The Grotto

Days off are my favourite part about living in Wiarton -  I can spend the day going on adventures, and relish every ounce of the environment. There are so many treasures to find and so many lovely places to visit!

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Last weekend my friend Alicia came up to visit me and we went on a Bruce Peninsula road trip. We hit up Eugenia, Wiarton, Tobermory and Lion's Head in under 24 hours - sharing a meal in each one and taking time to marvel at the scenery. Tobermory lies at the tip of the peninsula that separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. Off the coast of Tobermory are dozens of shipwrecks that you can see if you take a glass-bottom boat tour, and many islands to visit, including Manitoulin. This little town is a huge tourist attraction in the summer, due to its fantastic hiking spots, gorgeous views and excellent waters for boating. In the winter, however, the population drops down to a few hundred.

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We spent the better part of the day poking around the gift shops and art galleries, took a walk to see the Chi Cheemaun ferry, and then drove out to the point to get a good view of the islands. I was particularly fond of the Marine Chart Shop, where there were stacks of maps to look through and lots of interesting marine books to peruse. I have been looking for marine charts for quite some time now, so was pleased to have found the hot spot for these lovely treasures. I will have to get back there and pick up a few before my time in Wiarton is done. I would love to plaster  those large nautical charts on my future studio's walls.

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On our way to Lion's Head we went to the Bruce Peninsula National Park (Cypress Lake) and hiked out to the Grotto. The Grotto is a well known cave at the edge of the bay. You can carefully climb down the cliffside to the dank cavern and go for a swim in its pool. Deep in the grotto is a tunnel that exits into the bay on the other side of the cliff wall. Theoretically, you can dive down into the pool, through the tunnel and out the other side. Not many people venture down, but there were some scuba divers making the trek during our visit. Apparently you can complete the dive and tunnel swim without an oxygen tank, but it's risky business. I am much too claustrophobic to enjoy such a daredevil act. However, the colour of the water alone makes the Grotto a must see.

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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...