Question: 4&5) Answering a Question a day for the BCPG Retail Jury!

 

4) Please indicate whether the designs are original or significant adaptations of traditional or commercially available designs. Works that are reproductions of traditional designs are permitted with the understanding that a much higher emphasis will be placed on the technical execution of these works.

All forms and slip motifs are of my own creation derived from a lifetime of observation and experimentation. I recognize and consider traditional thrown functional wares to an homage to all those of the past- a mug is a mug, handle and floor and lip not withstanding and so draws on eons of functional ceramic heritage. I feel this is the great strength of ceramics and so appreciate the similarities of archetypal form and decoration that has crept through the ages and is referenced on my wares. The pots in “Everyday Ungulates” with ungulates on them have been specifically selected for old Alberta Forestry educational pamphlets. Ungulates in many ways are a symbol of the Canadian wilderness- that which I inhabit when working for Alberta Forestry five months of the year. The Canadian Wilderness is used to define every Canadian as so it is this connection to animal and land I am referencing in conjunction with these vessel. It is a subtle reminder of our connection to food and culture with every meal we eat.

5) Understanding that you may not be familiar with all the artists currently represented in the Gallery of BC Ceramics, please indicate how you feel your work will be a beneficial addition to the Galley with an emphasis on differences from others currently in the Gallery, diversity of product within the range submitted and ability to maintain sufficient supply. 

My pots are the apex of all my past experiences and in so uniquely mine. Every decision made and resulting tweak is thought out- the messy edge left, the finger smudge, the blatant brush stroke. In this mark of the maker alone my individual human experience is imprinted on the pot and as thought out and accepting I am of these eccentricities much more of my personality is intrinsically projected by the pots.

 

Question: 3) Answering a Question a day for the BCPG Retail Jury!

3) Please explain your choice of materials and how they are appropriate to the intent of the pieces, both in purpose and visual appearance. 

All the materials I have come to use are chosen simply because they are what work and what is available in all practicality to the North American potter. After years of developing this Everyday Ungulates I have experimented and tested various clays, glazes, pigments, kilns and tools. From mixing and matching and altering I have come to use the present day materials to make these present day pots. As a scientist I am always seeking better compounds and processes to liberate the my artist self. Potters are of course both Artists and Scientists. The intriguing technical processes of chemical mixingand calculation and exposing mixtures to different environments and temperatures overtime is undeniably Science. The problem solving in design, process and intuition is Art. The two married together in making is what makes Craft. And so by this dichotomy it how my materials are chosen. I use three various plastic fine throwing clays all to yield slightly different texture and color, one standardized slip modified for color variation and three clear glazes for various functions. With the constant progression that is an Artist’s prerogative and quest of a conscious maker my materials will continue to change. I am forever trying to source and acquiesce more common materials mined closer to home and acquired by minimally invasive means. The Science and Artist and Maker will continue to battle is out for esthetic’s sake.

Question: 2) Answering a Question a day for the BCPG Retail Jury!

 2) Please describe your reasons for selecting your approach and stages of production for the work submitted. Discuss whether the objects submitted are considered functional, non-functional or sculptural and how these lead to your choice of fabrication techniques and materials. 

Every step in production is a means to the end vessel. Materials chosen dictate how one proceeds to create the desired piece. When I say “every step” I mean to convey that every minute action done affects the outcome. Minute as in sponging the bottom of pot from left to right or right to left, how many times a pot is actually touched, what temperature the tools you use are. Of course not every single gesture is heavily monitored but every single one influences a piece. The ceramic process is a fickle thing, it is the sensitivity of our materials and subsequently processes that create such a wide range of ceramic wares. The water content, temperature and age of clay (clay options ranging greatly in material make up) all dictate what then the potter can do on the wheel. My forms are thrown with well worked and “plastic” stretchy clays so that the freshness and fluidity of throwing is present in the hardened vitrified final form. Vessels are not touched once thrown until leather hard when handles are pulled directly off the pot to further evoke a fluid freshness in the end. Handles are thickest where attached to the pot and so are strong physically and visually. Many pots are dipped in slip, one or more times, after all attachments are made. This creates depth and devision for the eye and further layers of imagery. It also physically enforces a voluptuous countenance. My finger marks, made in dipping, are left to reminded the user of the connection to humanity that all handcrafted items embody and also as a homage to ancient slipwares where one can feel and see the mark of the anonymous maker. Later these dip marks are mimicked with off set glaze marks, creating even more depth for the eye and subtle texture for the hand. The kind of slip chosen has be formulated to fit and marry my clay bodyies in firing, the viscosity of slip is just so that a blush of the original clay body is present throughout and varies in color on rim and base, once again adding to a subtle depth. The glaze likewise has been chosen to withstand the heavy abuse of daily use and fit well with slip and clay. The glaze it specifically configured though endless testing to play dynamically where transfers are used. The glaze absorbs the image’s iron oxide differently when applied in varying thickness and depends on heat soaking within my firing schedule and also on position in my very large kiln. The process of transfer application is derived from years of  experimenting to get images just so. Pattern and colors are a forever evolving presence in this product line. It is my great pleasure to discover how form and image inform each other and our overall experience of a vessel. The nuances that specific processes yield are best discovered through repeated use and contemplation. It is my hope that all my small actions in making through time evoke small discoveries made by the user, hence all the visual and tactical layers on each pot. It is not necessarily an outright literal and cognitive revelation I seek for the user but something physically and subtly appreciated through time.

