Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Arrival of the Queen

Queen Ava my grand daughter arrived for the weekend so all work pretty well stops around here with plans for special meals, security, activities, etc, etc. I managed to make a couple of hand built pieces in the studio. I mixed some ground up walnut shells (used in place of sand for sand blasting) and some big chunks of feldspar that Richard Selfridge sent me from The West. The walnut shells will burn out of course to leave a nice pock marked surface and the feldspar will melt into pimples that want to be squeezed. Hey who said I majored in Marketing for my undergraduate degree?
Ava wearing the outfit I bought her in China in 2007. It just now fits her. Don't send a guy to buy clothes for a baby.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Creative Life

The front throat arch area of our train kiln is commonly known as the "The Triangle of Death" or in my words " The Devil's Lunch Box". The pots up near the firebox take a licking and a beating from the flame and ash. The ash encrusted surface is often gnarly and nasty. I made some bottles and experimented with proportion and handle placement. The vases were cut and reassembled using my gnar, gnar defloculated slip. Using the 1/3, 2/3 theory I think we can pick out the one that really works.
The ledges of slip will really provide a place for the ash to build up. I thought that the textures and patterns that I have currently been doing with my pots would be obliterated by the ash. The wonderful part of being blessed with a creative life is the opportunity to play and get paid for it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I owe, I owe

so off to work I go! It's been almost a month away from my regular studio groove while touring the Clay Rock and Roll Road Show. It took me a 12 hour sleep to get back in the routine of the studio. Always great to make new friends but it's also nice to reacquaint myself with my side of the Sealy Posturepedic.
I always start the cycle with some cups so I made my usual 13 cups and then made some vases. I made them without a bottom so that I could get my hand in there as an anvil to support the stamp when pushing from the outside. I had been throwing the foot ring in the shape of a foot but decided I liked the look of a trimmed foot better so I made a solid hockey puck slug that I then trimmed and secured on the bottom of the vase.
I'm thinking about sparking up the train as we have pots to send to AKAR Gallery for our show "The Northerners". Bruce Cochrane has already sent his pots and ours are unmade. No pressure! Let's wood fire and add some more pressure!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Visit to Vietnam

Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District had large scale photos of the people that worked in the Potteries (Medalta and Hycroft China). These were working people with muscular builds and rolled up shirt sleeves. Here at home this is a picture of my back yard. Yes, you would think that I have relocated to Vietnam. The truth is the farmers around here can't get Canadians to do agricultural work. To hot! Too cold! Too windy! Too this! Too that! If it weren't for the Mexicans and Jamaicans that leave their families to work in the orchards and vineyards of the Niagara Peninsula not a stitch of agricultural work would get done in this province. We always welcome the site of these hard working people driving by our home on their bicycles. Always a friendly smile and a wave of the hand.
My neighbour hires a extended family of Vietnamese people to maintain the vineyard. They come in like a swarm of bees and the job is done in a couple of days. Here's a clink of the glass to hard working people! Cheers!!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I had a talk with my hostess Diane about the benefits of locating near ENERGY! Energy is in the form of people and places that exude the stuff we like. Good friends, hard work, little coffee shops, book shops, a decent pub but most of all a place where ya are with like minded people. People you like and people that are fun, honest and good to be around
I'll show a couple more pics from Medalta. This place is going to be the Archie Bray of Canada and is headed up by people with ENERGY. The Hat isn't quite what I'd call the town with the best book stores or pubs in the land but artists will move there, gentrify the place and VOILA the artist's Valhalla will appear. Check out the kiln that you walk into to watch a video on firing all the while the bricks are warm and there is a sound of burners roaring.
My workshop was at North Mount Pleasant Arts Center right down town Calgary. My prof John Neely said you can judge the quality of an art program by it's pot luck. Well, it was to die for!
Get this!!!! They have a wood fired kiln, a salt kiln, gas fired car kilns and best of all Bob Reimer who is a damn fine potter can maintain this facility. In the wink of an eye, I'd move across the street from the Center- ENERGY!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Times they are a changin'

Bob Dylan must have been referring to the history of the old Medalta Pottery. It was great to see the different design stages they went thru in an effort to remain in business. I seem to remember my Uncle Jimmie saying they even made novelties to give away with popcorn at the show. He seemed to think this was the beginning of the end. This is a historical site and tours of the premises by guides is a must do. There is so much history in this building and the cleverness of production is still mind blowing to this day.
I want a beehive condo in my next life.

Medalta- The Rebuilding

My Uncle Jimmie is smiling down from heaven on the job they have done with the restoration of Medalta. His stories of men covered in red lead, German spies and Jock the thrower whirled thru my mind. Jock would only throw 600 ginger beer bottles a day- not one more and not one less. The beehive kilns are soooooooooo beautiful and one is attached to the main offices and will be converted into a gallery. Imagine a wood fire show in a bee hive kiln. Les and Aaron if you're reading me please include me in that show.
They even have a concert stage where a musician had launched his new CD. They are going to cover the whole courtyard to have a space where concerts and events can be hosted. It all started with pots that people needed for storage. I tell students today that I don't make anything that anyone needs. They want what we make but they don't need it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Alberta Connection

