Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is it still yours????



Why do I always think of the question I wanted to ask when I'm in my car and headed home after the presentation? I drove in on Friday for a guest lecture by Trudy Golley of Red Deer College in Alberta. The lecture was hosted in our plaster room that seems to get used more as a lecture room than plaster room. Trudy showed some very interesting work with attention paid to shadows and reflections or aura's. Trudy and  jeweler husband Paul Leathers have been spending sometime in China. While in China Trudy can have a mold made and a pot fired overnight. It seems a number of ceramic artists are now setting up in China to have professional mold makers, kiln firers, china painters etc etc complete the process after initial design by the artist. This is not unusual in industry it just strikes me as short cutting the process. The questions could then be asked of me- do you dig your own clay? Do you grind your own feldspar? Did you make your Thomas Stuart wheel?  I have always enjoyed the process of making and firing. I somehow am not sure if I would consider it mine if I designed it and turned over the rest of the process to someone else. I wish I had thought of the question on Friday. There is a good answer!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gaggle or Rafter


Last week on my trip to Sault Ste Marie I saw a bunch of turkeys in the field. I couldn't for the life me remember what you call a group of turkeys. So it's a gaggle of geese and a rafter of turkeys. At the airport I saw a group of Orthodox Jewish men with the ear locks, beards and great black hats. I thought I love those hats and they look like fabulous quality men's apparel. I guess you call this group a bunch of well dressed men.  You guessed it! Made by my favourite Italian hat company "Borsalino". I think I need a black one to go with my brown and gray one.  A man can never wear too many hats.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon


It's harvest time in Niagara. Grapes that were once hand picked are now fingered by a large million dollar tractor. Farming and pottery share a lot of similarities. Who cares that the grapes are bruised and mechanically picked? Who cares that pots are made by hand? Who cares that the Windsor chair that I sit in each morning was made by hand on a treadle lathe and no glue was used? I remain one that still cares. I also care that my neighbour Dr. Pumpkin still has the honour system of payment at his squash and pumpkin booth. That was the norm here for decades and decades. A jar with a slot in the lid was the cash register of rural Niagara. Look at these little gourds that Dr. P gave me for Sheila's harvest display in the showroom. How do you compete with Mr. Nature? Seems like a blog full of questions, today. I wonder what's on my mind? Ooopss that was another question. I lost another friend this week. Bob Rix was a fellow teacher that had a HUGE influence on my teaching style. Bob taught me to relax and enjoy the students and the process. I am in mourning today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Pusher Man






One of my favourite songs of the early 70's was The Pusher Man by John Kaye of Steppenwolf. Well, the last week has had me teaching at Sheridan and a weekend workshop at The Mississauga Potters Guild neatly tucked away in a strip mall in a quiet residential area. Both places are as clean as a whistle when I arrive and then I have them start to push clay. And when you make an omelet ya have to break some eggs. The floors, tables and the bodies are covered in clay. At Sheridan we are having a hard time keeping up with clay making. Students can't figure out where it is all goes. Gee guys if on Monday I ask you to throw 6- 6lb plates in the morning and there are 15 of you that means we just used up 540 lbs of the 800 lb batch you made. I haven't even told you what you are expected to do on Tuesday and for homework. G D the Pusher Man!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Potters Field


Potters Field is a term derived from the bible meaning a plot of land for burying strangers. My old pottery had a tombstone that had engraved in it "In memory of the unknown stranger". People used to come visit the stone and there were many stories of murder and fires.
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of friend and potter Bill Rowland. Bill made great pots for almost 4 decades. He didn't seek the limelight but was well respected by every potter that knew him and his work. He may be a stranger to you but Bill had a very strong local and provincial reputation as a potter's potter. He made some of the best salt glazed pots in the land. He left too soon but what he left is all top shelf.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Home and running




I had a short flight to The Soo. 80% of Canadians live within a 100 mile drive of the US border. The Soo is no exception since it a border town. It is however in Northern Ontario far from the larger populated cities of Southern Ontario. A snapshot out the window of a large tanker carrying natural resources thru the passageway from Lake Huron to cold and deep Lake Superior. The gray smoggy picture is my return to Toronto. The Soo Guild was a great bunch and I was treated like royalty. They have a cozy little building and an enthusiastic membership.
I got home late Sunday night and left to teach at Sheridan at 6:45 am to beat the traffic of the QEW which is my route and one of Canada's busiest arteries. A 70 kilometer drive in The Soo might take 35 minutes where the same drive here can take 2 hours or more depending on what's happening. It rained yesterday so that slowed traffic to a crawl. Welcome home!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Soo




