Our First Anniversary at Black & Smith Country General

Three years ago (as Facebook reminded me, with one of my "memories") we put an offer in on our first home.

I joke (only partially) that buying this house was both the best and worst decision that we ever made. The worst decision because it has been a HELL of a lot of work to fix up (and we're still fixing it), with just about every conceivable problem arising at some point in the process. It has been an exercise in patience, a challenge for our relationship, and continues to be a project that we spend hours on each week. We are two people who are driven by growth. Our home is growing, it's thriving, it's changing. It's not what either of us had expeceted. But that's why buying this place was also the best decision we ever made.

Though an exercise in patience, our workshop/store/home/garden has taught us a lot, and given us a purpose - many goals to work towards, milestones to meet, and barriers to break down. Sometimes when I look at pictures of this place when we first bought it, I don't even recognize it. I don't really recognize me at that time either.

Last year (after two years of paying commercial property taxes, and staring at a giant empty room) we decided it was time we did something with this space of ours. We opened a shop. It started as a showroom for my pottery and a space to highlight the work of some other local makers. We had organic jam and nut butters, soaps, pillows, some wooden toys, coffee and tea. That was about it.

Since this time last year, the shop has expanded to carry a wide and carefully curated selection of all the things we love, all the things that (I believe) will help you to live a more beautiful life. These objects bring joy to the everyday, delight to the mundane. They brighten up your living space, and (I speak from experience on this one) can bring hope to some of the darkest days in your life. They are made by Canadians - handmade by artists with families and homes of their own - lives they are supporting by creating beautiful things.

We're celebrating our first anniversary of being open, our "First Birthday" if you will, on December 3 + 4.

Please join us for the celebration. Help us to celebrate the good work that all our makers do.
Join us in celebrating Canadian craft.
Sharethe love of handmade this holiday season.

... and tell a friend! (:

Getting Through

October has been a rough month over here. Thanksgiving marked the date that would have been my Dad's 61st birthday, a birthday he didn't live to see. Yesterday we laid his remains to rest, digging up all the thoughts and feelings that had managed to hide away since he died in February, and making the feelings and thoughts that have prevailed all the more intense, all the more vivid. Its been an emotional month, though I'm happy now to have a physical space to visit him.

All this, plus the craziness of holiday preparation consuming the studio and shop, and the push to finish up this semester's classes with my students, I have really felt the need for quiet space, time, and reflection. I'm already an introvert who needs silence and personal space, but right now I need more. And lucky for me, this time of year is my most favourite - the time I find most calming and meditative. I'm not sure whether it's the vibrant colours of our landscape, or the blustering winds sending leaves floating dreamily through the air. It could be the sound of birds prepping for winter, the sight of flocks heading south, or the humm of the crickets. It might be the smell of rotting plants. It could be the taste in the air, or the sense of death and decay all around... Whatever it is, it's peaceful, and restorative, and comforting- a companion that doesn't listen or talk or do anything but exist with you. It's the best friend in the world, I think. And it helps get me through.

Whatever gets you through, take the time to do it. Make yourself a priority.

Tews Falls

Old Milwaukee

I'm sitting in the B&B at Pinecroft Centre for the Arts, waiting for my shift to stoke the wood kiln. - my fellow woodfirers are either on shift, wandering the property, or making lunch. So I thought I would take this much needed, FORCED down time to catch up on some blogging that has been neglected. (Sorry, again, for being such a brutal blogger).Last month was the 48th annual NCECA conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the third time, I flew down to the States to spend a week in a hub of clay related enthusiasm, education, celebration, and engagement. I finally got the chance to see Emily Schroeder Willis' work in person, purchase a few new pieces for my collection, and touch a LOT of pots. Some of the highlights for me included the National Juried Exhibition "Flow" that was installed at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Gallery Expo (being able to touch pots is always a highlight) and the exhibition put on by the Archie Bray Foundation.

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The week is magical, but I always leave NCECA with a mixture of emotions: inspired, motivated, depressed, frustrated, euphoric... the list continues. Experiencing such a large amount of clay work in such a small period of time is WONDERFUL in so many ways. Through looking at work up close and personal I can try to understand how they were made - what techniques of process were used, what conceptual ideas were at play. The opportunities to learn and discover are endless, helped along by the fantastic panel discussions and speakers.

For me, there is also a sadness that comes along with the territory. There are feelings of incompetence and failure, herded along by loneliness, "nobody-ness", and confusion. I leave the week with questions running through my head like a hamster on a wheel. They are cyclical, never ending:

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What do I need to do to make work of this calibre? What skills do I need to learn? What level of education is most necessary? What am I doing wrong? Or right? and How can I feel comfortable with the work I make now, at this point in my life? How can I accept that growth is a process, and a long one at that?

When I come back from NCECA I feel a little empty, and at a loss for what I SHOULD make, and where I SHOULD be taking my career. I end up spending days cleaning the studio instead of making work. I organize my glazing area, I mop and soak the tables, I stack wood and water the plants, and pace. I stand in the middle of the room, with my hands over my mouth and pace, and stare.

Jump to the Left

It's been a while since my last post, almost a month actually. I have had such good intentions of blogging (I REALLY HAVE!) but life keeps getting in the way, and not always in the best of ways. The recent developments in the Jerseyville General Store have been both physically and mentally exhausting. I am still trying to wrap my head around the serious repairs that need to be done before we can move forward in some areas of the building (ie. the workspace/store). The safety of a potter and her partner are priority, and for the worrisome (like myself) cause for stress and unravelling emotions.

Still, we putter on. My studio has recently done the Time Warp and taken a jump to the left (or rather, several jumps..) in order to proceed with the repairs mentioned above. I've also had to refrain from putting up my shelving, which results in constantly covered tables, especially after a full day of making. Last night I weighed out glaze on the floor, and I currently have ware boards of pots balancing on chairs and windowsills. My disorganized semi-studio is an accurate reflection of my brain these days.

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The silver lining is that I'm making pots, if but slowly.