I just returned from doing my workshop in Calgary. It was like a home coming for me as I reconnected with the clay brother and sisterhood of Alberta. I had an amazing tour of the new Medalta residency that will clock in at over 25 million dollars. Pics later today. At Medalta I met Aaron Nelson the Artistic Director of Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic Distric. My long time buddies there included Jim Etzkorn, Bob Reimer and Les Manning. These guys have all been movers and shakers in the Alberta clay scene.
At the workshop to my surprise I had Danny Choi( a former Sheridan student) as my assistant on Saturday and then former Harbourfront resident Sean Kuntz on Sunday. Danny is now married!!!!!!! Katrina Chaytor and Barb Tipton faculty from ACAD dropped in to the workshop as did Robin Dupont from USU.
Then as a special treat we had a lovely meal with my old buddy John Chalke. John is having some health issues that have him laid up but thankfully his wit and dagger tongue are still as sharp as ever. I came home feeling very connected to the clay community.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Whiff of the Potteries

5 days ago I was drinking Chianti and eating Wild Boar Prosciutto in Tuscany and tomorrow I will be in the land of my birth Wild Rose Country (Alberta) drinking a cool beer and eating Alberta sirloin. I'm travelling with a favourite potter of mine Bob Reimer to "The Hat" Medicine Hat, Alberta. This is my home town and where my pottery life began. Bob and I will visit Medalta and I will be looking around corners for a nudge from my Uncle Jimmie who worked in the potteries in the early 30's.
I'll get some pics of the old pottery to post to my blog on Monday. I'm tired of travel and lugging my laptop around so be patient with me.
I also get to stay with Barb Tipton and Johnnie Chalke in Calgary. These two are the best to talk pots with on the face of this earth. Looking forward to my workshop in Cow Town.

The Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari

If you are wondering why I didn't put many pics up of the final firing it is because it wasn't all that great. 12 hours to move two chambers of pots with good body reduction and depth to the glazes is just tooooooo fast. "It's not the end of the world. It's just the wreck of the Barbie Ferrari."- John Hiatt. Everyone gets out alive and there is knowledge in mistakes. The shino was not the American style that we are all used to with orange and golden tones. It was what I call the Australian white shino that is primarily Nepheline Synenite and clay. Two- the firing went too fast. It is too bad we didn't have another 2 weeks of making and another firing. A month at La Meridiana would have been very hard on my liver and waist line.
I also convinced everyone to try "Crack" and it just came out white with no cracks. Here is crack on one of Sheila's boxes fired in our kiln slowly and with a nice ash deposit.
The teapot here is by Linda Jones who has been involved in clay for 4 years. I'd say a damn fine start.
We live! We learn!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Thought I’d assure y’all that we got home before I finish the Tuscan blog. We had a lovely day in Pisa with a visit to the leaning tower, gorgeous dinner out and I got to swear at the buskers trying to flog fake Rolex watches and crappy beads to us. You actually have to get rude or give the look of a Mafia boss that I can do so well with my new hat. Got up for a breaky at our lovely B and B and the lady said in no uncertain terms “ You ain’t going no where!” The volcano has canceled flights. We looked on line and sure enuff every flight was canceled except ours. We sat waiting at the airport for 10 hours to get clearance to go. Our stomachs were in knots. They let us go and the pilot flew up over Scotland and across Greenland and then headed south to JFK, NYC ETA 10 hours. With luck on our side the flaps on the wings of the plane didn’t work so we circled JFK for an hour and a half while they got the fire trucks ready on the runway. Landing to an applause but then now we have to wait at the Delta counter in a Disney style line up at midnight for 3 hours to get another connection to Buffalo. 5 hours sleep in the airport and we’re off to Buff to take our prearranged bus/taxi that gets lost. This return trip had all the makings of a Fustercluck. Got news from one our students Cyndi she is stuck in Paris. We have our fingers and toes crossed everyone gets home from this European ash hole. What a way to end a perfectly great time!!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Teaching class

Here is a pic of me, Steve and Lise the Potters. Steve says that Sheila and I are responsible for his economic downfall by encouraging him to be a full time studio potter. He went out and bought a sleazy used car salesman hat while I bought the hat of hats - a Borsalino. There goes the profit from this workshop... Now I have to work on Steve's taste in fashion. Perhaps our next workshop should be in the fashion capital of Italy- Milano.
We went to the lovely village of Volterre where there is an Etruscan Museum. My pics don't do the place justice. It was full of great pots that provide reference for much of the work that we do. It really was a 'Handle Museum" with soooooo many great examples of handles. I have always enjoyed European pots more than Asian pots because of the handle. The handle for me is what can make an ordinary pot- extraordinary.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Italian Ferrari

Yesterday Pietro started the Ferrari up at 5:30 in the morning. When I walked down to the kiln at 8:30am it had already hit 1000 C. He handed the keys over to a couple of Canadian drivers and by the end of my shift at 4 pm we were limping to the finish line at 1205 C with Cone 8 down and each degree a struggle. Pietro the Italian stallion took over at 4pm and had the car racing to the finish line with Cone 10 flat in the first and second chambers by 6pm. Italians like their cars fast and they also like their vino. The second chamber was soda fired using hot water and Chianti as a solution. Tomorrow we'll see what the trophies look like.
Will we want drive a fast car again or go home to our slow but dependable Subaru. Today is our rest day to go sight seeing and it is pouring rain.

The Diet Starts- Tomorrow!

Like the sign in the beer parlour says " Free Beer, Tomorrow!"
I figure the Italians think we North Merikans are french fry freaks. Why on God's green earth would you put fries on a pizza???????? We went out for a pizza and everyone got one this size. We will have to have a weigh in before we get on the planes to go home.
We had a bit of a celebration the other day. I got word from Sheridan that Janet Cox was the winner of the Tucker's Award at the Tulip Ceremony on Saturday night. Since we didn't have tulips we upped the anti with some freshly picked roses. Thanx Frank Tucker for your generous award- it couldn't have gone to a harder worker.