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!

The Home of a Famous Rodent.

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Well, I'll tell ya, I understand why Willie likes it up here so much. For those of you not from Canada (and potentially Ontario - I'm not too sure just how "famous" he really is) Wiarton Willie is a groundhog living in (you guessed it!) Wiarton, Ontario. This groundhog is our local representative who annually prognosticates the end of winter - or not so much. Ah, Groundhog day.

Last weekend I moved up into Willie's stomping grounds to begin my apprenticeship at Gleasonbrook Pottery (GBP) with Sheridan alumnus Timothy Smith. Tim graduated the ceramics program at Sheridan before starting his own studio in the Bruce Peninsula. For over a dozen years Timothy has been hiring two students from Sheridan to work with him over the summer. This year I was lucky enough to be chosen to join him in Wiarton and spend the summer making a LOT of pots.

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I've  been in town just over a week and I'm already getting a great vibe from the locals. The downtown "core" (ie. one road) is quaint and humble. It boasts a couple cafes, a Salvation Army, Home Hardware (what would a small town be without a HH?), a dollar store and a cigar shop. Other notable stores: video rental, bank, LCBO and one gas station. Everyone is very friendly.

A quick bike ride from my new digs (a lovely little house with a luscious backyard) is the waterfront of Colpoy's Bay, a small inlet of Georgian Bay. I can see the water from my window and boy, is that view lovely. I eagerly look forward to the summer when I can walk down to the public dock and jump out into the bay for a refreshing dip.

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Since I've been in school I have rarely been physically active. I haven't had the time or energy to come home from the studio and go for a run, or join a sports team. However, in a small town like Wiarton I am now able to use my bike as my primary form of transportation. So over the weekend I changed my inner tube and this morning biked the route to work. What a lovely way to start your day! GBP is a 5 mile drive up the highway, just outside of Wiarton. The highway follows the shoreline and today I finally got to soak in the view the way it was intended to be: slowly, with the breeze in my face and the sun beating down on me.

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Working with Timothy has been great so far. We drink lots of tea, listen to good music and chat about all sorts of things while we work away. On top of throwing I have been doing a lot of sanding, glazing and organizing of the shop downstairs. I have been learning a lot, and there will be lots more to learn over the course of the summer.

Last week I spent a good chunk of my work days making dessert bowls (seen in the middle photograph above). This week I've been making mugs and hell, I hate those mugs. They are so deceivingly simple in form that I've been finding them IMPOSSIBLE to replicate. The profile of the form is slightly flared with an ever-so-subtle belly to give the piece volume. The top lip and bottom have identical punctuations that start and stop the line of the wall. No matter how hard I try, I am struggling. I start to get the shape down and the lip and base look like crap. When I finally get the base looking right, the form has gone awry. These mugs will be the end of me.

On a side note, I made some of my own work over the weekend. A dozen dessert stands and 10 chunky little plates to hang on the wall. It's much easier to make my own work (and a lot less pressure), but the work for Timothy is exercising me in different ways than I'm used to. I'm being forced to throw the same form a hundred times, even if I'm bored and keep plugging away until I get it. In my own practice, I would have given up much sooner. Discipline and determination are being fostered in way that I have never encouraged them before. And, I'm getting better at tap-centering*. Wahoo!

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* tap centering = literally tapping a piece while on the wheel and it automatically centering itself. It is a magic that I had previously associated with only the most professional of ceramic wizards. Maybe I will be a professional ceramic wizard one day...

Craftstock

craftstockGood morning! The weekend is off to a great start! I will elaborate more in my next post, but FIRST I wanted to let you all know about a lovely new monthly event taking place in Hamilton.

Craft Stock is a new pop-up shopping event hosted by the Urban Arts Initiative at 128 James St. N. Vendors from around the Hamilton area will be setting up booths to show and market their products. I will have my work for sale at this month's event - taking place THIS WEEKEND. You can come by the show and see my work on Sunday, April 7th from 12-4pm.

Spring is in the air -  what's a better way to spend the weekend than visiting a show full of crafted lovelies?

Preparation

In my first semester of our second year at Sheridan we had Tony Clennell twice a week to teach us throwing, altering and hand building.We would meet every Monday morning with our coffees, sit around the work table, and Tony would tell us stories and tales of wisdom. He would bring in a group of pots from his personal collection each week for us to look at and discuss. I severely miss these mornings. They were such a refreshing and thoughtful way to start the day.

Among the many sayings, thoughts and advice that Tony divulged over the course of that semester, there is one piece of information that I have been thinking of all week. One of those Monday mornings we were having our weekly chat, and along came the thought of "how long does it take to make a pot?" Tony had the answer. In fact, he had written out a step by step process on how a pot is made and all of the chores that are necessary for its making. From picking up clay and materials at your local pottery supply store to photographing and packaging your finished work, there is an extensive list of work that needs to be done in order to make a salable/show-able item.

In Professional Practice last week, our instructor mentioned the statistic that the actual MAKING of work takes up only 30-40% of the tasks necessary for a successful business in art or craft. That means all of the other aspects of a ceramic business: emailing clients and galleries, loading and unloading your kilns, mixing glazes, reclaiming clay etc. constitute more than two thirds of your time as a maker.

This week, I've found these two pieces of information to be particularly true in my own studio.

IMG_1316Two classmates and I are planning a wood firing for the week before our mid term critiques. Along with Tony's list of activities in the life of a pot, he also notes that in the case of a wood firing one must add an additional list of chores to the original activities. Unloading wood, cutting, splitting and mixing wadding and door slop are only the beginning of the extensive requirements for firing with wood.

With the help of our outstanding studio tech Hugh, we cut half of the wood necessary for the firing and will be splitting it over the next few days. We will repeat the process next week.

Along with preparation for the wood firing, I found myself spending the majority of Monday drawing images for my silk screen. After three hours of drawing, we spent the afternoon coating our screens with emulsion in the textile studio, and returned Tuesday morning to expose and clean up. I will be using this screen to develop a new layer of imagery on my future work. I will update with photographs when I get around to trying them out!

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With all of these additional chores, it's easy to see that I have not made many pots this week. On Monday I threw, trimmed and decorated a dozen teabowls, made half a dozen side plates and started to make some porcelain cups. Tuesday I finished up the cups, made another half dozen side plates and finally went out to buy cupcakes to test on my cupcake stands. These at least, are ready for the first firing.

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I'm leaning towards the second form from the left and the form on the far right, but it will take glazing and firing to see which ones really work. The cupcakes make me happy though.

Until next time.