Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Inspiration #1: Bleeding Hearts

A specific project that I'm currently working on has me scoping out the New York Public Library image gallery along with my own photographs for some design inspiration.  So inspiring...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Drawing on foggy windows

...when things don't go as planned.
That was last week.  There have been some strange things going on with our kilns/breaker system and it's been causing some stress at the studio.  The new kiln was supposed to help out with the demand for kiln time, unfortunately, the coils weren't the right ones for the wiring in our building.  On Saturday we had a meeting about the kiln room- moving the breaker so the switch doesn't turn off mid-firing/getting the coils fixed, etc, and hopefully it will be resolved this week.  In the meantime, I won't be able to ship out a large wholesale order that I had planned on this past week.  Bummer...

Today it was a home day with sniffly boys and me feeling tired after a weekend show.  I've been at the studio really late some nights trying to get it all done.  I'll put our boys to bed then head out for a late shift at the studio (1-2am) and still get up at 8 am to get them ready for school, then head back to the studio while Sasha is at Kindergarten, then back home to pick up/play with/make supper/tend to family.  There's been a lot of juggling going on just to get the work done, so it was disappointing to try to fire on 3 separate occasions with 2 different kilns and still not have the work finished.

With all the crazy time I've been putting in lately I decided I might need some studio help sooner than later, especially over the summer as the kids are out of school.  I put the word out there hoping that an  Emily Carr student might want a bit of a mentorship/studio job 1-2 days a week. And it has been great to have a response from a couple of people. I have a really great feeling about one person in particular and am kind of excited about having 2 extra hands around the studio, along with passing along some of my own knowledge, experience and skills to someone I have a good feeling about.  Hopefully it's the start of something really good for me and for her too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Next level knitting & Janna Maria

Let's just say I've got a basic scarf down. No pearling yet, just knitting, but I've been coveting some patterns.  And maybe a beret, or a tuque, or perhaps, just some hand-warmers.   I realize this might take a little more concentration on my part, and maybe even a knitting class but recently a skein of beautiful yarn makes me kind of giddy.  Is that normal?  Walking into a yarn shop and drooling over yarn?
I recently re-connected with Janna of Janna Maria through my sister.  A very talented knitter (and weaver), Janna is currently in a Textiles program at Capilano University, soon to be off to Concordia in Montreal to complete her degree.  I'm always excited to talk to people who are laying the foundations for their career by going to school.  There is something so enriching about the experience of school, even though, really, most 'professional' knitters out there probably haven't gone to school to make a business out of it.  Janna's work is exquisite, and I can't wait to see where she goes from here!

To purchase some of Janna's work please go here.
To purchase the pretty gray scarf with the scalloped pattern check out the listing the Namolio Etsy shop here. I've just added it to my favourites- lovely stuff!
And for some patterns for the more experienced knitters out there of the Beret/tuque/gloves, check out the Purl Bee shop blog- they have patterns for so many amazing things on the side bar!  Next time I'm in New York, I will be sure to visit this store!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ahh spring! & the Blim Spring Market this Sunday!

OK I'm a sucker for spring- I'll be the first to admit it.  The minute all the flowers start blooming in my yard and in the neighbourhood I'm carrying my camera with me all over the place and taking pictures of flowers like a sunday painter. Sheesh!  They are just so lovely and it's so refreshing after winter!

I have another glaze firing to get into the kiln today and Friday will be a big shipping day, for those of you who have been patiently waiting for your order- thank you and it's coming!  For those of you on my tile frame wait-list, I am slowly making the rounds and am waiting to hear back before I get to the next person.  I have more coming out of the kiln friday so there should be lots to choose from by then (20 tiles!!).

Also: I am sharing a table with my former studio mate Amy (who now has a blog!!!) from down home amy at the Blim Community Market this coming Sunday.  There will be more 'little dahlhaus' bowls and plates done- with a little bird design and the owl design on them along with my regular work.  And Amy, well Amy has the cutest stuff, especially these new little bibs for wee ones that I will be buying for my nephew! How cute are they!
The detail:
where: heritage hall
main and 15th vancouver b.c
when: sunday march 28th
by donation
what:  50 vendors selling handmade goods,
tasty baking, unique vintage finds, hot food,
art objects and more…

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New! Larger Oval Tile Frames!

