Choo Choo

I've been away from the blog for a few weeks, as I was at a conference, and then studio reno-ing (more on that another day) and then Supercrawl. A start of a busy September indeed!

Hamilton mugs! 

Hamilton mugs! 

Now that I'm back in the swing of things (and the fire bans have been lifted), I've stuffed my van with pots and have headed up north to start firing for the holiday season! This is my first time firing a train kiln, a kiln design that looks like a train car, and when fired correctly should make that warm and cozy chugging sound. My kind of sound. 

Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

This firing is particularly special, as it is the last firing this kiln will ever see! After unloading next week, Duncan Aird and I will be tearing her down, and giving the bricks a new life in our very own kiln back down in the Hammer! Buildings are underway and we're hoping to have the beauty built before Christmas. 

So I'm up here toasting this sweet kiln many thanks, with good company, and good food, and looking forward to many firings ahead!

Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

Stacked.  

Stacked.  

Wood Season

brazil

Over the past few years I've found that I work best under pressure; I need deadlines and commitments to work efficiently. At the beginning of each week I set myself a schedule of what I'd like to accomplish, on which day. It's wood firing season, and with a woodfiring on the horizon, time management becomes imperative. For each firing I plan the days I will sand and glaze, when I need to get my last bisque firing in, and how much time it will take for pieces to dry. This planning activates a side of my brain that I really enjoy using – I feel joy while filling out calendars and date books.

Last week I unloaded work from my fourth firing this year, and will be loading my fifth this Saturday. While I still need to sand and wash the pieces we just unloaded, I am instead pulling handles on cups and jugs, finishing up details on prototype vases, and adding rims to serving dishes for the firing coming up. Studio life is a constant balancing and juggling act – one that I am starting to get comfortable with. While one tray of bowls dries you throw creamers. While the creamers are drying you roll out slabs to get them stiffening and then start to trim your bowls. When the slabs are stiff enough to work with you build the walls for vases and slowly dry them while you finish the creamers. On it goes, a carousel.

Here are some photos of the pots that came out of last week's firing. It was my first time leading a firing in the Manabigama, and was delighted to have a great time of eager potters who wanted to learn about firing with wood. The pots turned out delightful.

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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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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.

JULY13-2

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.

RM4

rm2

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