Monday, December 9, 2013

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy 14: This Weekend!

I've been busy since the Crawl trying to make some new work for the Shiny Fuzzy Muddy show coming up this weekend! The show is a highly curated collection of great makers, artists and designers- some coming from Alberta, but mostly from BC.  I'm really excited to be part of the show!

Saturday, December 14, 11am-9pm
Sunday, December 15, 10am-7pm

Hope to see you there!  Learn more about all the makers involved in the show here!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What does 'handmade' mean to me?
photo and styling credit: Tyler Payne and Francis Chan
Lately I have been reminiscing about my childhood as I often compare it to my own kid's, mostly because I grew up without devices, video games, computers or the internet.  Outside of Saturday morning cartoons on a black and white telly, the most device-oriented entertainment I had in my childhood was the double tape deck I received for Christmas one year that allowed me to play dj and make up my own radio shows.   I did a lot of making as a kid, and my mom, aunts, and grandmas' all gave me hand-made gifts or sewed me dresses to wear for special occasions.  With my family's modest income, handmade was a necessity, not a privilege.  Handmade back in the late 70's/ 80's meant truly 'made by hand from scratch', and conjures up images of funky weaving, rustic pottery, quilts made from old dresses and aprons, baskets, and blue ducks.

Fast-forward to today, where the term 'handmade' is thrown around to add value to an item and ultimately make it more expensive than a mass-produced item.   Handmade terms are added onto items found in big-box stores to add value to items made overseas; words like 'woven', 'hand-blocked', 'hand-loomed', 'hand-crafted' are all used interchangeably.  Etsy has started changing it's policy and definition of what 'handmade' means to their site, adding that sellers can now out-source production and ship from manufacturers both local and abroad as long as they can verify that the original design is their own (see this article for more info).  I see this really changing how 'handmade' is perceived, creating even more confusion to the average person, who is already not quite sure how things are made. 

Over the past few years of being a full-time maker I catch myself judging items I see marked 'handmade' as somehow not quite 'handmade'- depending on if they were made 'from scratch' or whether they were put together with parts manufactured elsewhere.  I realized recently that my judgement wasn't really fair and that ultimately I am searching for what handmade means to me and to what I make.  A few years ago I began to make some of my pieces using slip-casting moulds made from my own designs, making my work look more refined, and less 'handmade'.  A frequent comment at the Crawl this year was how I get things to look so uniform- although most of the time, the comments came when people were holding a wheel-thrown piece of mine.  It's interesting to think through how comments from people at the Crawl kind of sit with me over time.  A few years back it was a comment I over-heard saying that my work was 'a bit too handmade looking' that had me scrutinize my glazing method to really clean up my designs.

I don't want to simply react and make changes within my handmade business solely based on the shifts within the handmade industry, but I can't ignore what is happening to the ever-evolving idea of what handmade means.  It has had me re-think how I want to make in the studio recently and I can't quite say for sure how this will change my work.

Recently I have started working with a couple of new clay bodies.  One is a beautiful but pernickety porcelain that is double the cost of my previous porcelain.  The other is a stoneware tan clay body that has a lot of flecks in it.   I have spent more time on the wheel and hand-building (like the porcelain herringbone platters above), attempting to get back into a rhythm that could perhaps allow me to make more of my mugs on the wheel again.  I've changed some of my glazing methods with some simpler glaze designs that loosen up my work in the glazing department.  I think there is a shift I'm working towards within my work, and I'm not sure what will become of it.   I started painting again and that feels really good.  It's informing my ceramics in a different way so I'm pretty excited to see where that can take me.

I think at the core of handmade is the notion that the hand of the maker creates an intrinsic value in what her or she creates.  Maybe that's thinking too highly of one's ability to make or the skill or craftsmanship of an object, but I think the story of handmade goes so much further when it comes from the hand, because it's closer to the heart.  As I see other makers move into becoming designers and there-by removing themselves from some of the making process, I wonder whether this is a direction I should be planning to take myself.  Then I get lost in throwing a bowl or hand-building a platter with my hands full of clay and somehow I want to re-discover the handmade spirit that got me started on this path in the first place.

