Monday, February 28, 2011

Critical Path

Yesterday, I went to an interesting show "Critical Path" at the Burlington Arts Center. A group of seasoned ceramists applied for a two year long mentoring session with Professor Emeritus of Sculpture from University of Waterloo- Ann Roberts. This was two years of critique with the final result being a show in the gallery at the BAC.
Two big surprises for me came with the work of Louise McCann and Barbara Rose. I know them for their animated and playful teapots and functional work. Louise did a turn around with a study of rocks that in some cases were very figurative and Barbara took a page out of the work of Marilyn Levine.
A student I knew from Ontario College of Art Michelle Mendowitz had some nice large scale pieces but the wall pieces that I didn't capture all that well were really exceptional.

My  buddy Norm Wheeler took on some scale to his work and filled a large plinth with a band full of nicely wood fired trumpets. Some of my favourite pieces of Louise's came from Norm's kiln. Trains Rule!
Art schools seem to be shrinking, guilds are bulging at the seams and 40 veterans signed up for this mentoring process with only 10 positions available. Academia doesn't seem to have it's ear to the railway tracks. People have a need to talk about their work to people that know how to bring out the best in them. People want to learn, change and grow. Ann Roberts did a fine job! Congrats to all for a nice show.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love it or leave it!

I should have followed Grass Hopper some 30 odd years ago cause the truth of the matter is I don't love winter. I don't ski, I don't skate and I sure as hell don't winter camp. It's harder to get around and often requires shoveling and snow blowing and sometimes postponing firings.

I could build little cupboards for my kiln posts and further enclose the kiln but I never thought I was staying here this long. We had a ten year plan that is now into it's 12th year. How time flies.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I need a Peter Pugger!

I don't like reclaiming clay. It takes a lot of work and never do I get it so that it throws worth a darn. Actually we don't have room in the studio for plaster batts to fill with slop. So rather than feel guilty about taking the reclaim to the dump I truck it for the students at Sheridan. Here is January's reclaim and that is with me teaching 2 days a week that really adds up to 4 days a week. I could save a lot of money with a Peter Pugger. Sheila wants a hot tub! Ah, the life of a mudslinger.
Good news today from my buddy Robin "Grass" Hopper. It's going to be -7C on the Wet Coast which ought to kill the flowers he annually writes to me about around this time. He sends  a note to rub it in that I stayed in Ontario and he moved to the West Coast where flowers bloom when the winter winds are howling here. Well, it's Feb and my flowers are out in full bloom. Aren't they beautiful? Eat your heart out, Grass!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wong's Scottish Meat Pies

Well we just wrapped up the historical project at school. Toronto is a very multi- cultural city and we have a real melting pot of people and cultures in our classroom. I expected to see the students gravitate to their own cultures.  A Chinese student chose Greek, an African chose Italian, a Dutch woman chose primitive South American culture and on it went with different projects from around the world.

The students were to replicate a historical object and then make a contemporary version of the object and not stray too far from the original concept. I think for the most part the historical objects were bang on but the contemporary version takes a gigantic creative leap.  I will be curious to see if that historical object contemporary version is still peculating in their gray matter and will surface again new and improved.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Small steps

I find I have to stick with a particular form for a while to figure out some of the nuances that make the piece satisfy me.  Watching the students at school their progress seems to roar. Mine after so many decades is more subtle and goes in small blimps. So I repeated the ewers today and made improvements to the foot and wanted to show you the difference between the stamp and the roulette's. I have yet to throw thick enough to get a good impression in the clay with the roulette's. Perhaps it's just a matter of timing. I trimmed the flat disk feet which makes me happier as I like a finished foot. We are planning a wood firing at the school so I hope to get 2 or 3 gooduns in the kiln. The saucer foot is a great receptacle for a ash deposit on the run.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today's Sketches

Since Christmas I haven't really had much time to think about my own work with teaching and three weekend workshops. What does happen though in teaching is that I try to problem solve someone else's pots and thru that process think about how I can use the demo as fodder for my own creativity. This past couple of weeks a student has been replicating the classic Hans Coper form and a form she calls a "paisley" which is a tribute to her homeland of India. For the paisley I introduced the Dutch claw for enclosing a form and for the Coper's we opened a cylinder and left the bottom thick and lifted it onto a leather hard first section and opened it with a broom handle. You have to hire me for a workshop for the demo.
So today I had a day in the studio. I had sketched what I thought were paisleys and I decided to add the thrown bottle upside down as the neck and celebrate where I attach it. Much easier to throw that way. As I began trimming and assembling they became not at all what I intended but a ewer with a little boys wee wee for a spout. Will they work, will they pour, will anyone use one for liquids- hell no!!!! I still put the hole in. Will they work for flowers or serve a visual function- hell yes!
I learned a lot from the sketches and will make 5 more tomorrow. I have some ideas on how to improve the foot. I had forgotten how much fun it is to make things in the studio when the sun is shining, the tunes are on and you have no idea what you're doing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grade 2

Here are few pictures of the work of my second year class.There are 14 students in the class doing a historical project. They pick a historical object and try to reproduce it and then make a contemporary version of the work without losing too much of the original content.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I'm sitting here in the comfort of 4 seats on my way to do a workshop in Kingston, Ontario. No taking off most of my winter clothing , shoes, belt, hat, glasses, no de-icing, no squeezing next to a guy that really requires two seats. No kids screaming out of terror or wanting to go #2 when the fasten your seat belt sign is still on. No running to meet a connection when your flight arrives the very minute your connecting flight was destined to leave. I have complimentary Wi-fi so I can do a blog and contact YOU!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Michael and Peiter

When I think back on what has influenced my work I have to say the casserole made by Michael Cardew in Africa has to be my number one favourite pot and biggest influence. I saw this pot for sale at an auction house for  around $1800 and thought if only!!! I love this pot and tried to copy  it many times as a young potter. My big rolls are a direct influence of this pot. The paintings of Peiter Bruegal the Flemish painter had me lusting to attend a 15-16 century drunken orgy just so that I could drink from one of those handsome steins with the thumbed bottom. I often think I belong to another age.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dr. Jeckyl and Mrs. Hyde

We are a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde these days. We are making our usual production ware that is carbon trap shino with coloured slips, I am doing a lot of textured and patterned work with stamps and roulettes and now we are fooling with reticulated glazes that are completely non- functional. Actually they have a function- it is visual. Here are some pots from the last firing. The bowls we call Sputniks and the cut and altered plates are an investigation of the plate form with a chance to use it as a palette for the reticulated glazes.  We are having a lot of fun with the pots. As it should be!!!