Friday, July 27, 2012

hello espresso!

I am not an espresso drinker- I'm more of a latte lover, where as Dean (my guy) loves his espresso.  A number of years ago I started working on espresso cups and saucers for Dean's sake coming up with more non-floral glaze ideas for my espresso cups that suited him more then myself. 
This latest set that I pulled out of the kiln recently was a special request for a wedding gift.  The glaze combination was one I hadn't attempted yet and I think it's really quite sweet!  Dean gave his nod of approval on the size, shape, and handle combo- he's kind of my espresso cup and saucer critique go-to.  At least he certainly has his share of opinions;)!  Here are some of my other attempts at espresso cups in years gone by...

Espresso but no saucers and too small handles 2009
 an attempt at espresso, but apparently way too big- this is more of a latte... (2010)
these were made for my recent blue & white show- I say espresso, he says cappuccino (2012)

Apparently a true espresso cup needs to be white on the inside.  I, however, prefer the palest blue- not only do I know this glaze well enough that it shouldn't craze over time, but I think pure white looks a little cold or maybe would look too manufactured or something.
 Also handles are kind of tricky on such a short and small shape that has to nestle on top of a saucer.  Clearly there needs to be enough room between the handle and the saucer, but also there needs to be enough room (I think) for a finger to get in the hole.  I have small hands, so my fingers fit in a lot of handles that Dean's don't.
And then there is the shape of the mug part.  Retaining heat is important.  So not too wide at the top.  At the same time, someone needs to be able to drink out of the opening. Super small openings don't lend themselves well to drinking out of.  So I always get a bit torn with how wide to leave the opening. 
One day I will hopefully get all the elements right- creating the quintessential espresso cup and saucer! In the meantime, I'm always glad for the opportunity to get back to the drawing board, making a very few at a time and seeing what true espresso lovers think.  It's a good challenge, trying to make the most particular espresso drinker enjoy their espresso that much more!

Hope you have a great weekend! It's been great to have everyone comment and share on my blog recently- I'm so thrilled when a good multi-sided conversation can exist around the business and practice of making art full-time.  It's also great to have people from all over the world pipe in and share their experiences from their own country. Clearly the medium that joins us is a love of clay- this translates in any language and culture!  So thank you for being part of this place!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gnomes in the neighbour's yard

 I imagine these little guys looking up at my elderly neighbour on the balcony, cheering her on!  She fell a few weeks ago and mildly chipped a hip bone- thank goodness it was a soft grassy landing. 


 Thank you for the feedback on my previous post on Craft Fairs!  Maybe it's just me, but I wonder whether there's been a bit of over-saturation in the 'craft show' department.  From my perspective, craft show organizers jumped on the band-wagon and just let nearly everything and anything into their shows over the past few years, not really doing the kind of curating that perhaps really needed to be done to make sure that everything in the show represented the best of. 
Perhaps too, the larger craft shows that have existed for a few decades have started to feel like a mall for those of us who are used to going to more intimate, smaller shows.  This was one of the reasons I had decided not to participate in the One of a Kind Show at Christmas- I just felt as though it was over-whelming people- this massive trade show style building with no natural light and no character.  It hardly seems in line with the slow craft movement.

It's also interesting to hear a little feedback on pricing.   There are a lot of great articles for craft/art people on how to price one's work.  Personally, I have always felt that the assumed value of ceramics was low compared to other art mediums.  Factor in the time spent to learn the craft of ceramics (years in school + workshops + community center courses + years of professional practice- for me this adds up to 18 years), include the time it takes me to turn around a full kiln-load of new work (2 weeks to make the wet work, 1 week to dry out and bisque, 1 week to glaze/glaze fire), plus add the cost of supplies, the cost of renting a studio, the cost of hiring occasional help to up-date the website/photograph the work/be a summer studio intern/make my production molds, plus the cost of the kilns, the cost of doing shows/travel to do shows, plus the biggest cost of all: wholesale, where the shop takes 50% of the retail price and now my $40 mug is actually only a $20 mug that I have to pay all those things with.  Not to mention bank/internet fees, business licenses and shipping/packaging costs, which always seem to ring in a little more then what I charge.  Did I mention that I like to pay myself sometimes?  Interestingly enough, I very rarely have extra stock- especially mugs in the studio- they sell out faster then I can make them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No summer shows for me

Summer Market at Eugene Choo 2010
 Renegade Craft Fair, San Fransisco, 2011

Truth be told, there are these pangs of guilt I tend to feel when I open my facebook these days- every potter/artist I seem to know seems to be packing up for some summer show or farmer's market on the weekends.  I keep feeling like maybe I should have signed up for one, just to give it another try- were they really that bad? Yes.  Yes, they were that bad.

