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Chasing Clay: Iceland June 23 2015

 Above left, Reykjavik from above; right, Kogga ceramics studio in downtown Reykjavik

If you've been following me on instagram, you may know that I was lucky enough to travel to Iceland and Denmark a few weeks ago. This was my first time overseas and it was even more amazing than I imagined. Can I just say briefly that travel is an insane luxury, for both financial and environmental reasons, so I really wanted to make sure I got the most from this trip! No pressure or anything, Scandinavia :) My husband was there with me (we started calling this our long overdue honeymoon) and he was such a good sport, because I managed to find something ceramics related for us to do for ten days out of our thirteen day trip. 

I have always admired Scandinavian ceramics/design. There seems to be a purity of form and reverence for materials in everything they do. On top of that, their ceramics have had a longer history, more time for development and a longer period of national support than the ceramics industry in North America, so I went into this journey with the romantic notion that nordic folks have the clay hustle all figured out. Or perhaps more figured out than we do over here. Reykjavik was my first stop, where I found several beautiful ceramic studios and retail spaces. Kogga (above right) is the home of ceramist Kolbrún Björgólfsdóttir. She has been working and selling from this beautiful location since 1985. 

 

Another gem that was super close to our AirBnB was Stigur, which hosts the work of several artisans. Bjarni Sigurdsson's work really caught my eye. You can see in the photos above, Bjarni uses a diverse range of glazes, layering them on top of each other and fires his pieces several times until he has achieved the desired surface texture. His work, and that of Björgólfsdóttir at Kogga, is inspired by the natural elements and rugged terrain of Iceland.

 

Speaking of terrain...we rented a car for a day so we could drive down to the southern part of the island to see several (hundreds?) amazing waterfalls and the tiny, breathtaking coastal village of Vik. Famous for its black sand beaches and incredible rock formations, Vik was the perfect place to take a picnic (skyr, rye bread with lox...we ate that for days and never got tired of it) and be humbled by nature. I have a few friends who have also been to Vik and everyone comes back saying a similar thing. Basically, that we still aren't sure how to put this magical place into words but it surely leaves its mark on you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's clear how this landscape would be a huge influence on artists that live in Iceland. Sometimes the earth is used directly. Though I wasn't able to visit, a friend mentioned the ceramist Sigríður Erla Guðmundsdóttir of Leir7, who has been using native Icelandic clay since 2007. Thanks for the suggestion Margie! Looks like I already have my excuse to return to Iceland one day.

...to be continued.

 

 


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Thanks, Toronto! City of Craft Wrap Up & Upcoming Spring Shows April 22 2015

The 2015 craft show season kicked off for me last weekend with City of Craft! We had a great turn out and gorgeous spring weather. It was nice to see some familiar faces, both vendors and shoppers, returning for this year's show. It was also the 8th year that City of Craft events have been happening (do I have that right? incredible!) based on the tireless efforts of founding members Becky, Leah and Jen, and of the very sparkly dynamo, Kalpna and volunteer coordinator headmistress, Michelle. Big ups to you guys!

Next up, I'll be in Kanata, just outside of Ottawa, for Handmade Harvest Spring. People have been raving about this high quality show and there are often lineups out the door, so I'm really looking forward to being there as a first time vendor. Hey, Ottawa! Come say hello!

My online shop will be re-opening at the end of this month! New pots are being photographed this week and will be added very soon. I am so excited to debut the new spring items! 

In other news, I am happy to report that I'll be adding a new stockist this spring in my hometown, Port Carling, Muskoka! More details on that to come. After hibernating in the studio all winter, this spring season has already brought some amazing things my way. Here's to dusting off the cobwebs and getting busy!

