Looking forward to more of these.

The Rat

RM3I first heard of Ron Meyers in second year at Sheridan, during one of our weekly morning chats with Tony Clennell. Each week we were given a new form to throw, be it cups, bowls, teapots or covered jars. First thing in the morning, we would sit around the table with Tony and start the day with tea, coffee and show and tell. Tony would bring in pots from his own collection, to show us some possible forms.

The teapot that Tony brought in of Ron Meyers' was grungy, eerie and hysterical all at the same time. Tony likes to joke that the teapot looks like it has been fired at with a shot gun - I agree with him. The piece looked bent, it had a crunched knob, and it was decorated with primitive clay smudges and stick scratches. I loved it. I had never before seen a piece of pottery that was so casual and confident. The marks of the maker were prominent and strong; he didn't try to cover up the touch of his hand, he emphasized it.

Since that morning coffee break I have fallen head over heels with Ron's pots. He is quite easily my favourite potter. At Sheridan we were lucky to have several of his demo pieces in the collection, and I spent lots of time admiring them and trying to gain some "looseness" in my work as well. I think what I admire most about his work is that IT'S HARD TO BE CASUAL, but he masters it. I have tried to make my pots gestural, for them to stand and slouch as humans do, informally. They only look sloppy and unintentional. Ron's pieces make sense. They exude confidence and reference the underground in a way that is witty and wise. The animals he carves or paints onto the surfaces are evil and mysterious, with no lack of character. I am in awe of all that this man does. If I worshipped a god, he would be it.

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This past weekend, Pinecroft Centre for the Arts hosted Ron Meyers for a weekend long workshop. Tony's family started Pinecroft 60 years ago - it continues to be the longest running pottery in Canadian history. I attended the workshop on Saturday, and was able to meet Ron for the second time and finally watch him make some pots. The way he works is directly reflected in the way his pieces turn out - he is casual, he is confident, he exudes strength and mystery and knowledge. These attributes are all noticeable in any given piece.

IMG_3459I already have one piece of Ron's in my own collection (remember that Cow plate from my blog entry "Cattle" in March?), but I see many more in the future. Bats, frogs, rats, birds, cats, dogs, pigs? I just can't control myself.

You can find Ron Meyers' work in the online AKAR gallery. www.akardesign.com

You can read more about Pinecroft on their website and on Tony Clennell's blog. www.pinecroftcentreforthearts.com www.smokieclennell.blogspot.com

 

Farewell Sheridan

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The last couple of weeks at school were a blur of packing and openings. As graduates, we were allowed a couple extra weeks to vacate our studios and find somewhere to take all our craps. We quickly found out that we needed those extra weeks. Not only did we need to take several trips to and from the school with our stuff, but the buffer was important for our mental health. We needed to be removed slowly, at our own pace and take our time to decompress. After such a stimulating year, the studio was quiet and often empty. The time was needed to adjust to this change and prepare for a new beginning. Our final show was rightfully hosted in the Craft and Design gallery at Sheridan. The opening took place after the annual Tulip Ceremony, where the graduates are each presented a tulip and awards are given out to students in all years of the program.

I was asked to give the Valedictory address for the ceramics graduates at this year's Tulip Ceremony. When asked, I didn't know what to say. What can you say to eight people who have not only been your classmates, but your family? What wisdom did I have for the eight people who I have learned so much from and so much with? How could I begin to describe my love for these people, this program?

So I was sitting at my booth at the year-end Open House, and I was thinking about all of the shit I still had to move out of my studio. The stacks of books and papers, the pounds and pounds of clay, the buckets of reclaim and glazes. And while I was thinking, I started to think of everything else I was taking with me. And so I wrote my speech:

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"We're moving out. I've moved out of the ceramics studio before, but it wasn't nearly as hard. In fact, it was a joyous occasion. The school year was over. We could take a four month break before returning in September. This time is different. We're not returning, and much to my parent's dismay, I have dozens of boxes that need more than a temporary home. They will be needing a permanent place, because their previous home is no longer.

There's a feeling of homelessness while we pack up our shards of broken experiments and try to organize all our glazes and materials. We collected boxes from the garbage outside Annie Smith because we didn't realise just how much stuff we have. The mass accumulates, we had the space and we filled it. We have finished pieces, half finished pieces and pieces we wished were finished but aren't yet. Some of us still have wet work that needs to be wrapped up like a baby in order to survive the car ride home. To wherever home is, because, at least for me, when I think of home, I think of my studio in the loft. I hear the drone of the clay mixer and the pounding of the glass studio's music. I feel the anxiety of deadlines in the air, like a layer of dust settling on us all. I can hear the laughter, the cursing, the crying and the consoling. For the past year, Sheridan has been our home. Our families and friends have seen little of us, but we've seen a lot of each other. I've spent more time in this building, with these people, than I have any other.

We are taking a lot with us when we leave. Boxes of clay, buckets of glaze and lots of dirty clothing are only the beginning. We are also taking learned techniques and practised experiences. We are taking souls full of wonder and curiosity, anticipation and dread. We are taking more than just what we have been taught and more than we have made. We are taking what we have lived and what we have learned. We have learned to hold THE BEST potlucks, and to enjoy eating the leftovers the next day. We have learned to use the kilns to heat up said leftovers, and keep them cold overnight. We learned that communal coffee breaks are the best medicine. We have learned that sleep is important, but by no means necessary. We are leaving with the knowledge that this job is hard, but it is rewarding. And above all, we have learned that you must always, always compress your clay.

We wouldn't be where we are today without such an amazing group of people supporting us the whole way. On behalf of the ceramic graduates I would like to thank Linda, our fearless leader, for pushing us to near exhaustion and teaching us that you can never work too hard. Thank you to Hugh, our fantastic technician, for making the impossible possible, for being the handiest of handy men and for gently reminding us when we are making stupid mistakes. Gord, your wisdom has been invaluable and your tenderness always appreciated. Thank you for it all. To our amazing faculty, Tony, Marc, Bruce, Win, Janet, Lindsay, Steve, we would not be here without your dedication, encouragement and reflections.

Some of us know what we're going to do when we stop coming to this place, but the majority of us don't. But whether it be further education, attending a residency, setting up a studio or decide "screw it, I'm going to be a fire-fighter", we will all be okay. We will make it, and we'll learn and grow along the way. There are many more shards of experiments in our future, in fact, I hope there will be. Because the most fulfilling part of this experience has been the acceptance of our vulnerability. We have learned to laugh at our own embarrassment, begin to conquer our insecurity and channel our pride. We have taken risks, we have set ourselves up for failure, we have lost and we have won. It has been one hell of a ride."

Farewell Sheridan, you will be missed.

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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!

dessertstandperformance

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.