Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rain = Mac & Cheese

Ran a bisque today and will try and unload it tomorrow. Though it might end up being a bit of a crazy work week this week. So we will just have to see.
The only reason I'm posting is to show off 'mac and cheese.' We had a crazy down pour and to me when it's pouring rain that is the best time for some comfort food. I know, I went a little heavy on the cheese. Mmmm... was it good!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Being it's St. Patrick’s Day and all, My brother ‘Patrick’ and I headed down to Taylor’s Crossing in North Van for a pint of Dave Varga’s Stout . Dave’s stout is absolutely fantastic. So we quickly toasted to the day and got out just as what seems to have been a bus load of green people arrived.
Before we left though I snapped these pics of the brewery. If I were ever going to make a themed set of pots they would mimic a brewery. I love all the round containers. So here are some pics of those as well.
And to add to the green theme here are some green ware I’ve been assembling. To me these are starting to look live a family of stick people…

Monday, March 15, 2010

Landfills for the Arts

Or how about ‘Gas from Trash to Blown Glass’….
Anyway, with all the new development scheduled for my area we have been trying to keep an eye out for bulldozers and an ear out for planning meeting news. Though on the other side of the highway one development, Steve Hynes ‘ Seylynn Village, has proposed to “Making use of the methane trapped in the old landfill site in what is now Inter-River park.”
But I thing it would be even better to use it like the Jackson County Green Energy Park. (
Here they run artists’ studios with glass and metal work furnaces and pottery kilns all run by the gas collected from the garbage dump. They also run and heat green houses! Could you imagine a partnership between the North Van District and Capilano University that would allow for an expansion of the fine arts program, maybe a community arts centre, as well as greenhouses for the parks department instead of the shack they reside in now in the park. All using the gas they are burning off on the north end. If the little community of Jackson County could do it , couldn’t we?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Body Bags and Body Parts

I've been in the studio making bodies and I have to say the Plainsman Clay bags are perfect for covering these pots!!! They are great long bags. I have newer bags to keep the pots from drying out, bags with little holes for slow drying and even ones with big holes for hurry up drying. I may have to start keeping all my clay bags just in case we completely ban plastic bags.

So today is throwing the extremities day. But it may lead to more body parts as well. Tomorrow will hopefully be an assembly day.

But the real reason I came up to write this was to say how much I love my new mug. What's really amazing about hand crafted items I find is the things you notice over time. Like how I noticed that the top isn't perfectly round. Where the handle has been attached is slightly pushed in. It sounds minor but I just didn't notice it until lately. And I have already had many cups of coffee out of this cup. As well, when I was in the studio this morning, where the lights are a little brighter, there are these amazing gold speckles in the ash glaze. I'm sure they were there before but it just took a different day, a different light, or maybe just a different perspective to notice the little nuances’. I love that!

So thanks again Jack. I’m enjoying your mug more and more every day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I just came back from four fantastic days on the Sunshine Coast and though most of the trip was sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean watching tugboats go by I did make one pottery excursion.
I needed a mug. Yes, there are mugs in the cupboard of the Trails End Cottage but not one was handmade. Now, this is the Sunshine Coast! It’s famous for its painters, potters, weavers and writers. But I didn’t want any mug. I didn’t want a Cranberry Pottery mug with their decorative flower patterns. Nor did I want to visit Liz De Beer’s studio because I see her in North Vancouver at Parkgate where she teaches. So I decided to walk through Gibsons and see if there were any galleries that might help.
I drove into Gibsons and stumbled across a artists co-op gallery called the Landing Gallery just up from Molly’s Reach (‘Beachcombers’ fans know where I’m talking about). Right inside the door was a beautiful copper red vase. This was a good sign. Though the tag on the vase I found the rest of the pottery of Jack Ploesser (Fire and Ash Studio). The pots were beautiful. Lots of layering of glazes, beautiful reds, purples and flowing ash. And what caught my eye the most was probably the altered pieces that seem to be tilting in the wind. And there were even two mugs. They were beautiful copper reds but unfortunately….dragonfly’s. Now it was close. For someone who isn’t a big fan of decoration, these were beautiful. Almost what I wanted…
But I believed I was on the right track. So on the Sunshine Coast, being such an artisan community, they have great signage which lead me right to his studio!!!! His house! So without calling ahead, which I would strongly suggest, I showed up just as he was trying to pull out of his driveway. In the beginning he tried to brush me off to his wife who was in the house but I’m sure when he saw this 6’4”, 250+ lbs guy start to walk towards him he had second thoughts. But I did manage to get him to give me the grand tour!
In an area of tall trees on a tucked away little street is Fire and Ash Studio. The focal point which gives it away and separates it from the other houses on the street, is the two burner, medium size, downdraft kiln which meets you at the top of his driveway. As we squeezed through a door just past the kiln it opened up to the inner workings of the studio. It was full of the necessities of a production potter all in about the size of a single car garage. His gallery, as he led me into his house was his living room converted. A beautiful home full of natural wood and flowing pottery. And coming from someone who showed up unannounced, Jack is not only a great potter but a great sport. Thanks Jack!
And yes! I did get my mug.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My reply to Sequoia Miller’s Blog 'On Being Useful'