I just finished making a new size frame for my 'Mini Ceramic Paintings' series, this one not being quite so mini.  This style is 7.5" in length and just about 6" wide compared to my small tiles which are 5" in length and 3.5" wide.  More to come soon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Home Parties

I've been holding onto the notion of having small home birthday parties for as long as we possibly can.  It is no easy thing to entertain 6-8 boys in our small place if it rains and so we left Sasha's kid birthday party for this past weekend.  The weather was perfect, we set up game stations, only invited 6 extra kids (+ my 2), made it for 2 hours, and provided lots of snacks & goodies.  Simple, fun and not too expensive.  Games included Balloon Darts (yep, pop balloons with darts), Drive-way bowling, and Bocce Ball.  Fun and not too competitive.
Candy Apples with 'Nerds' on the bottom to keep them from sticking to my pan (we had some milk allergies in the mix so I couldn't do caramel apples...).
And a 'Vegan' recipe for 'Wacky Chocolate Cake' (using 'Earth Balance' instead of Butter)
1.5 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 Tbsp Cocoa
pinch Salt

1 tbsp White Vinegar
1 tsp Vanilla
5 tbsp melted Butter or Earth Balance for Vegan/milk allergies
1 cup Warm Water

Dry ingredients into a bowl (sift if you feel necessary, I just whisk it).
Wet ingredients in a large Measuring cup- yes it looks kind of icky and I know there are no eggs...
Pour wet into dry and mix with a spatula until mixed.  Pour into a 9X9" pan or cup-cake tins.  Bake at 375 F for 25-30 min for pan, 20 min for cupcakes. Don't overbake- if the top springs back when you gently touch it it's done. Quick, easy, moist and yummy. No icing necessary.  Especially great when you run out of Milk and eggs when people stop by...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My copy of House & Home finally arrived...

just as it is due to be on news stands across Canada! 
Just some little tidbits for those that are interested:
I am making my way through orders and inquiries as they come in- thanks for your patience in this regard.  There is a wait-list for the tile frames (mini ceramic paintings) so please email me if you would like to be notified as I have more in stock.  I am making more of the Dutch Folk Art Vases (as I got too attached to the ones I made in my mini-series) and they should be ready over the next 3 weeks.  Also, I am the sole maker of my ceramics and it takes me time to make the work so thanks in advanced for being patient if your order takes a week for me to ship out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Clay Symposium Round-up

I had hoped to do a bit more comprehensive blog on the other 6 presenters that I haven't really had time or space to even mention, but I'm going to try to finish off my own personal experience at the Clay Symposium by wrapping it up today.  It's pretty hard to take in 9 workshops in 1 day and everyone was certainly trying to make the most of their time.  So here are my last impressions of this year's Symposium...
Kathy Venter's workshop was right in the middle of the common space and so I would walk by to catch her progress on these life-sized figures several times throughout the day.  If you know anything about working in clay, making a life-sized free-standing figure of a woman in clay and firing it is no easy feat.  There are no joins here- it's no puzzle that you can pull apart the head, torso and legs and then put it back together. She was fired completely as one piece and getting her not to crack or blow up for that matter is truly remarkable!  I didn't catch much about the why's of Kathy's surface choice- perhaps it's a nod to Abstract Expressionism that she splatters coloured slip onto her figures after she's so meticulously sculpted theme realistically.  I guess that was the draw-back to a 'walk by' approach of a workshop on my part- I didn't really sit down to ask those burning questions like I should have. 

Now there were in fact some male ceramic artists presenting at the Symposium: Les Manning, Don Hutchinson, Peter Powning, Robert Barron and Jack Troy.  There were a number of really great workshops that I missed out on.  Some tag-team throwing.  A great discussion on the Aesthetics of Ceramics by Les Manning and others.  Huge 'manly' pots getting thrown- you know the 40-50 lbs of clay getting centered all at once kind.  The kind of pots that would basically throw my wrists and back into the early stages of Arthritis.  I would have loved to have taken this all in. 
However, what I did get to listen to was the keynote speaker, Jack Troy's talk on Aesthetics at the end of the Symposium.  If you ever, ever have the chance to hear this man speak- drop everything and do it!  Here is someone who's ability to weave story-telling, poetry, some 50 (really rough number here on my part) years of clay experience into a captivating and awe-inspiring talk on what it means to work in clay.  He asked such poignant questions- such as  'What was your first memorable aesthetic moment?  When did you first notice the beauty of a shape, design, pattern for the sake of it's beauty?  What was it about that moment that changed you?'  His poetry was amazing- probably more so because he was speaking to the converted here- a wack of us clay-o-philes who are crazy enough to be covered in clay day in and day out.  But seriously, his talk was really a highlight and hopefully there will be a u-tube video that someone puts up so it can inspire more than just those of us that were fortunate enough to be there!
There's my wrap-up.  Hopefully there are others who are blogging about their experience of the Symposium.  Thanks for hanging in there with me this week and taking the time to read and comment on my posts!  Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Clay Symposium Part 3: Gailan Ngan Workshop

