Follow Friday: @sexdrugshamont

One of my favourite users on Instagram is @sexdrugshamont

Contrary to the name, there aren't photos of sex and drugs at all. There's a lot of Hamilton though, in all its glory.

This feed shows the beauty of a city that outsiders think is dirty, gross, and scary. Anyone who's never lived in Hamilton (or even been there!) might have nasty things to say about this city that has its roots in industry. But Hamiltonians... we love Hamilton.

This feed shows the abundance of parks and green space. It highlights unique architecture - historical and modern. You'll find stunning photos of sunsets over the bay, sprawling forest and eye-catching skylines. You'll see all the things there are to love about Hamilton. Go on over and Follow along!

1001 Pots 2016

This year, I was invited to participate in the annual 1001 Pots in Val-David, Quebec. After many years of visiting the show and admiring the talent of these artists, I took the plunge and was an exhibitor there for the first time this summer.

The community at 1001 Pots is INCREDIBLE. Not only did they put up with my poor excuse for French (I'm going to take classes before next year guys, I promise! ;)) but they are among the most welcoming and caring people I have had the pleasure to be in company with.

On top of an insane amount of pottery in one place, 1001 Pots is located on a stunning property, at the home and studio of working artist Kinya Ishikawa. The buildings are immaculate, the gardens are beautifully kept, and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed.

1001 Pots ceramic mosaic path

The highlight of the property is the "Jardin de Silice" (Silica Garden) - a magnificent cathedral made from intricate metalwork, filled with ceramic shards. Exhibitors bring their scraps and seconds to the event and the next year will find them renewed, tediously placed into this curious piece of architecture, whether it be an addition in the growing labyrinth of walls, or mosaic tiled walkways. The peace and serenity of this space is paramount.

Kinya's Japanese heritage and artistic sensibility are apparent in everything he does - from ikebana arrangements in the quiet corners of the garden, intricate chandeliers and poetry readings, patterns in colour and form, and of course his Furoshiki paintings. I have admired these fabric paintings every year at the show - his brushwork, sense of space, and softness are breathtaking. The smallest piece speaks volumes.

Emma Smith 1001 Pots Furoshiki

I was delighted to be voted by my fellow artists for the Potter's Choice Grand Prix for 2016. Kinya made this stunning piece for me, with reflections of my forms and drawings. I was SO shocked to be considered, let alone to have won.

I am already looking forward to next year - to new friends, the great outdoors, and a beautiful life.

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.