My reply to Sequoia Miller’s Blog 'On Being Useful'

I have to start with a story. It was told to me while I was going to art school.

The original Brown Betty (teapot) was a copy of the Yixing teapots of China. It was a small 2 cup version that functioned perfectly. It’s round style allowed for perfect flow of water around the tea. It’s pouring spout flowed and stopped without any dripping and it was the perfect size as it was easy to pick up and the volume was enough that the tea didn’t go cold. But as tea became cheaper people drank more, and therefore, demanded a larger teapot. So the small Brown Betty was expanded to a seven cup version and the problems began. Seven cups of liquid was quite heavy needed two hands to pour. It also went cold before seven cups could be drank (so the idea of the tea cozy came about). It also poured horribly as it always dripped. (My grandmother had a rubber extension that fit over the spout).

So my point is, when we try and expand on an idea that has already evolved to be perfectly functional the object sometimes looses, even slightly, some functionality to gain other qualities.

Even the choice of material can reduce its functionality. For example, I’m sure there are far better materials to make storage jars from than clay. It doesn’t mean potters stop making them. I don’t believe anyone buying pottery purchases it only for its functionality. They buy it because it’s beautiful, it’s interesting, thought provoking, it feels good.

Which brings me to my point of what makes pots ‘non-functional’:

1. The most obvious, DESIGN. Yes, by changing that perfectly evolved functional pot it can sacrifice functional elements of the original design. This means changes in shape, size, glaze surface, etc.
2. COST. I recently had a little extra money kicking around so I had a brief thought I could invest in a piece by my earliest influence, Walter Keeler. To make a long story short a Keeler pitcher is about $3000!!!! If I had purchased it there’s no way it would have ended up in my kitchen cupboard. I don’t care how functional it is! It would be surrounded in glass and locked away for only one’s viewing pleasure. Therefore I believe once a functional object ceases to function as it was intended it become categorized as non-functional and price will do that.
3. COLLECTABILITY /Decoration. I believe it was Tony Clennell who said it you want to make more money stick a hole in the foot of your plates and hang them on the wall ($7.50 a hole). He also recently wrote a blog showing images of the inside of his house. On his walls he has a simple shelf with interesting collections of different pots(It has always amazed me) . Wall decoration. These pots as art or pots as decoration become art objects and no longer function as they were intended.

The first one is fairly obvious. But the last two are, I believe, more detrimental to the creators of functional work. In a recent excerpt from Ceramics Arts Daily titled, Contemporary Functional Pottery, These artists claimed to be functional artists yet said they didn’t care if there objects were used or not. Julie Crosby said “It does not bother me if someone buys a pot from me and does not use it at all.” Shadow May said “It is not really important to me that the user be aware of an intended function for this piece.” Only Nicholas Bivins said it bothered him that buyers didn’t use his work. And if you just look at the difference between the images put out in this article compared to a catalog of mass produced ceramics (eg Denby) it says the same. Denby photograph’s their pots functioning, whether it’s a place setting on a table or with food on them, where as, ‘contemporary fuctional potters’ show the opposite; their work as art. Fancy blended backgrounds and pots that are clean, perfectly aligned – not functioning. Set as if on display.

So we can blame galleries and buyers for the decline in interest in functional pottery (or should I say the increased interest in art pottery) but when we treat our work as art and above common use then we only have ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A New Start (... or at least a shared focus)

I've decided to change.
Recently I have been spending more time in the studio therefore my reading and thoughts have been focused more on pottery. I have signed up for those annoying email news letters from different pottery groups and organizations, I have a facebook account where I can read the short and varied opinions of other potters and their advertisement of new work and upcoming shows and I have even started to check in on pottery blogs to here the more expanded rants and sometimes raves of potters in the ‘professional’ world. (I don’t actually know what that means – ‘professional’ – as it pertains to potters and/or the arts… I think that would be a good future blog post….).
And this brings me to why I decided to change my blog to include pottery. Because sometimes I just want to say more than what is allowed in those little reply boxes.