Even though my time at the Canadian Clay Symposium was a little limited, due to my volunteering time, and all these amazing workshops going on simultaneously, I did manage to pop into Gailan Ngan's workshop and artist talk for some brief moments. Gailan and I go back to our Emily Carr days where we shared a studio space together at the school in our 4th year, graduated together and we've managed to keep in touch since, so I've seen Gailan at work before.  Basically raised to be a potter, Gailan's dad, Wayne Ngan is one of Canada's most respected and well-known Potters.  Gailan and her sister were brought up on Hornby Island to breath and live out the pottery lifestyle of their dad.  Gailan started her own little cornershop pottery studio out of what used to be a convenient store in the Strathcona part of East Vancouver back in 1997.  Since then, she's carved out a niche for her pottery, to the point where her work is part of some of the same collections as her dad's. 
Gailan's work is lovely.  Simple.  Modern. Pure.  They feel good to hold and touch.  There is a weight and a feel to the work that is hard to describe.  Solid and smooth, like a stone.  I love her use of colour and glazes.  The bowls above remind me of Rothko paintings. And her table settings look sculptural when displayed, but would look so lovely to be eaten off. 
You can find more of Gailan's work on her website here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My new nephew!

I'm pleased as punch to announce the birth of my new nephew, Oliver Daniel, to my sister and her husband.  He was born at 1am today- March 17th and was 8lbs 15oz and 21 inches long!  My sister looks amazing afterwards- don't let that fool you though, she had a rough go of it and I'm so proud of how she did! It was amazing for me to be with both of them throughout the birth, to rub her back, to keep telling her how amazing she was doing, and to be someone to lean on in the midst of her pain.  We are all so thankful that this healthy baby boy is now part of our family! Congratulations you two!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back to the Island...

I'm taking a little break from all my ceramic symposium talk to let you know that I'm heading back to Vancouver Island to hopefully be present for the birth of my new niece or nephew! I'll be taking the Ferry ride with my Mom so that we can be a great support to her during or after the birth.  She is most likely getting induced in the morning so with high hopes and best wishes for a safe and healthy arrival of a new life, I'll be off.
Photo: the amazing Arbutus trees on Vancouver Island on a hike we did with my sis last week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Clay Symposium Part 2: Joan Bruneau Workshop

