It’s hard to say what the highlights were for me at NCECA this year, as everything about it was great. From the shows, to the talks, to the demos, and all the great people I met, not to mention the great food and general good times that Milwaukee had to offer, it was a fantastic experience, and it’s going to take me a while to process it all.
Luckily I came home with some new tools to help bring my new ideas to fruition…
I’m a sucker for new tools, and the resource hall at NCECA always obliges!
For the past several years, my only New Years Resolution has been to floss more. Not really earth shattering I know, but on the other hand, I tend to be able to actually keep it. However this year, I’ve decided to throw another one into the mix: use my own pots.
Maybe it’s that I’m always eager to sell my work and so don’t often keep any of it for myself, but I rarely ever use my own pots. Seeing as my artist statement is all about how I want to make pots that bring joy to people’s daily lives, I figured I had better start actually using some of them to see how they hold up. Plus, there are few things worse as a maker than making a beautiful pot, only to discover upon actually using it, that it just doesn’t work very well.
So, here’s to actually using my work, and hopefully learning a bit about it in the process.
Mug at work
Happy New Year all!
I’ve never been one for horoscopes, but I’m hoping that my 2014 one from astrology.com is right:
“To say that 2014 promises to go down as a career year for you to remember is no exaggeration, Capricorn. You’ve been working your tail off the past few years with Pluto and Saturn pushing you past any remaining comfort zones — and the rewards are just beginning to peak. Plus, with Mars pushing you hard for the entire first half of 2014, there’ll be no rest for the weary. But not to worry because you’re at your best — and often happiest — whilst being an industrious little goat. Achievement is incredibly fulfilling, and this year the planets are bringing you ample opportunities to excel.”
I suppose that they make these things general enough so that you can read into it what you will, but it does seem pretty apt (not to mention welcome), so I’m going to go with it. 2013 was a year of a lot of change, hard work and new beginnings for me, so it would be nice if it all started coming together and solidified into something tangible in 2014…
(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:
Just outside of Missoula
The view from the MFA studios at MSU
Potter’s Shrine at the Bray
Sculpture at the Bray
Studios at the Bray
Seconds are piled everywhere (is that an Akio Takamori?)
More of the Bray
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’Connell, Ryan 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!
Ryan McKerley demonstrating his “water carving” technique
Talk about things starting off with a bang here at Medalta! I have no idea where September went, but I do know that it has been a great month, full of new faces and awesome meals. In addition to the four long-term artists in residence all kicking it off in the studios this month, we had five artists from South East Asia in the studios, headed up by the inimitable Vipoo Srivilasa, a Thai born artist who is now based in Australia. South East Asian artists working alongside artists in South Eastern Alberta (hence the name of our show SEXSE, which I now get to put on my CV!).
Vipoo (who I also had the pleasure of hosting during his stay), invited four other ceramic artists from South East Asia to Medalta for a one month residency. His prerequisites for choosing the artists were, one, that they make great work, and two, that they be good cooks! Needless to say, it made for an amazing combination in the studios—everyone trying to outdo each other both on the making art and making food side. The artists he invited were Thomas Cheong and Teo Huey Min from Singapore, Krisaya Luenganantakul, from Thailand, and Boon Kiat (James) Seet, of Malaysia. All incredibly talented individuals that I feel lucky to call friends.
As a way of getting us all to work towards a common goal, Vipoo instigated the first ever Medalta International Spoon competition. Here are the results:
My first ever spoons!
Teo Huey Min (the winner!)
As the website says, “Medalta is the centerpiece of a 150-acre Canadian National Historic Site in Medicine Hat, Canada.” And while the Medalta site itself is incredible (where else in the world will you find a working pottery, industrial ceramics museum, contemporary gallery and state of the art artist studio’s all within 500 feet of each other?), the rest of the site is pretty spectacular. I had a chance to visit the two other sites this week and was blown away by the diversity and sheer size of the former clay industry in Medicine Hat. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so here you go:
Hycroft China – 1938 – 1989
Kiln tracking tickets.
Not so secret secret clay recipe.
Original Hycroft ware.
Original Hycroft molds.
Medicine Hat Brick & Tile Plant – 1880 – 2010
Now that’s an extruder!
Old kiln… last fired in the 70’s.
The kiln “room”.
This past Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Medalta’s first annual International Cup Show. It was the first of what I am sure will be many openings in the next year, and, if it was any indication of things to come, it’s going to be a great year (not that there was ever any doubt). The show was curated by the lovely and talented Carole Epp, the creative force behind the fantastic blog Musing About Mud. I’ve been through the exhibition several times now, and it really is a wonderful show—a new piece catches my eye each time. I know it has been said before, but mugs and cups have this almost visceral pull that makes it almost impossible not to pick them up, hold them in your hand and see how they fit. It’s why they continue to be one of my favourite things to make.
The only fault I had to find with the show was that none of my mugs made it in. And the worst part is I can’t even blame it on the curator… Nope, it was all me. I didn’t even enter.
I’m not usually one to use a sports reference, but I believe it was Wayne Gretzky who said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I saw the call for entry months ago, and managed to convince myself that my work wasn’t good enough to get in (don’t worry, I’ve already kicked myself several times since then, so there is no need to berate me any more friends!). Not to toot my own horn, but after looking at the range of work that was represented in the show, I think I would have had a pretty good shot of getting in, so I only have myself to blame, which is always a humbling realization.
It’s been a valuable lesson; I’ve always known that I can be my own worst enemy, but there is nothing like good empirical evidence to show you the error of your ways. So I’m making a pledge to apply to more things whether I think I stand a chance or not. First up? Beyond the Brickyard at the Bray—go big or go home right?
The mug that could have been?