If you think being a one man rock and roll band is easy I got news for you. It takes a lot of preparation, time and energy. A weekend workshop usually means 5 days away from the studio. Two days teaching, two days traveling and pot lucks, and slide shows and one day of getting ready and winding down and unpacking. I always ship some cups ahead of my arrival and pack a few pots as carry ons as well as copies of our 3 DVD's. This is no different than the singing troubadour that takes along some CD's and possibly some t-shirts. This is life on the road.
Sault Ste. Marie or The Soo is in Northern Ontario situated on the cold deep waters of Lake Superior. I am presenting for The Soo Potters Guild and hope we can all go for a swim afterwards. I once bet my nephew some KFC chicken( it was his favourite) he couldn't sit in Lake Superior below the waist. The little bugger did and Unc coughed up for a bucket.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to School





Yesterday was my first day back at Sheridan College School of Craft and Design. I start off teaching the 2nd years mugs and bowls. I always start with bowls since cups and handles are a lot more difficult. My job is to get them comfortable on the wheel and to do this I have them make a lot of pots. We will be making a batch of 800 lbs or more of clay per week. Next Monday I will walk in the room to talk about the 150 pots that they will have collectively made for a homework assignment. I am totally amazed at how the demographics of my classroom has changed over the past 8 years. Imagine your classroom has an architect, a Bay Street stockbroker, an arts administrator, a lawyer, a graphic artist, a veterinarian, an MBA, an MA in English, a blues singer and the list of professionals goes on and on. The number of students in the program that have had other accomplished carriers is amazing.
With the amazing blend of people in the class it brings the level of learning to it's highest form. They just can't enough and will be mulching this experience for the rest of their lives. Don't tell anyone but I get paid to teach them. Life is good for those that know that life is good.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Truck and Silly Nonsense




I remember my Grade 9 French teacher Bertha Andrews would scream at me" It's just truck and silly nonsense and I won't have any of it. I wasn't very good at French and it was probably the lowest grade I ever received in school. I got a 52 which was a bare bones pass. I got this by doing a art project on Paris. Well, our last firing was a bit of an art project and we had fun with pouring, dabbling and doing all kinds of truck and silly nonsense. That beautiful crocus martis red colour is the granular rutile where the beige kaki colour is the ceramic grade rutile. What an amaziing difference! Doing these little wall bowls is like doing ceramic fusion tests and a lot of learning about colour and behaviour of materials is learned. Being a pure and true Capitalist our little testers are for sale. You thought I was just good looking!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rats in a Bar





We met the Rat family at Ulrich's Tavern in downtown Buffalo. Ron and Hester Meyers and Sheila and I have an annual summer lunch at the oldest bar in Buffalo before they head south to Georgia. My nickname and term of endearment for Ron is Ronnie the Rat. Ronnie because it's kind of a hockey thing and he had always wanted to be a hockey player and Rat because my favourite images of his are the rats. Who in this world but Ronnie could put rats on their pots and have people love them and furthermore buy them?
Ulrich's has just done a face lift but the waitresses are still the best and the food abundant and delicious. I couldn't find the Men's room until the waitress pointed me to the Used Beer Dept.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Extreme Heat Alert


Well it 33C or 91F not including the humidity and this part of the Province is under a Extreme Heat Alert. We thought this would be a good day to have our new gas stove installed in the living room. This is the end of an era for me. I have heated the house with wood for over 30 years. Thirty years of cutting. splitting, stacking, covering, carrying, cleaning are over. We decided we had had enough of the work and mess. Wood heat warms you right through but it comes with a lot of work. Right about now we would be stacking 10 cords of wood in the backyard to get us through the winter and that doesn't include the wood for the wood kiln. I'm ready to flip the switch and if I take my glasses off the fake logs almost look real. Where the wood was once kept is now a good display area for a pot. Maybe next year we'll break down and get an inside bathroom- just kidding!
Now, I wish it would get cold so we can see where our money went.