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

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!

SEXSE Time at Medalta

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:

Back in Time…

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

Medicine Hat Brick & Tile Plant – 1880 – 2010