Here are some recent blog posts that remind me that I've made the right decision for myself.  I'm sure there are some tried and true summer art fairs out there, where the weather is balmy (not too hot, not too windy, but for sure sunny) and people attend in droves, generously supporting artists, understanding their price-points- not hesitating to buy a $40 mug because they know they will adore using this mug every day and that it's value will long outlast any of those cheap mass-produced mugs they bought at Ikea.  Perhaps there is a magical art show out there in the world that is a guaranteed sure-sell, making the booth cost of $400 for the weekend, along with travel and shipping expenses totally worth all the effort of standing in a booth for 2 long days.  But where this magical and perfect craft fair is, I know not. 

It may seem with all the photos online and the organizer's who boast of 'best attended show yet!' or 'sales were up 25% from last year', that those shows do exist out there in the world.  I'd love to hear about it, but generally speaking, I find most artist a little short about how the show went for them, as they are scrambling to pack up their work so they can get in the line up with their car to pack up the tent and all their stuff to be-line it for home.  Probably, like me, they just want to get home, crack open a bottle of wine, pour themselves a bath and shed a few tears, promising themselves that this kind of humiliation doesn't have to happen next summer.  That, yes, next summer will be different and the 'no shows this summer' will apply to them too. 

And for those who do frequent summer craft fairs- be kind.  Try to ask intelligent questions that can create an encouraging kind of conversation for an artist.  Craft shows are not for the faint of heart- they require such a lot of time and energy- when the show doesn't go well, it can be such a disheartening and frustrating venture. 

As for me, I'm hanging out with the boys for most of the rest of the summer.  It's just too much stress for me to manage shows and family right now and I'm happy to give myself a break.  I'll be making work for shops that hopefully will have good sales this summer.  And my online shop is always open- no wind to blow my work over, no 'I can make this at a fraction of the cost' comments, no 'where do you sell your work?' (answer: 'Here.  Right here and now!! Please buy from me now!!).  Just a nice little online shop with work that ships to your front door!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Yarrow days

I spent my teen years in a town about 1.5-2 hours (depending on traffic) from Vancouver called Yarrow.  It's a pretty little town with Vedder Mountain on one side and the Vedder river on the other.  My parents still live in the same house so this place holds lots of memories for me. Most of my summers as a teenager were spent at camp, babysitting, working at an apple farm picking apples, 'studying' for music theory exams by the river with my very good friend Kathleen, or tubing down the river with friends (and almost drowning a few times).
Last week my boys spent the week with my parents in Yarrow, going to a kids morning camp in town, taking  horseback riding lessons for the first time and going swimming.  They had a great time while I worked hard in the studio trying to finish up some orders.  My birthday was last week so I managed to have a low-key day at home while the kiln was cooling and then we had a little cake with family when we picked up the boys on Friday.  I'm slowly creeping towards 40 and must admit that I almost forget how old I am sometimes... is it 36 turning 37? or 37 turning 38? 
It's crazy to think that this is now the view from the backyard of my parent's place now.  That field used to be filled with hazelnut trees that fell ill to disease and were recently cut down.  Such a's a photo from this past spring where you can see how big the trees were.

Friday, July 13, 2012

summer porch suppers

 Made what I'm calling 'kaleslaw' with the abundance of kale that's growing in the garden.  It was a hit, so I'll probably be making it again.  
And I don't take that many photos these days... Dean likes to tease me about blogging every time I set the table nicely for friends to come over.  Phoey on him, I say. 

I moved into the new studio this week and am starting to get settled! Feels like a luxury with 40 extra sq. feet AND a space for storage!!  And the light from the window has been glorious.  Lots of studio friends from upstairs just pop their head in the window now to say hello- been thinking I should have  get the boys to run a popsicle or lemonade stand out there.  Anyways, thank you to those who have patiently been waiting on orders- I should be settled in and glazing work by next week. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From the vault: ceramic sculpture 2001

So this is the last bit of old work that was photographed in May by Curtis Hildebrand- ceramic sculptures from my Emily Carr grad.  The last year I was at Art school I decided to let go of functional ceramics to pursue painting and sculpture in a stronger way. 

My paintings at the time were approached very fresh and intuitively- I would make a wack load of canvases, choose about 2-3 colours plus black and white and then would just paint, without a lot of planning.  Over the course of several canvases, ideas would emerge in the form of shape, line, foreground and background, with marks that referenced the process by which I had painted them.  These circular organic shapes were part of this swirl of a thick brush that came back around- the motion of my hand twisting the paint around in a circle.  This circular motion for me became meaningful, eventually working it's way into the concept of connection- the connections between people, of friends, random connections and encounters on the street with people I had known.