One of my most memorable ceramic instructors during art school was Joan Bruneau.  She taught me in my 3rd and 4th year at Emily Carr and is one of the reasons I'm still a potter.  The one thing about Art School in general is that 'craft', especially functional ceramics, can be seen as the underdog. After a year of critiques in my 3rd year by fellow students that pottery was too functionally based to be viewed on the same level as Art, I'll admit that it got to me and I ditched functional ceramics for a good long time, choosing ceramic sculpture instead.  Many of my potter friends abandoned ceramics altogether. Despite this, Joan did her best to bring awareness of what Craft is all about, what common perceptions are, and how to challenge perception in a conceptual way, even on your functional pottery.  
Best known for her 'cut and paste' wheel-thrown forms, Joan spent her time this past weekend on the wheel reminding us that good pots are 'dynamic' pots.  What she meant was that the forms create a sense of their volume and that one considers each part of the form by not over-looking the feet or the rim.  She asked the questions- why does the rim have to be straight and round or the base of the pot flat while the middle of the pot has all this expression.  She challenged us to re-think those elements even if it was only subtly.
For instance, on the top part of a flower vase/cylinder form she pulls up for 'corners' ever so slightly to create a scalloped edge.  Subtle, but effective in drawing the eye over the lip of the pot.
Here she starts with a 'foot' that was thrown upside down and then pinched in on 4 sides.  This could be the foot of a cake plate or the base of a flower brick or even a bowl.  Once it had firmed up, she flipped it and attached a coil to what was previously the bottom.  Then she proceeded to throw the coil sides up for the top part of this form.  It becomes a more unified piece than if she had thrown 2 parts and just attached them when they were leather-hard.
And lastly, she cut and re-attached the sides of this very large platter.    Here she talked about complicated forms and resolving what to do with parts of a form that you might aesthetically have trouble with.  When you cut and paste, you may make a lot of un-resolved forms, or, in her words, ugly pots.  And that's ok.  It's probably a good idea to make a bunch of small pots on the wheel and start to cut them up than making a huge pot that might turn out ugly.  Taking an afternoon to make 50 different handles or 20 cut and paste plates or vases are like little sketches in clay.  And doing that every few months sounded like a good idea to me!
While Joan didn't have a lot of time to talk about her glazing process or the inspiration for her designs on her pots, I did want to comment about her lovely use of glaze, colour, pattern and even composition.  Especially because I'm pretty sure that her influence glaze-wise has stuck with me all these years later.  I remember her drilling into us that one needs to consider each part of a pot for it to be a 'dynamic' pot.  Considering that we all have our own aesthetics, our own background, our own historical interests and our own hands, everyone's ceramics really should look unique if all these things are considered, don't you think?
Joan Bruneau is a potter working in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia out of her studio and gallery, Nova Terra Cotta Pottery.  She teaches part time at NSCAD while maintaining an active practice of selling and exhibiting her pottery.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clay Symposium Part 1- Alwyn O'Brien Workshop

Well the 2010 Clay Symposium may not exactly be NCECA, but it's the next best thing for local British Columbia clay buffs who may not have the cash to get all the way to Philly for a weekend of 'clay shop talk'.  There's a lot to cram into one day when there are numerous workshops going on simultaneously by 9 visiting clay artists.  Despite it's small size, the presenters this year were a really amazing bunch of Ceramic artists- both emerging and established, wheel-throwers, hand-builders, and sculptors- really, there was something for everyone to get inspired by.  Hopefully I can touch on a few of them this week- some will be more in-depth than others as I was volunteering and couldn't make it to all the workshops I had hoped to see.
I was most inspired by emerging artist Alwyn O'Brien, originally from Salt Spring Island, who is just finishing off her Master's Degree at the University of Washington.  Seeing the layers of imagery that she builds up on slabs of clay before forming them into a vessel is like watching a painter at work.  For her small work, she will often just silkscreen using under-glazes that are a little on the thicker side, directly onto the slab.  For her larger work she uses a plaster form that she may have already carved a motif/design right into the slab.  Then she silkscreens onto the plaster.  Painting and pouring underglazes on the top of the silkscreens creates 'backgrounds' of colour, while the foreground becomes the first screens that were laid on.  Scratching delicate lines or using washes of underglaze again builds up a background.  Finally she sprayed/sponged water over the entire slab before putting a rolled piece of porcelain on top and rolled it into the plaster. Leaving it for a few seconds before peeling away, the dramatic moment of the image transferring onto the porcelain was awe-inspiring.  Of course the painter in me is pretty stocked about the possibilities of this type of mono-printing method.  With the absorption of the underglaze into the clay, there isn't the obvious raised lines and brush strokes of actually painting directly onto the clay.  Alwyn then uses these slabs to construct Vessel forms- the photo above is a bisqued example before she even begins to apply glazes.  She still will fire her pieces multiple times with various glazes, decals, and lusters.  Each of her screens and images that she uses comes from her own personal history and interests and it was really wonderful to hear the why's and the how's of her own personal aesthetics in making her work.
Here is more of her work from Prime Gallery in Toronto.

By the way-thanks to everyone who has been gracious in congratulating me on the Canadian House & Home piece! I am still 'patiently' waiting to find a copy, but have been busy packing up orders and responding to emails to bide the time.  And if you are newly visiting my blog- thanks for stopping by and welcome!

Friday, March 12, 2010

House & Home Feature!

