Monday, January 31, 2011

Back in stock!

Hello!  I have mostly up-loaded and re-stocked my web shop and Etsy shop with some lovely pottery that came out of the kiln on friday!   It's always a relief when the first firing of the season turns out well and all the orders I was completing can happily go on their way to new homes.  I made some extras which are slowly making their way into my shops.  In the meantime, the boys are home from school today and we are enjoying the sunshine! and a lovely visit from our little Oliver and my sister!  Hope you have a great monday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Have a 'swingin' weekend

Sasha swinging in the sunshine in January!
I know I promised a shop up-date, but it will have to wait for monday.  The kiln needed extra time to cool down and I've got a busy weekend planned with visits and friends and fun.  While he's away, a girl must play:)
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Painting preview: Green Train Tower

I promised a little sneak peek at some of the paintings I was working on last week.  As a little preface, my current paintings deal with architecture and landscape as they pertain to memory and a sense of connection to a place.  I'm also interested in the concept of 'building' a painting's composition using the language of architecture.  Usually I find/remember a particular building, be it one I pass daily or one I've seen in my travels, and I decide to paint it.  I may use a photograph as a rough guide, but most often, I don't- I use my memory of the building to guide me along in the painting.  Thus, the final painting is a 'familiar' place that is both real and imagined.
The one above is my 'Green Train Tower' painting (about 80% finished), inspired by the train tower in the photo above that I see on my way over the bridge towards North Vancouver from the studio.  Most people driving over the bridge are too busy making sure they don't rear-end the person in front of them.  That or they are checking out the Upper Levels Hwy to make sure the traffic isn't too bad.  Me, I'm usually sneaking glances at the train tower and wondering what it looks like inside.  I also quite like the shape of it- rounded on one side, squared off on the other.  I'm slowly working on the background and haven't quite decided what kind of day I'm going to stick with.  A typical rainy day or foggy...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First signs...

I know that signs of Spring in January can be misleading.  But it does warm my heart to see the first blooms this past weekend around the neighbourhood as I was taking the boys for a walk on Sunday.  A little sun, some signs of buds and shoots coming out of the ground was oh so good for the soul.  And then the rain and dark came back with a bang, reminding me that, no, winter is not quite finished here yet. 
The next couple of weeks are a little busy in the 'life' department.  Dean is away for about 4-5 days, the boys have a day off school, I'm having lunch with a new friend, hoping to catch up with an 'old' friend (you know, the kind you've known for 20 years +), and having a 'good-bye' coffee with a crafter/ blogger who is moving to the other side of the world! I may even be able to squeeze in a visit with my sister and parents while I'm at it.  Mixed in with my glaze firing this week, things might be a little slim pickin's around here.   I will be up-dating my online shops by the end of the week, though, in case you might be interested in purchasing something for that special someone in your life in time for Valentines Day. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cup give-a-way goes to...

Thanks to everyone who posted on my cup give-a-way!  I added everyone up and there were a couple of repeat comments so it ended up being 53 comments to work from, which means the winner is Anne Magee! So congratulations Anne, please email me at to let me know which design you would prefer so I can glaze a cup for you over the next couple of days and have it ready to ship out to you by the end of the week! 
Thank you all again for coming by my blog- it's been really good to read some of the feed-back with recent posts I've put out there!  I appreciate the dialogues, suggestions and reminders of what this blog is about for me and value all of you for stopping by! 
Now I'm off to pick up the boys from a play-date, make them supper, work on homework with them and hopefully put my feet up after a long day at the studio! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday reflections

It's another rainy, gray and dark friday and I'm heading to the studio to fill my world with colour!  I've been spending this week painting (!!crazy!! I know) while my pots from last week were drying out and heading into the bisque kiln.  I had a meeting early in the week with an interior designer and potential client who came to look at paintings (but ended up buying pottery) and I realized how many paintings I have that are 'half finished'.  It feels kind of good to start the year off completing ideas rather than always starting ideas, so that's what I've focused on this week.  I'll try to post some of my new paintings this coming week.

Just a couple of links and reminders:
The lovely Lisa O and her amazing painting series called 'Klein'.  I see she has some new paintings on her shop worth having a look at- LOVE the red ones, personally!