Question: 1) Answering a Question a day for the BCPG Retail Jury!

1) Please describe your work as it relates to overall form (do handles and/or spout relate to body proportions), are parts pleasing to the eye, feel comfortable in the hand, the choice of process as part of the uniqueness of the finished piece and surface treatments such as choice of glazes. 

Every form in “Everyday Ungulates” is chosen after may test sets exploring various dimensions, proportions, colors, patterns and motifs. Every final choice is informed by these explorations and made to yield a functional vessel pleasing to the hand, lip and eye and more. The lips of my vessels thin and angle slightly inward creating a voluptuous curve for the lip and hand and provide easy stacking of wares for storage. Handles are spacious and seemingly flow out of mugs so that a continuity in line is observed creating a harmonized form and provide comfort for the user. Feet on all forms are distinguished in various ways from the main body of a vessel, this gives the eye a visual break and defines the vessel. There is always a surprise on the underside of my forms so that when loaded into a dishwasher or left to dry on a rack the user is give a special treat. Likewise when sipping coffee or the like any spectator is shown the bottom of a cup and can delight in the detailing there. In the same way all drinking and pouring vessels include a generous swirl in the bottom that is revealed only upon completing a beverage and adds to the further tactile pleasure of washing dishes by hand. All forms are further designed so that one can reach inside and wash, nothing being more frustrating than not being about to reach inside a vessel to clean. I say every vessel provides “more” than just function and esthetic appeal because each vessel embodies specific tastes and informs a specific lifestyle users can sense and appreciate.

Artist: “Who makes this teapot?”

I recently received an email that said “Thanks” and had this attached:

I can see the teapot in  my minds eye. A supple matt teapot in green bright yet soft tones, maybe a bit of yellow accents. Certainly elegant and organic and the strainer mimics the elegance. I think it was in a ceramics monthly a couple of years ago. I know I say it in print near the top of the page. Who makes it?????!!!!! Help us out here.

Studio: Where is the pottery nook?

At Muskeg Tower I had HAC crews (hella-attack crews: helitack crews.. reminds me of “Hella” a great band actually, their all instrumental stuff is superb) this season and while hosting the boys to some tea in my cabin one piped up and asked: “Where is your pottery nook going to be this year?”

Last year’s “pottery nook” in my old cabin.

I didn’t have a wheel this year so there was no nook, at the start when he asked, but by the end I had a glaze studio in the shed and a table in my kitchen dedicated to hand building. But do we really need a studio to be a potter?

The answer is, I am convinced, yes and no. I have had many a sketchy studio. All I ultimately need is a wheel in some room, shelving and a place for clay. I have even resorted to wedging on the wheel when space dictates so. Back when I was doing “It Ain’t Easy” a radio show about craft in Canada I did an interview with Cathy Teripocki (who has a decent blog and website), we talked briefly about whether you need a “dream” studio. Her cut to the chase, make it work attitude shone through as she explained all the times she made do with what ever room she has had.

One of my teachers at Kootenay School of the Arts, David Lawson, told us many tell-tale stories of having a kiln working on the same outlet as the oven (make sure you keep the window open…) and  placing plastic down to protect carpet in the living room for a wheel space. Artists have forever just done with what their ingenuity will provide. With each studio I set up I learn even more what is needed and what isn’t. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I have set up and taken down 10 studios since in the last three years! (I move around more than a bit and mainly for ceramic related reasons). I only wish I had documented them all better. Here are some of them:

Left to right: KSA, KSA, Blandford living room, NSCAD, MMAQ, ANU

Anyways, I’m at it again setting up a new studio. Today I cleared it all out and cleaned it all up. I can hardly wait to get my hands in clay, but first things first. I need to get actually things in the room: wheel, table, material storage. It is a very small space and so the problem solving has begun! A studio needs proper flow and ease of movement, even in the smallest of spaces. Here is Mr. Bernard Leach’s version of a “small studio” from “A Potter’s Book”. Bernard sure did have basement easements 20×20 feet in mind when he drew it up…

Wish me luck with settling in! Have you had studio’s anywhere ridiculous? Have any tips? Please comment!