I'm curious to hear what you think about some of the changes that are happening with Etsy, or with makers turning more into designers and outsourcing production.  I think the viability of a handmade business creates bottom lines for people who ultimately need to find ways to make their work more profitable.  Clearly there is no right or wrong, just a ton of different paths and options of ways to grow or sustain one's work.  I think those of us who are studio makers and full-time at it are constantly wondering how to make it a little easier financially or easier with making/production time. I welcome the notion that 'handmade' isn't going to mean the same thing to everything, however at this moment I feel like a truly handmade mode of making still resonates with me and my work. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Eastside Culture Crawl, November 15-17

Get your culture on Vancouver! It's the Eastside Culture Crawl- where 300+ makers, artists and designers open their studio doors to the public for the weekend of November 15-17.  Please come and support a local economy of makers, be amazed and inspired by the talent we have in this city, and get a glimpse into some of the amazing creative spaces Vancouver has to offer!!

Friday, November 15, 5-10pm
Saturday & Sunday, November 16 & 17, 11am-6pm

dahlhaus studio
965 Vernon Drive
The Mergatroid Building

Featuring new work, with a special 10% off price especially for Crawl visitors!
Also there will be a seconds or sale table with 50% off items!

If you have any questions, please email me at!

photo and styling by Tyler Payne  & Francis Chan

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Herringbone Dip Trays for Fall

You might have seen my sneak peeks of these herringbone trays on my Instagram feed or Fb page  over the summer.  Recently when I dropped off work at one of my local galleries, one of the staff asked whether I had any of the herringbone trays in my box.  Well, I'm kind of slow when it comes to new work.  Slowly but surely I sort out how I'm going to make multiples of a new design.  I like to make sure I have the right clay for the job (I chose the most white, and luxurious porcelain for these plates), the right glazes and the right pattern combination to bring it all together.  I try to sort out all the trouble shooting I can (porcelain can be so pernickety).  So these trays are kind are the beginning of what I hope will be more to come.  I currently have another slab mould drying out for a smaller/deeper rectangle version of these trays (they will look so sweet together!).  I have been making more of my pattern templates, based on other designs that I usually use as glaze patterns.  I've been mixing some new glazes to add (because we all know I love colour!)  Everything in ceramics takes a little time. 

I've been envisioning these as a great lunch or breakfast plate, the perfect collection of plates for a party (because they stack so well), or a luxury catch all for jewelry on one's dresser.  They can now be purchased here!  More to come soon!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Back Alley Evening Stroll: East Van

It's a really pretty time of year.  There are tons of leaves changing colours and each street in our new neighbourhood seems to be lined with a different kind of tree.  I'm waiting for the street next to us to change into bright red maple colours, while our Oak lined street is turning to brown leaves with acorns falling all over the place.  It makes me a little nervous on the street lined with chestnut trees, these huge clod-hopper chestnuts falling at random. 

Hope you are having a great fall- I'll be back with more news over the next few weeks!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Support a great cause! Creamers on Kickstarter!

HD videoeditFINALUpload from Hilary Moses on Vimeo.

September has really flown by and I'm finishing up a number of really great shop orders, a wedding registry and starting to think about my holiday shows!

In the meantime, I wanted to post about a really special project I'm helping support!  You might remember my friend Hilary Moses, a Vancouver animator who is creating a short animation about a woman who paints creamers all day.  I made some mugs as a perk for her last campaign- this helped her get almost finished a large chunk of her animation short.  She is almost finished her animation, which has been about 10 years in the making! The last of the leg work needs to be completed (including sound). Her kickstarter campaign is 75% complete and with 9 days to go, she is so close! Please consider helping her out and you could receive a custom 'Creamers' Mug handmade by me as a perk.  And get a sneak peek into my studio when she visited this past July in the video!

Monday, September 2, 2013

So long summer

The best of summer is slipping away and we are gearing up for the start of a new school year.  I am back in the studio this week with so many exciting projects in the works, but which are all hush hush for now.  In the meantime, I thought I'd say 'hello' after a long break from the blog! Anyone still reading this thing?? Hope you are well :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Shop Shout-outs!

You can now find a great selection of my stripe, herringbone and triangle bottle vases at 2 new shops! 
Please check out the brand new Cambie Design at 1535A Queen St. W, in Toronto!  Their grand opening this Saturday, August 17th, sounds like fun with popsicles, a lemonade stand, and lots to ooh and ahh over in the home decor department!  I love how they have paired my bottle vases with a vintage cabinet, and I spy a little more Vancouver ceramic love with Fleet Objects' Mariner Lamp in the foreground! 