Don't forget about my give-a-way and thank you to those who commented with such encouraging remarks! I will announce the winner on monday (it will be a random draw of some sort...too hard to pick one person!)

I'm now on Pinterest, just got started and am trying to get the hang of it all.

There's been some very honest talk from other bloggers/makers out there about the direction of their blogs (phew, it's not just me!).  This post (with some really insightful comments!) is from the long thread- my go-to blog for crafts and projects to do with the boys. I think there's been such an over-saturation of blogs out there these days and people are either losing interest or just looking for the very best blogs to connect to. As someone with a pretty small and intimate kind of blog it is interesting to think of larger, more established blogs questioning their place in the blogesphere.  Should be an interesting couple of years ahead to see whether some of these blogs forge ahead...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the difference between: wheel-throwing verses slip-casting

So I have a 'confession' to make.  It's the kind of dilemma that's been running through my head since I first embarked on making ceramics full-time.  It's the whole wheel-thrown verses slip-casting debate.  It's a discussion I've had with numerous ceramic people and I thought I would bring it up on my blog. To get started, my mugs in question.  The two images, one slip-cast, one wheel-thrown.  Photographed at different times so the lighting in one is darker than the lighting in the other.  Although the clay is slightly different so my glazes are a little brighter on the porcelain than 'porcelaineous' clay body.  You be the judge- is one 'better' than the other?  Can you tell the difference in how they were made?

About 2 years ago now I embarked on my first slip-cast project.  I had a wheel-thrown and altered bottle vase form that I wanted to make multiples of.  The drying time on this form, being altered with a new bottom being put on to oval it off, was taking way too long and I really wanted a 'blank canvas' to put glaze designs on.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to look into making a mold out of it.  So I got in touch with Russell Hackney, a master mold-maker who's worked on making prototypes of intricate clocks for the Queen, no less.  It was a pricey venture to get it the master and molds made, but I didn't want to fuss with my own lack of skill in the mold-making category- I wanted to put my best foot forward and come out with a near exact replica of my original design. 

In 2010 I decided, after much deliberation and months and months of sitting down with each little wedged 1 lb ball of clay, making hundreds of mugs with the same 2 basic forms, not ever quite keeping up with my orders because I didn't have time to make other things, to make my 2 mug designs into molds.  This was the hardest decision for me yet.  I really love looking inside a wheel-thrown mug and seeing throwing lines on the inside.  My outsides are pretty void of throwing lines because I use a rib to smooth them out since my glazing method works a lot easier if I have a smooth surface, so the outsides would generally be the same.  But the insides would be, different.  Perhaps a little too manufactured.  Regardless, I needed a break.  I was beginning to dread making mugs all the time. My body was telling me it needed a break from throwing, and my head was saying it didn't make financial sense for me to wheel-throw each and every piece that I make.  So I took the plunge and made my mug designs into a mold and have been slip-casting them since last spring.  Just the tall mugs, not the little latte mugs, or my cups, or my bowls, or my platters, or my teapots, or my espresso cups, or my plates.  
Now slip-casting itself was no small leap for me to make.  I had to find a good slip recipe and mix slip by hand (measure out dry materials, sieve it, mix with a drill mixer for 2 hours, allow for air bubbles to settle for a few days before mixing for another hour).  The trial and error of this process ruined a lot of work before I started to see results.  The molds themselves are not a cheap investment to make.  And I still pour them, pull them out of the mold, clean up the seams, put handles on them before they can be bisqued and glazed by hand.  But the big advantage is the drying time.  They don't need take nearly as long to dry out as wheel-thrown work does.  And they are all the same size so if someone orders multiples or comes back for a second mug, it will be the same size.  The handles always feel great and are big enough for different hands to hold it.  The whole process has freed up some of my time to work on new designs and new glazing patterns.  In the end I feel like it was the right decision to make, but sometimes with a twinge of guilt.  I know there are some amazing ceramic artists out there who make their work exclusively with molds.  I also know die-hard wheel-throwers/hand-builders that wouldn't touch a mold and put down the process as being too 'manufactured'.  In general the work I see coming out of undergraduate schools these days is all slip-cast.  Generally people don't seem to have the time to invest in throwing on the wheel to make a form they have in their head, so they become mold-makers and slip-cast.  And in the world of design, it's a widely accepted practice.  But I still sense a stigma attached to slip-casting as though it's a cop-out, or easier somehow than wheel-throwing. 
In the studio the other day, putting on handles...
So I'm curious what your impressions of slip-casting are.  Do you place value on slip-casting verses wheel-throwing?  If you make ceramics, have you tried both wheel-throwing or slip-casting and do you choose one over the other? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kiss those winter-blues away cup give-a-way!