In the studio: Updates on studio work pictures and anecdotes posted up all about the secret life of potters, this one in particular. Please note that links are in light grey font.


Lingo: The field of ceramics has many unique words and notions. It certainly helps when trying to talk about ceramics to know the basics so throughout my posts (as of now!!!!) you can find words in orange text and at the bottom of the page dictionaryesk definitions of those words with a bit of personal commentary. So see the orange text in this post explained below!
You can also refer to the Lingo page for more.

P.S. Sorry this didn’t get out on Friday, when the “Studio” posts are supposed to be posted. Routines die hard and are hard to start.. busy busy busy….

Question: Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree (It has all been done before?)

If I could fit my whole post into a title that would be it. I am in Australia. I am on exchange here attending the National University of Australia for ceramics. That bit of information will clear a lot up. I am obsessed with ceramics. I have just done a brain storming session of what I ought do and had to laugh. As a student, an earlier version of the student I am now, a more naive one, I thought my ideas were original. Time and time again I am faced with the fact that most of it has been done before and we are simply reinterpreting the: form, line, color, vigor, world… you name it. That what we make is seldomily a piece of original genius. But rather as artists we are thinking in a new way taking it all in and coming up with some thing else.

I am on vacation, a two week break away from Uni. I just spent four days in Sydney and was lucky enough to score tickets to the supposedly sold out show of Swell Season at the Opera House (a hell of a lot better than just a tour of the architectural monstrosity and icon that wonderfully enough is mainly roofed in tile). The band is amazing and their new album will be my on my playlist for this week. This all has a point and it is that their opening Aussie act (whose name I can’t find even though I have scoured the internet) explained that  time and time again everything he writes just seems to sound like Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

He joked about how it is hard for artists to find new material these days because so much has been recorded- such a tinge of truth. “Even tuning seems to sound like Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gun Tree” says he while tuning his guitar with a cynical smirk. His music said otherwise and such strumming and thwaping and picking was a as experimental as any and a pleasure to listen to.

Note to self remember names. That one will help us (me) out in the art world too!

Has it all been done before? Is our fixation on individual expression and genius getting in the way of understanding what we create, what others create and have created?                                  What was their name?

Post Topics

I like to micro manage. I would be a librarian if I wasn’t a potter. Even more so I want this Blog to be interesting and entertaining. For that to happen it needs to be easy to read. To keep myself on spot and posting about a variety of things I think having some categories to post about will be the ticket. Here they are:

Techno-ology: Info on ceramics- definition, technique, history.

In the studio: Updates on studio work pictures and anecdotes posted up all about the secret life of potters, this one in particular.

Montage: A composition of the inspirations of the week. A purely graphic way of sharing snippets of influences.

Issue: Essay like post on a given topic related to ceramics, craft and art available for commenting on and exploration. Dialog in my ceramics discourse is so important and I am excited for the blogs potential in getting talk on the go.

Question: A one liner I want opinions on. ex) How frequently ought I post things up on the practicalpottery blog?

Artist: Other ceramic work featured, a bit about who else is doing what, links to their pages and work.

Porn: Pots I just can’t get enough of. This suggestion was given by my friend Benji when I asked what would keep him interested in my blog. Oddly enough he hit the nail on the head. Blogs need eye candy- appropriate organismically lush pots will be posted!

For the Foodies: Show recipe I’ve cooked in the week and the picture of person enjoying it with beautiful ceramics.

The Review: This section will be me reviewing a publication, exhibition or article.

Bone of Contention: Some times there are issues. Topics I can’t get off my mind. Things that go around and around with  no resolve. Some times there are just fragments of things that I need to get out there. This will be the title they fall under.

Playlist: My thoughts on an Album I have been spinning around and around all week. I love music and it consequently in my potting life. It enhances the studio all the time and therefore me. It is a bit of my life I would like to share. So I will post up an MP3 from the week, links concerning the band, and a personal review of the album.

Any other wants or needs? Please post up what you’d like to have me post up. Some of the categories listed above have been suggestions already. What do you want to read about?