This week I shipped off an order to Finely Crafted Store in Atlanta!  With such a lovely mix of other indie makers and designers, I think my stripe and triangle vases will be in good company! I'll share a little bit more once they arrive in store!

And with that, I'm off for a little last bit of summer vacation before the boys go back to school!  It's been a great summer in our new home and I think we've finally settled in.  My commute to the studio just got more enjoyable with the purchase of a new city bike!  Check out the latest meanderings, (and sneak peeks of work to come soon) on my instagram feed

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shop Up-date and a SALE!

My shop has a fresh new look along with some new photos from the mini-photography session I had with Vancouver Photographer Byron Dauncey last week!  I have been working on new vase forms and new designs off and on all spring, and was hoping to do a complete website over-haul along with a formal photography shoot and road-blocks just kept coming up with the timing on it all.  So I'm happy to report that there is always a way out of every timing mess- a mini-shoot, a new webshop design (courtesy of BigCartel) and it's all looking pretty good for the summer, if you ask me!

Please head over and check out the new work!  I keep seeing such lovely bouquets at farmer's markets or just on my walks in people's gardens so I'm offering a 15% discount on all the vases in my shop from now until August 15th!  Please use the code SummerSale for the discount- all the vases listed are ready to ship, with many of them being one-of-a-kind and in limited quantities!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

in the new place, on the other side

It's amazing how much energy and mental space moving can take.  But here we are, moved in, getting things set up, on the other side of the bridge, kind of where we started, actually.  The home Dean and I lived in before we had kids, happens to be on the same street, ironically.  It's a funny feeling to be back in the same neighbourhood, but 11+ years later.  For us, it feels like we are coming back home, for our boys, they are feeling a little displaced, like their little world is opening up and they aren't sure where they belong.  I am slowing down a bit in the studio this summer to get them settled and hopefully by the fall, as they enter a new school, we will have found a few friends in the neighbourhood and it will start to feel like home. 

It has been an incredibly busy spring for me in the studio and I'm thankful that I was able to wrap up all my outstanding orders just as we were moving into our new place (ie, last week!).  I have some new work that I'm hoping to launch in the fall, along with a website re-design, so things are busy, but not crazy.  It has felt like a crazy few months, trying to sort out where to live, thinking about what I do and whether it is sustainable for my family in the city, and doing a bit of soul searching to understand what I want to do next.  I see some makers getting really burned out with production pottery and it made me realize I need to make some changes in how I make work so that making continues to be a joy and not a burden. 

So hopefully I'll get back to blogging a bit more often, taking photos again instead of just instagram (do follow me though if you like ;), doing some more painting (I have a new series on the go!!) and making some new pots.  Sometimes starting in a new place feels really good, like you have a blank slate to work with once again.  The furniture is still the same but the setting is different. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A bit of new!

Well I ended up making a lot of custom work over the past month or so and, as with custom, making extras is the key! Now that the orders are almost all off and on their way, I have some of the extra pieces I'll be posting in my Etsy shop as I seem to have gotten some positive feedback on the new shades and styles of vases I have been working on. 

I recently had a short turn-around request for a large order with a design firm for a show home with some of my new vases in my classic glazed stripes.  They asked if I would be able to create a custom yellow glaze for the design and sent me a swatch of fabric they were trying to match.  As luck would have it, the yellow stain I thought would be perfect for the fabric swatch was no longer available so I mixed 3 different stains and then glazed blind the order (with extras) for this new harvest yellow glaze, crossing my fingers it would turn out ok! I really like the new shade- it's got a wonderful golden glow to the yellow that I think I'll keep as part of my regular work for a while. 

Speaking of new, I am starting to really get the hang of my newest slip-cast glaze designs- the round cylinder 9" and 12.5" vases that you see above!  Over the past few years, I have been wheel-throwing my cylinder vases and was having trouble getting my grey glaze to fit the wheel-throwing clay body I have been using.  Lots of bubbles and blisters in the throwing body, silky smooth in the porcelain slip-casting body.  I also find it hard to sit at the wheel for long periods of time- I like to throw multiple shapes in one sitting, not just the same thing over and over.  So when I start dreading throwing, then I start planning how to make the design into a mould.

I currently have only 1 master-mould of each and they are not easy to cast, but I'm slowly figuring it out.  This big grey striped vase, along with 3 others that went to the show home, was the first of the big vases that actually turned out and didn't warp (longer casting time + very little handling when pulling the piece out of the mould = no warping :).  So I'm very excited about the new size and am looking forward to getting a few more of these finished in different colours.  These are real statement pieces- they really hold some presence and look great in a grouping!  