Well, it certainly is January! Grey, rainy, and dark, I tend to feel pretty un-inspired when January hits, despite all the ambitious list-making and goal-setting.  Nothing like a few orders that need to get finished to get me back in the studio though, and while I'm at it, why not a give-a-way, just for fun!  I have some lovely cups on the way.  They are sitting on the shelf, drying out and waiting to be put in the kiln this weekend.  I will be spending the better part of next week glazing my pots and thought I would grant the choice of one my lovely designs for a lucky blog reader, to thank you for spending time with me here at my 'think-tank' of sorts!
You know, there is nothing like holding a hand-made cup in one's hand.  Wheel-thrown and glazed with all the love I can manage, these cups are perfect for cold and hot beverages alike!  Each one is slightly different, some a little taller, some a little shorter.  They all hold around 12 oz, which, if you like your coffee nice and strong with a little milk like I do, is perfect for a morning kick-start.
So there you have it.  Please do comment below (one per person thx) and I'll choose a lucky recipient on Monday the 24th.  I'll have more cups in the shop by later next week so stay tuned for my shop up-date!
****comments closed, thanks****

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A studio visit: Lisa Ochowycz

One of the big advantages to being part of a building full of artist studios is that you meet the most amazing artists who soon become good friends.  Lisa Ochowycz happens to be one of those people, a great painter, passionate about her work, super inspiring to talk to with an immediate connection that I find so warm and welcoming.  So we've had some lovely studio chats over the past couple of weeks. Mostly chatting about our work, our struggles, giving each other feed-back and ideas that can help.  There's nothing quite like a visit like that to get the year started.
Lisa spent the fall working on a series that she calls 'klein, small, little' and she recently launched an online shop to feature and sell this series of work.  It's amazing work, very evocative and emotional, at the same time, minimal and abstract.  And affordable.  Really, a great combination for someone looking to start an original art collection and not break the bank doing it.
I happen to love Lisa's studio (a wee bit of studio envy on my part, just a tad).  It's kind of a loft studio with these lovely little windows and a skylight that look out over the city.  It's the windows I love, these little glimpses of what is happening from above.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A collection of violin parts

Every now and then I open something that I haven't opened in a while, finding something that I a) forgot was there, b) forgot I had or c) didn't know I had.  This is what happened to me the other day when I was trying to decide which violin (I have 2; one from my grandpa and one from Dean's) to bring over to Hamish's studio for the recording session we did.  I discovered these little treasures, like the little red striped box that some old rosin and the blue box containing the tuner, that I didn't know I had. The violin from my grandfather came with the inlaid tailpiece that unfortunately broke along the way, and an old bridge.  It's kind of a lovely little collection and when I put it all together it reminded me of Lisa Congdon's A Collection a Day, 2010 blog which is now a book project with Uppercase.  I think I might just have to add that book to a growing wish-list for the new year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A pinwheel of sorts

I don't know about you, but I could use a good dose of colour and light!  Jan over at Poppytalk is hosting her famous Flickr Colour Week next week!  (How do you like the pinwheel pencil one of my boys made?;)

Thank you to everyone who stopped by this week to comment on some of my ramblings and my artist statement too.  I've got a few things in the works for next week here including a give-a-way (it's about time!) and another studio visit, so please do come on back!  Have a great weekend!

Some lovely links (please do check them out- they are well worth the look!):

A new to me blog (thanks Sarah!) and new to me artist that's super inspiring!
My new glasses and the mystery behind why the photo has all those views after being on Flickr for a couple of days...(where are all these views coming from???)
What is your most treasured ceramic object in your home
My new favourite Etsy shop for vintage mid-century modern ceramics!! Seriously...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing an Artist Statement

I'm currently working on up-dating my artist statement and thought I'd share bits of it here.  I like to write artist statements, although I don't do so nearly as often as I should.  It's a process that articulates the whys and the hows of what you do- what's really at the core or center of a person's work.  