Cheers,


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Wildness vs. Restraint January 05 2015

 

Slowly but surely, I'm getting to an interesting place with the sculptural work for the mentorship program. Here is a quick "bouquet" I arranged from greenware & bisqued elements (some slip trailed, some hand built). This week I mixed a quick batch of paper clay, using old Laguna Frost casting slip and some paper slurry (water, toilet paper, immersion blender). I've never used paper clay before, but have watched other artists sculpt with it, and I knew it would enable me to build & join the porcelain with more ease. I was definitely able to work the paper clay more aggressively. I treated thin slabs of it like fabric and cut it with scissors to create petals. These are just the first efforts -- blossoms and greenery roughly based off the memory of the plants in the floral nursery where my mom worked when I was young and where I was lucky to spend time every day (our house was right beside the nursery, so essentially I grew up in a flower bed...think 80s bedding plants -- lots of geraniums & petunias). 

 

My second experiment was to create a hybrid of the Laguna Frost casting slip & the paper clay mixture, so I could still draw quickly & gesturally with the bottle of slip, while taking advantage of the strength of the paper clay. This allowed me to make flat components that I could sketch out and then slip together later on & build into three dimensional forms (pods, layers of flower heads). The possibilities of this method are really exciting. I keep veering between wanting to work in a very free and intuitive way, yet all my drawings/concepts are more uptight. When I went back to my sketchbook I saw the words WILDNESS vs. RESTRAINT and yelled, "AHA!" That's my theme, 100%

 

Pictured above is a quick study of what the original elements (just Frost slip, no paper clay added) look like when presented on a bold, painted wall surface (gauche). I'd love to create a whole wall like this, with many porcelain elements integrated onto a wallpapered pattern. Again, wildness vs. restraint.  
Since I have resolved that 2015 is my year of creative & professional development (shouldn't they all be?), alongside the mentorship program, I'm starting an exciting new e-course tomorrow with Molly Hatch & Ben Carter: Think Big! A Branding Series for Ceramic Artists Happy New Year, everyone! What creative goals are you pushing for this year?

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Fusion Mentorship with Linda Sormin December 30 2014

For the past few months, I have been participating in a ceramics mentorship program lead by Linda Sormin, and organized by Fusion. If you ever need a serious kick in the ass when it comes to your studio practice, I highly suggest joining a similar program or group, as it will get you talking about your work, get you out of your head and challenge you to question everything that you make and do. Sounds terrifying, right? In all the right ways. Above, you can see some of the questions we're trying to answer as we approach our work -- which will eventually be exhibited in a group show in September 2015 at Craft Ontario. I've been craving a return to a sculptural/assemblage approach for a long time. When your main focus is functional pots (especially after the holiday show season), you can struggle to itch that part of your brain that wants to make things that are weird, grotesque or just not quite fully resolved. There is incredible freedom in working sculpturally. The thing is, once I realized this I ended up having so many ideas/directions to pursue that I was completely overwhelmed. I struggled to focus.
  

 

To free myself up, I started "drawing" with porcelain slip (above) by using a large squeeze bottle -- making floral patterns and quickly sketching out loose motifs. I have a tendency to remain in my sketchbook for too long, so this was the most direct way I could transition out of it and actually get my hands dirty. I loved how the elements looked all together on the kiln shelf. My first idea was to create a large wall installation of these individual parts (which would cast shadows) and perhaps keep the stark white colour of the slip, while painting the wall behind with bold, colourful patters. As my friend Michelle says, "More is more?" I think the next step for this idea will be to make a miniature version (with all the colour and shadow) so that I can see how it will read on a larger scale.

 

Then, the One of a Kind Show happened and my Creative Brain morphed into my Biz Lady Brain. I reluctantly hit the pause button when I realized I was feeling super restricted and burnt out... the exact opposite of how you want to feel when you're trying to develop new ideas.

 

Cue holiday break!

 

When I picked the work back up again, I wanted to model some more three dimensional forms (see above, third pic from the top): buds, blossoms, soon hopefully some twig-like forms. The bud forms are directly translated from surface designs I use on my functional pots. These bits made the most sense to me once I started arranging them as a group (carefully, as these are still just greenware). I can imagine a larger version based off of this maquette being really interesting -- what I don't yet know is what narratives I can create within these plant forms. One of my goals for this mentorship program was to integrate more of a narrative in my work -- perhaps by using flower symbolism or eastern-European folk symbols (see Phytomorphic Symbols from Pysanky). These are patterns I'm always drawn back to, and have layers and layers of meaning -- how to decode them visually, though? More to think about...
 