I'm very excited to be featured in Canadian House & Home's April 2010 issue in their 'Style Files' section!  I've had a great response of my work from subscribers who have received the magazine before it's even on the news stands! Having just gotten back from Vancouver Island (sorry- no niece or nephew yet), I haven't had the chance to see the feature, but will be sure to share it soon! These photographs (really small resolution- hopefully I'll get larger files) were taken by the very talented photographer, Janis Nicolay back mid-December.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Great Wait

The last days of a pregnancy can feel like forever.  You want this baby that you've been carrying for 9 months to finally be held in your arms.  You want the unknown of the delivery to be over.  You don't want to have to wait any longer.  
My sister is in this 'waiting' period (she's 2 days overdue) right now and my own wait for both my boys (13 days overdue for Johnny, 4 for Sasha) feels fresh in my mind while I think about what she is feeling and going through.  There's the nervousness and a restlessness that everything will turn out alright, the worry that something might go wrong, the excitement about this new little life inside of you, the mystery about how it will all happen and the hope that comes with this life changing yours forever.  It's an amazing time.  We are off for a couple of days to provide a little distraction for her while she is waiting.  Perhaps we won't have to wait with her while we are there and we'll be lucky enough to be around for the birth of my new niece or nephew!
And when I get back I'm off to volunteer for the Canadian Clay Symposium that is happening this weekend!  There are some great presenters and workshops this year, so after I help out with registration in the morning, I'll have the afternoon to go to workshops and visit with ceramic instructors and peers from my old Emily Carr days.  I'll have pictures and hopefully some good photos for next week so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In the meantime...

I've had a few artist who are planning to be parents ask me how many hours I'm at the studio a week, with kids and all, and while 'work' consists of more than just studio time, my studio time is rather limited.  My kids are 6 and 8 and I'm generally not at the studio for 40 hours a week.  Probably I'm consistently at the studio about 25 hours a week, if I'm perfectly honest with my time there.  It can be frustrating most days, when I have more to do than time to do it.  This past weekend, with Dean gone for 4 days, my studio time was non-existant.  This week, my boys are on Spring Break, and again, my studio-time is really limited.  We want to head up to the Island to see my sister and hopefully, new baby, and my making time gets pushed to the side. That's OK.  Time with my family is really important to me. 
That being said, I did feel like I accomplished a lot this past weekend.  With kids in tow, I dropped off work at the Gallery at the airport, picked up more shipping supplies, picked up 600 lbs of clay, and made these really cute tags with stamps I carved.  The boys crowded around me and drew designs on the soft-lino that I carved into stamps and we had a lot of fun.  It's amazing what you can get done with kids around you if you make it fun.  Good music, lots of snacks, and trips to the park in between meant that it didn't feel like they were getting dragged around all weekend too. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

In season

Every March I head over to my local florist to ask whether the Ranunculus are in season yet. For 3-4 weeks in spring you can get them in shades of red, peach and this lovely white with a deep purple on the tips of the blooms. These are really romantic flowers- their stems and leaves like to curve all over the place, their petals are so soft and delicate but they open up to these great dark brown or black centers that really remind me of my 'poppy' design. The red and peach ones sure look great in my poppy vases, so if you have one of these around, stop by your florist to pick out a few stems.  Mine were only about $1.50 a stem- not much for a good week of enjoyment, especially if you keep them out of direct sunlight.
It's Spring Colour Week over on Poppytalk and today is pink, tomorrow is chartruese green, wednesday is yellow, thursday is mauve/purple, and friday is robin's egg blue.  Here's looking forward to a colourful Spring Break week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

little dahlhaus is on it's way...

Do you remember my 'mold-making project' that I've been working on? I've been working on a little mini-series of a child's breakfast and lunch set while brushing up on my mold-making skills at the same time.   While I've had a few plaster disasters along the way,  it has been a good little project to embark on.  And the boys are loving each design that I bring home for them so that's a good sign.  I just finished the mold for the cup and should be able to have a whole little place-setting finished in the next couple of weeks.  Glaze-wise, I've been working on a lady-bug, a turtle and this mama Owl and her baby so far.  My method (painted with Cone 6 glazes using my 'stencil/masking' technique) makes them food-safe, dishwasher safe, microwave safe and all-around kid friendly, especially because they stack and have sturdy bottoms and sides for little clumsy hands.  There's more to come so stay tuned...