Flying

The summer has been passing by before my eyes at lightning speed. I have only have four weeks left in Wiarton, before I head back to the big city and try to make it on my own. The past few weeks have been filled with visitors, weddings and other wedding-related events, firings, pot-making and planning for the end of the summer. I have barely had time to sit down and read Game of Thrones (a novel I have been slowly getting through for over three months now), or play my piano - I just can't keep up! IMG_3732I will be doing another wood firing at the end of August, with four other potters in the Hamilton Potter's Guild. So, I have decided that it's about time I start making some mugs - as they are the most purchased and most intimate pottery item, along with bowls. Before working for Tim, handles always scared me, and as a lover of handle-less cups, I rarely ever made mugs. My customers have always been disappointed, "How am I supposed to hold it?!" they ask. Apparently, some people don't like toasting their fingers when they drink their coffee (though I argue you are more likely to burn your mouth if you hold it by the handle) so last week I happily conformed and started cranking out some mugs.

Of course, I couldn't help myself, so I HAD to make some mini mugs - perfect for your morning espresso, a shot of whiskey, or, if you want to make medication fancy, you could knock back a swig of Buckleys. Who knows where these little guys will find themselves? Once they're out in the wide, wide world, anything could happen.

 

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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.

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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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...

Working Towards The End

The school term is winding down, and yet I feel busier than I have all year. The final semester for the graduating class means three shows and three show openings to plan, critiques to look forward to, and the beginning of our lives as entrepreneurs. Today was my last official college class, and it feels great. But unlike students in other departments and other years, we are not finished yet. Our next two shows are not until the end of April, and so we will be spending the coming weeks making work and coming to terms with the end of our student careers (at least for the time being). The past week has been a whirlwind of excitement and anxiety, a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Last Thursday was our opening at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. Over 150 people came to celebrate with us as we presented our work to the public for the first time. It was a lovely evening; moving speeches were made by the faculty and students and an overwhelming energy took hold of the building and all its occupants. We almost needed to kick people out, the building was full to the brim. I have rarely felt so high.

The days after an opening, however, are full of lows. All of the thought, energy, and suspense that surrounded the event came abruptly to a halt, and a disturbing silence followed. Thankfully, my weekend was still packed with many activities. The next two days I worked at PSH and spent hours in the studio, keeping myself busy. I even kept my hands busy once I was home, and made pinch pots while I watched some pottery videos. On Sunday I attended Craftstock, a new monthly pop-up shop in downtown Hamilton. Despite the raging winds, many Hamiltonians made it out to the event and helped support the growing local art scene. What a lovely group of people to spend a Sunday afternoon with.

My friend Ioni did a feature about my work on his blog - he attended the event at the Gardiner and took photographs (something I didn't have the time or mentality to do in such a busy environment). To check them out, visit his website . The photographs below highlight some of my pieces at the Gardiner Museum. (photo cred: Ionatan Waisgluss)[gallery type="square" ids="548,549,550"]