The Crawl

I've been an official Hamiltonian since February when we moved into the old general store, but I never truly felt one with the Hammer folk until September's annual Supercrawl. I must begin by expressing my love for Hamilton - I have long been a fan of this city and the people in it. I have fostered many relationships at the Ben Thanh, enriched my life through programming at Cathedral Place on James St N, and the monthly art crawls are always on my calendar. The city is full of life and love, excitement, entertainment and best of all, art.

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"Art is the new steel!" they say of Hamilton, ON. Once the home to a booming steel industry, the city is now a hub of arts culture and events, live music, street performance and craft beer. It is home to hundreds of galleries, vintage clothing shops and specialty food stores that sell cupcakes, organic goods and vegan smoothies. Every month James St N hosts an art "crawl" where the studio artists open their doors to the public, galleries put on sweet spreads, buskers serenade the passersby and vendors spread their wares across picnic blankets.

In September, the street completely shuts down to host Supercrawl, a weekend long crawl that brings in traffic from across Ontario. This is the crawl of all crawls. Art is hung on every alleyway wall, fences are decorated with chalk art and graffiti murals, large installations take up intersections and at night there are acrobats riding giant tricycles that shoot flames into the sky. Over 150,000 people descended up downtown Hamilton to share the experience. supercrawl I had a booth this year, to start my relationship with the city as a TRUE Hamiltonian. The feedback from the crowds was excellent, the weather (if chilly) was merciful, and I even got to play some music with my band inside the beautiful Cathedral.

Thanks to everyone who helped make Supercrawl an enjoyable and successful event!

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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