 


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All Wrapped Up...with a Bow! December 12 2014

 

We made it!! Thank you to everyone who came out to visit me at the Christmas One of a Kind Show! And to everyone who helped me prepare for this, be it with your generous helping hands or supportive words of encouragement. It was a total whirlwind and I'm not quite yet recovered. More sleep, please! (Soon) Here are a few pics of my booth, with the barn board walls/shelves, antique tables and DIY painted floral mat. I thought it was pretty sweet & homey. A cozy spot to spend 11 days! All I needed was a fireplace... It was great to see so many familiar faces & hear all the positive feedback on my work.

 

This was my fourth time doing this show (over a six year span) and I feel like this year was a turning point. Not necessarily in the way I was expecting, but more of a mental shift both for me, and perhaps for shoppers, too? Many people have asked me about what it's like doing the OOAK. When the holidays are over, I think I will do a follow up post here on the blog to talk more about my experiences.

In the meantime, here are a few pics from friends & fans of their new #potsinthewild! I LOVE seeing my pots in their new homes & being enjoyed. If you have any pics to share, please post them on Instagram and tag them #potsinthewild

    

From left to right: diaryofachefswife, dallascurow, lovefreshdotcom

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!


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Holiday Magic & Madness November 13 2014

We're into the home stretch now...it's almost show time! Are you planning on visiting the One of a Kind Christmas Show this year? It's their 40th year. The hard work that goes into producing a show of this scale is pretty crazy. The organizers and the artisans work year round to create this magical production -- do not miss it! I can't believe I've been making pots for this show since July (said with equal parts excitement and trepidation), and I truly can't wait to show you my new work. Things I am most excited about this Christmas: new espresso cuppas (shown above), little pourers/jugs for cream/milk/maple syrup, stacking "ice cream" bowls (great for anything really, but they do fit the perfect scoop!), redesigned coffee mugs, ornaments (in singles and beautifully packaged gift sets) ...

  

As well as large statement pieces like the bowl above (left) which is one of my favourite pieces I have ever made & serving trays (top right) for holiday entertaining. I love what I do and am really looking forward to launching these new pieces. If you haven't already RSVP's to the OOAK Show, you can do so on their Facebook event page. Okay, time for me to put on another podcast and glaze, glaze, glaze! See you at the show!

 


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Ahoy, Hamilton! October 08 2014

And...we're back!

Welcome to my new home on the Internet! A lot has happened over the past few months. My husband, cat and I uprooted from Toronto and moved a wee bit south-west to Hamilton, Ont. This city is pretty damn remarkable. First off, I am terrible at moving. I get super attached to houses, neighbourhoods, places, and people, so after living in Toronto for eleven years, moving away felt like a sucker-punch to the heart. We moved because we were itching for change and wanted a place to call our own. When we found our house, in the dead of winter, complete with a pottery studio, we knew it was time to make the jump. We have received such a warm welcome from our Hamiltonian friends and new neighbours. This small city with a big heart is charming, gritty, and is the kind of place where you feel like you can actually make an impact. It's not pretentious, is surrounded by the lush, green escarpment, and is already a host to many artists & craftspeople.

I am in the midst of setting up my new studio. Here's a picture of what it looked like this spring. I can't tell you how happy I am to have my very own, dedicated space to make new work. Right now the studio is bursting with pots in all stages of the making process as I prepare for the Christmas One of a Kind Show. As most artists do, I started producing work for this show in the summer, so I'm itching to show you all what's taken shape. Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for product sneak-peeks, discount coupons to the show & giveaways!!
 
Plus, very soon you'll be able to shop directly from this site!

 

Thank you to all the lovely people who have welcomed us to our new city & hi-fives to Miro Wagner for all his help launching this new website!


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