With the significance of this idea of connection creating meaning within these abstract paintings, I decided to make these ceramic sculptures that pulled these shapes into the 3 dimensional realm.  Using a wooden template that I had cut out with a skill saw I made these slump molds that fresh slabs of a black clay body were stretched across.  This method creates volume as you flip around the template and create a slab using the other side (put to sides together and you have a pod-like shape).  Instead of using glaze- I left these pods un-glazed but burnished stripes in them, playing with the subtle glossy and matt reflected in the paintings.   For my final grad piece I hung it all on the wall together, playing around with how the paintings were connecting to each other and the sculpture was connecting to the painting.

In that cyclical way ideas come around, these shapes re-emerged in my early dahlhaus work (and then morphed into to the poppy design). 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Before and nearly after...

Ok, I'm not gonna lie.  When I got into the space last week without the previous tenants, I thought to myself- what have I done?  Did I make a huge mistake taking this studio on??? Because, let me tell you, it was pretty grim.  And grimy and gross.  It's been a silver jewelry studio for the past 7-9 years with multiple jewelers and layers of rouge (a polishing compound that gives the cement floor that reddish tone) that hadn't been cleaned up...ever.   The colours made the studio feel dark and dismal even though this studio has tons of natural light. 
Anyways, here is a sneek peak after 1 week (!!) of work- painted top to bottom, left to right, some drywall fixing up, the new floor/baseboards and the door getting painted.  Unbelievable!   A big thank you to my brother-in law and Dean for the painting, Morley and Colin for the floor and baseboards- couldn't have done it without these guys' help.   So this week it's a bit more painting, along with moving in with the big reveal over the next couple of weeks.  Gonna be a great new space for me to call home for a while...

Monday, July 9, 2012

A sad goodbye

It's been a really sad week for our family as we lost our kitty, Amber Tiger, who was hit by a car late last week.  We were all quite attached to Amber, especially Johnny, who is really devastated by what has happened.  There have been some speeding cars up and down our quiet road as of late- she was just crossing the road right in front of our house when it happened (though we didn't see it and the person didn't stop!) but by the time someone came to the door to let me know she was on the road, she was gone.  I am really thankful there was no blood and that the boys were able to help me get her back to the house without there being the trauma of their kitty as road-kill on top of it.  We have cried and feel as though our house is just not the same without her here.  Missing her lots...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recent press!

I kind of fell off the blogging wagon last week (more on this to come) but wanted to start off the week with some photos of recent press!  My Striped Bottle Vases (which are sooo last season ;);), nudge, nudge) keep getting press requests, and what can I say, but that I am happy to oblige.  So here they are in the August issue of Style at Home along with the minty (albeit kind of turquoise to me) trend, and also in The Vancouver Province July 1st newspaper (you can read the article here).

I have to admit that I've been pretty up-front with people (including the reporter from the Province article) trying to dispel the myth that because I have work featured in a magazine or sold through Anthropologie, that I'm not rolling in money, like some may presume.  Perhaps I've been a little too honest about this, however I think it's really important to understand that people who are making handmade for a living probably have chosen this career because they love and are passionate about what they do, not because it's the most viable and lucrative business plan out there (because it's generally not!).  Making from scratch takes time, money, energy, patience, and even some hard-earned talent.

Sometimes I think the Etsy 'quit your day job' series creates the aura that anyone anywhere can quit their day job, stop working for 'the man' and create a hand-made business that can become an overnight success!  There might be Etsy shops out there that have been able to do this but probably at the cost of some integrity along the way.  I think it's important to consider how to build a long-term, viable career as an artist.  This kind of a career starts out really slow and evolves and grows really naturally as work and ideas are being developed.  In the end, this takes a lot of time and effort, which I trade for the satisfaction of knowing I did my best to create something beautiful and functional that can be used and enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cabin fever

I always think that it's good to just hunker down when school ends.  It just feels like too much work to get everything packed up the minute school is over and get off on a big trip somewhere, only to end up in traffic jams and rainy early july weather with cranky tired children.  So we stay home and play cabin at home.  The boys lounge around in pj's, curl up on the couch and watch movies in the afternoons, and then run around outside in between rainy showers.  Have I mentioned that it's been really wet and cold?  Well, it feels like March if you ask me.

This weekend there was a feature in the Vancouver Province on local makers and I was part of the article.  It was cool to see my work work displayed on an entire page of the newspaper!  I'll try to get  a pic of it here, since it's not online anywhere.  Also I picked up a copy of the August issue of Style at Home where my Bermuda Striped Bottle vase was featured amidst all things minty green!

And as for the new studio transformation that is currently taking place- I'll have the dramatic before and after pics when it's all said and done.  Dean and his brother painted the whole studio a fresh clean white slate yesterday- the ceilings and walls and by the window- it all needed to be brightened up.  Next up is the floor and then baseboards before it's ready for me to start in.  It's really fun to think about where I'll put things and how I want the studio to flow and work better.  I also think a change of scenery will do me some good.  Sometimes some new surroundings/things to look at can spark a new lease on creativity.