 Anyways, here's the intro and part of the body of my statement so far:

"The practice of making ceramics is truly that, practice.  I grew up with the phrase ‘Practice makes
perfect’, and as everyone knows, making the ‘perfect’ pot in ceramics is an extremely subjective
quest.  Thus, within my current practice, I strive to make pots that ‘sing in harmony’ in form,
function and design. 

I have always blended my painting practice with my ceramics practice.  There are elements from
within my architectural and abstract paintings that make their way to my pottery in the form of
minimal lines, stems and abstract floral shapes.  Simple and stylized, my method of glazing 
informs my ceramics significantly.  Simple wheel-thrown and slip-cast forms become the blank
canvas for my hand-cut stencil design that I place on each pot before glazing the background
of my pots.  Wax resist provides a method of shielding my background glaze from over-lapping
the foreground shapes.  Multiple glazes that work together in colour-scheme and as a pattern
sit side-by-side and can be single fired to cone 6.  As with all practices, knowledge of materials
and processes often become part of the fabric of the final pot. " (c. 2011)

So that's more or less the start of it.  The next paragraph will be about imagery and influence, and hopefully that will round out the process-heavy paragraph that perhaps over-simplifies the concept of my work.  I think in ceramics that it's hard to get away from process being part of concept.  The process is what decides much of what the outcome might be.  And for functional work, the inherent function of the work simplifies the 'why' part.  
Feedback anyone?   The artist statement I'm writing is kind of a general one for submissions to shows and galleries.  A jury's knowledge of the craft is generally quite high, but I don't want to make the statement sound overly academic.  Because that's not really where my work is at.  Would love to hear your thoughts...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Putting it Together

Now that the house is back to normal, I took some time to display some of the lovely things that I've acquired and collected over the past little bit.  The first being Paige Russell's RVee- which I love!  A potential holder of all sorts of things.  Paige is pretty rad and agreed to do a trade with me just in time for Christmas.  I received a couple of her Muzo Collectibles and they looked v. cute indeed on our mantle with all our other decorations.  Paige continues to inspire me on her facebook page and blog.  She truly is a renaissance woman with all sorts of hidden talents! 
The little cat tile by Kevin Stafford I got at the Stoneware Gallery in Winnipeg a few years ago. I just re-discovered his work again after having lost the business card/artist statement that came with the tile when I bought it.  His tiles are like little paintings on clay in matt glazes.  So lovely! I think I'm going to have to pick up one of the fence tiles on my next trip to the Peg.
And my new planter with grey to pink geometric lines that's inspired by my architectural paintings.  I'm pretty excited to see where this series takes me this year.  As for planters- to make a hole or not make a hole for drainage. That is the question. Then I need a plate.  And the hole will definitely mess with my glazing...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting back to the Music

There was a time when I was taking music lessons in Piano, Violin, playing clarinet in the school band, and singing in a choir.  My practicing schedule started at 6 am, before taking the city bus to an early band practice at 8 am, with more practicing that happened after school.  Needless to say, music has always been a big part of my life. 
Which is why I've been missing it lately.  And why I'm really excited to be doing some recording with a local musician the Hermit, aka Hamish Thomson.  After a studio visit and a listen (great ambient music btw), I was curiously asking about all the amazing instruments Hamish has at his disposal.  I loved his response to 'Where did you find this?'- "It found me."!  Anyways, stay tuned... I'll be sure to let you know when this album comes out and we'll see if you can pick out my violin in one of the songs by that time:)
Incidentally Hamish is the drummer for Ten Suns and Big Tall Garden, both bands are great to see live!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Wisps

Finding beauty in a sea of brown and gray twigs and branches during the dark, wet winters can sometimes be tough.  It finally stopped raining in time for the weekend so we took the boys on lots of walks, with me bringing along my camera for a nice change.  It's amazing what you find when you look for it- these feathery seed pods for example.  So delicate and lovely! Yet something you would totally miss because they are so small. 
I've been really introspective over the past few weeks.  Mulling over how 2010 went. Brooding over how this year is going to get planned out. Trying to decide which shows to apply for while I go through my year-end accounting and make my 2011 wholesale line sheet for new shops and galleries.  All the while, I'm slowly making my way back to the studio and trying to start the whole process of making once again.  Getting back in the groove after a crazy busy show season is a real challenge.  I'm trying to look for the beauty though.  The wisps of lovely things that are coming my way.  The amazing artists and makers I've been having time to meet with and talk with.  Some of who I am excited to share with you here on my blog... all in good time. 
Hope you have a great start to your week!  H.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Morning coffee & blog thoughts...