Lastly I have some new wheel-thrown vase designs I have been working on.  It has been nice to try out new forms and play with the herringbone pattern or colour dip pattern on them! These are ooak vases and perhaps at some point I would make a mould of them, but for now, I am enjoying the variety of them.  Slip-casting some of my work frees me up to explore new forms on the wheel and also new glazing designs, so there have been some big advantages for me to move into that direction, especially with vases.  On the other hand, I have spent the week on the wheel, throwing teapots and bowls, and I would never dream of slip-casting those pieces.  It's nice to still see the throwing lines in a bowl or on the inside of a teapot and I still cherish making these items in this way.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

finding a new home

To say that finding a new place to live has been challenging is a bit of an understatement.  Vancouver is a city where the high cost of real estate creates a seriously competitive rental market at high rental costs.  Needless to say, it's gotten worse then the last time we were looking for a place to rent, which was 7 years ago.  The price for what we currently have been renting is about $1000 more and now we were looking for a bit more space.  Since our current home has been for sale, the deadline that I originally had requested for us to be able to stay until the end of the school year had been closing in on us.  It was high time we finally found a new place to live.

So I'm happy to report that the long search is over!  We found a place this past weekend in East Vancouver close to the PNE that's a little similar to our current situation.  We will be renting the main and top floor of a house with the landlady having stuff in the basement suite but not really living there.  The square footage is bigger then our place, but still has 3 bedrooms.  We won't have the yard or view we have had, but there is a great back patio and a cute front porch, with really friendly neighbours and big beautiful oak trees lining the streets.  I can boast about the high ceilings, nice mouldings with a couple of beautiful windows, 1.5 bathrooms (that's up .5 from now!),  and a huge dining room.  There are also lots of parks nearby for the boys, and it's a closer commute to the studio, so at this point, I'm overlooking the really old terrible carpet (over hardwood???) and nasty peel-n-stick laminate that really never should have happened in a heritage home like this.  We don't move in until June 15 and I'm already scheming a way to cover over some of the backsplash or sub-in light fixtures. 

The decision to rent again was a tough one.  We are easily paying rent that's equivalent to monthly mortgage payments.  I recently read the book Rent vs. Own by Jane Hodges, which takes into consideration a lot of the rise and falls of the real estate market in the US.  I really appreciated her honest approach to what the true cost of owning is.  The average person usually can't afford to buy where they really want to live, so they opt for longer commutes and less desirable neighbourhoods or housing in order to buy a place.  While ideally owning a home is an investment, the recent housing market crashes have shown us that it's only an investment if you are able to buy low and sell high- which really only happens when a person is able to hold onto a property for an extended period of time, riding the waves of the high and low markets.  Of course there are a wack of other considerations to make, but all in all, Dean and I felt like we weren't ready to move away in order to afford to buy place that suited our family's needs quite yet.  We felt like we needed a couple more years here in the city to sort through what that move would look like for us in the future. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I took my camera for a walk

I must admit that having my camera with me has become much too infrequent of late.  The i-phone is just too easy to use sometimes and I have often neglected taking real photos.  Yesterday night we all went for a walk, the boys brought along a neighbour friend to play soccer with and I walked around taking pictures.  The kitty at the bottom belongs to a neighbour and made me miss our little Amber. Doesn't she look like little A? Hmm, almost time for another kitty.  Anyways, it felt really good to be creative with something other then ceramics!

It's been an extremely busy few months for me, filling a number of larger and diverse orders for shops and galleries.  I'm thankful to have shipped off the last order for spring, just as I head out to Winnipeg tomorrow to visit a dear friend, some family, and stop by the Woodlands Gallery for a meet & greet the artist.  I grew up in Winnipeg until I was 14 and went back to visit often until I spent 1 year going to college/Uni when I was 19.  It was a place I called 'home' throughout my teens because we had moved for reasons that weren't my own.  I wrote countless letters to friends, trying to keep in touch despite moving quite far away.  It's kind of amazing to still be in touch with many of my elementary school friends via Facebook these days.  I'm looking forward to doing some good catching up over the next few days, celebrating my bff's birthday and connecting with some family too.  It will be a much needed break from the studio and probably a good walk down memory lane too;)!