A Life Lived

I got the unexpected and very sad news last week that Jackie Seaton, whom I had the great pleasure of working for many years ago, had died. I new he had been battling multiple myeloma for the past few years, but last I heard, he was in remission, so the news came as quite a shock.

Jackie Seaton

Jackie Seaton

Jackie was a salt potter who worked and lived with his wife Joni, just outside of Perth Ontario. I lived with them for two months in 2003 while I worked as Jackie’s apprentice—throwing, trimming, mixing glazes, loading kilns—to help him get ready for the Perth Autumn Studio Tour.

I was fresh out of art school when I worked for Jackie—more ideas than skills in my toolbox. Jackie taught me so many little details about how to be a good potter… too many for me to list here. But it is no stretch to say that I use the skills he taught me in my own practice daily, and would not be the craftsperson I am today without having met him.

Jackie was also a committed activist and fundraiser, and was instrumental in starting up an Empty Bowls fundraiser in Perth. This now annual event has raised over $15,000 already in 2013 for local food programs; for this event area potters make and donate hundreds of bowls, and local restaurants donate soup, and for a mere $20 you get a bowl (which is yours to keep) filled with delicious soup.

Aside from teaching me some of the physical skills of being a good potter, Jackie taught through example what it meant to be a great Craftsperson (yes I intended to capitalize that!). He showed me the value of creating and fostering a community and the importance of getting involved. And, while it may be a cliché, he really does live on through all the people whose lives he’s touched through his pots… I’ve recently started teaching myself, and just last Thursday (the day he died in fact), I was passing on to my students a few of the invaluable tips he’d taught me.

Life really does come full circle.

For any of you who knew Jackie, the family has asked for donations to be made to Empty Bowls


(Or: mountains, clay, mountains, bourbon, clay, mountains, clay)

I recently took a little jaunt down to Montana—to visit a couple of schools for the great MFA search, check out the clay scene in general, and, of course, see the Archie Bray Institute.

After my 40-hour driving odyssey to get from Ontario to Alberta, the 7 hours from Medicine Hat to Missoula was a comparative breeze; although I must admit, that I wasn’t quite prepared for the massive stretches of landscape where no human habitation was evident… Montana is the 4th largest state in size, but ranks only 44th population wise (its population finally passed 1 million in 2012!).

Needless to say, it is a beautiful place, and, even though I’ve never been a “mountain kinda gal” (more into lakes personally), I can honestly really see myself living there.  I mean seriously, where else can you find such an amazing concentration of incredible ceramic artists/craftspeople/potters within what is essentially a 3-hour radius? Add to that, beautiful scenery, cheap bourbon, and the ability to buy bottles of wine in your local coffee shop, and I’m pretty much sold.

Both the schools I visited (the University of Montana with Julia Galloway, Trey Hill and Beth Lo, and Montana State University with Josh DeWeese and Jeremy Hatch) have great people and programs, so I’m going to have some tough choices ahead…

Here are a few pics from my trip:

1000 Miles Apart

I was up in Calgary last week for the 1000 Miles Apart conference—it’s an annual student run conference, that alternates locations every year between ACAD, Red Deer College, the University of Regina, and the University of Manitoba.

It was great to get out of the studio for a few days, spend some time in the “big city” and meet new people. Although it meant three full days out of the studio, it was totally worth it—it’s amazing how much you learn from watching someone else demonstrate and talk about their work and influences.

The presenters this year were Sean O’ConnellRyan McKerley and Steve Gorman, and I learned something new from each of them—a new technique here, a new tool there, or a new way of thinking about things.

But now the fingernails are getting too long and it’s time to get my hands dirty again!