I don't know about you, but I've decided I pretty much need my morning coffee to kick-start my day.  It's just not the same without it.  And thankfully Dean makes smokin' little cappuccinos in my lovely cups so I'm not running down to the coffee shop every day.  Since that would probably turn my occasional treat into a costly little habit.
Anyways, here I am, with coffee in hand, trying to think about how I'd like the year to go.  What I'm going to work towards and what I'd like it all to be about.  First up: my blog.
I started this blog as a way to track my process and my journey towards being a ceramic artist and a painter.  It was more of a dialogue that I was having with myself than with anyone else, because I really didn't have a lot of followers at the time and not a lot of people knew about my work or knew who I was.  I thought that this would be a good place for those curious to come by and find out a little bit about me.  And I think this has all happened rather well.
Some things that I've learned about myself when it comes to blogging is that I sort of care that someone reads this, and I sort of don't.  Let's just say that it absolutely makes my day to have someone comment on something I've blogged about.  And yet if no one comments or my stats are lower, I'll still keep blogging.  I think this is a healthy attitude to have, and yet, sometimes I wonder what would make this place a better place to visit.  Or I wonder what it would take to have more people feel like they can comment.  Or that the conversation feels a little one-sided on my part and I've gotten a little tired of talking to myself.
So I feel like my blog is at a cross-road.  There are some great paths that it could take, or it could just keep going like I've been going along.  But somehow I am hoping to challenge myself into making it better.  And in the process, have the motivation and the inspiration to keep it going.
I'd love your thoughts- do you have a blog? What is your motivation to keep writing it?
Thanks to those who have already taken advantage of my 'sale'.  The studio is back in order, with clay ready to go for this new year!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sale on Etsy

As anyone who has ever worked in clay will know, the ceramic process is fraught with possible disasters along the journey it makes from being a malleable substance to a solid, water-tight, functional object of beauty.  For all the slightest little things that have gone 'wrong', I have a few lingering pots left from this past season on my Etsy shop with big savings.  Some of these pots are technically fine, but are ideas that I still need to tweak in the design department for next time (ie they are one of a kind!). And some of my pots have one or 2 small faults, purely surface or cosmetic, certainly not worth throwing in the garbage bin over, but perhaps someone out there is willing to live and love these pots with all the love and care that I still put into them.  I still have a few more to put up in my shop today so check back often!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello 2011!

Why hello there 2011!  Here I am, ready (or not?!) to see what this year has in store for me, my little family, and my little business.  The boys are back to school tomorrow and I'm heading back to the studio to clean up and start fresh for a new year!  It feels great to start fresh, although as I'm writing this, I realize that I hardly have a box of clay left over from last year, so I will truly be starting from scratch, ie, driving out to the pottery supply store to pick up clay and supplies for the next few months.

I still have to come up with a plan for the year.  I feel slightly lost without a plan, like I'll be making work, willy-nilly.  I have some goals in my head, some shows I'd like to do, shops I'd like to invest my energy, but still need to finalize how to make it all work out, considering my family's schedule and what is feasibly possible for me to manage this year.  I have high hopes this year to be a little more organized, a little more prepared, and a little less stressed out at the end of the day.  I'm also hoping to be a little more deliberate about my blog here.  Figure out what I hope to accomplish with my blog, what kind of a story I'd like to tell.  Perhaps it's fine the way it is, me just posting 3-5 days a week about what I've been making or what's been happening for me.  But that's something I'd like to sort out over the next couple of weeks here- so don't mind me while I figure things out a little.  And while I find the battery charger for my camera, which has been missing since just before Christmas.  Perhaps when I pack up the tree ('cause we only put it up a little late this year and I might just keep it up for a few more days...) I'll find in among the Christmas boxes.  Perhaps it's in the car.  Or at my in-laws.  So much for being organized and prepared...