Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Solstice

From here on in the days just get longer my friends! If that isn't reason to be thankful- I don't know what is. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Seasonal Approach

Lace mugs in my new glaze colours- I love the way they look together.

I have been working with clay again this past month- after a hiatus in which I focused on seasonal needs and demands; the garden, preserving, cooking, sewing. I missed art making, not at first- not right away- at first I reveled in the apparent freedom of giving myself the space to think up new pieces, new ideas, but in the fall I started to get twitchy- I felt the need to make some art- somehow. I had the idea that I would try to manage my pursuits in season, summer for gardening winter for art- in an attempt to manage that craziness that goes with trying to do it all simultaneously. I think it's a good idea, still- but I think I need shorter seasons.

Lace Mug with the glaze rubbed in to design, and wiped- gives the texture much sharper contrast.
I have felt very happy and peaceful seeing these pots go through their firing process, I made them last spring, and they've been nagging at me to get fired, but I knew I wanted some bright glazes, and I didn't have it sorted out yet. I'm pleased with these mugs, they are simple to make and quirky, and unique, and they are bright I think, they make me smile. I have learned a little bit from these mugs too, they need to be a bit smaller, and I'm itching to see how the colour will look if I rub it into the pattern, and then wipe it off, instead of letting it go thickly over it, which obscures the texture a bit. I also am pleased that my Chicken souffle dish worked out, It was the first time I tried an applique method, inspired by Wedgwood's Jasper ware ( I got the chicken impressions off of old toys of K's, which I made plaster moulds of,  I plan to make more with more farm animals, I love them)

 Souffle Dish with Appliqued Chickens, pretty good for a first attempt.
You see I have many hobbies, and I tend to turn my hobbies into more than just that- I will try to live solely off my garden, and to make everything we eat, and to sew my own clothes, and make my own dishes, and.... well you get the idea, I get carried away. I'm usually well able to do all those things, and to put in the effort that makes it possible, but I'm just now learning that it's not necessarily possible all at the same time, and not always with a young child in tow. The thing that I am loving about this seasonal approach is that it seems to afford me a little mental space, where I can focus on one thing at a time, and I think that allows me to grow more within each hobby.  Also, I feel renewed each time I start again, and I am astonished at how capable I am in that particular activity (the flip side of this is that worry slightly before I begin, that I have lost my knowledge), I am loving that experience of having to trust myself over and over again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vintage Treasures

I love thrift store shopping- I was raised on it- and whenever my mom asks you to guess how much an item cost her you should always start at 5 cents, always, sometimes it's true, and even when it's not, it's probably not too far off. Anyways- usually there isn't too much for me but I always go and check out one place in particular because they have great sewing notions, old thread, and buttons, knitting needles, lace trims, I go with whatever change I have in my pocket, and try not to spend over that amount.

The other day I was dropping off some old clothes there and went in with 2.75, and I had some great luck- five of those small blue and white plates- 25 cents each, and the red and white table runner for 75 cents- but actually it was half price! Also the jello mold for 25 cents, which I plan to use to bake coffee cake in. I left the place with change!

One of the great things about shopping at second hand stores is that usually your money is going towards a good cause,  and I love the older church -run thrift stores for exactly this reason- when you buy something at Value village- it's still Eco -friendly and all, but it's essentially mimicking a department store, and they're not a non-profit organization. When you support the smaller stores you're probably contributing to your local non-profits, and that's important, and Eco-friendly, and Human-friendly. Also, though it's less important, when you step into these stores, it's just like stepping back in time, they charge ridiculously low prices for things, and it makes me feel nostalgic and just generally happy. 

 P.S. I wasn't sure I could bake in the mold- but I looked it up- and sure enough it's just coloured aluminium, not copper, so it's safe to bake in- you wouldn't want to bake in unlined copper pans, or jello molds with any sort of varnish on them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Robin Hopper

Robin Hopper, Fluted Bowl, three coloured agate ware, (source)

Robin Hopper, Lidded Jar Faceted Three-Coloured agate ware, (source)
I really really want to take pottery classes from Robin Hopper. I think his works are alright- I love the agate ware he makes, to me they reference old china pottery- Wedgwood, and the early twentieth century fine china makers, and I love those references, but the rest of the pieces are sort of ho- hum to me). But what stands out about this guy is that he is so very knowledgeable about Ceramics. He wrote the book on glazes, and several other ceramic related things (literally). He doesn't just make pots, he explores them, and how they're made- his value is in the knowledge he holds about clay, not his conceptual vision as an artist.

One of the reasons that I love working with clay is that it requires an actual knowledge base, It's more than just creativity- and it's not easy to pick up, it requires study, and practice, and acquiring knowledge. It's as much a skill as it is an art- it's a fine craft, and it requires good craftsmanship- and I value that. For some artists the idea is the main thing- those artists don't care whether they make the art or a team of people carry out their ideas, to them the carrying out of it is secondary to the main concept.

I like a good concept too, but mostly I value workmanship, I value long hours trying many ideas that didn't work out to find the one sample that did work. I value lots of drawing and painting and building and planning, lots of practice, and lots of hours learning about your material or art.  Clay is different from conceptual art in that it requires that type of practice in order to make a good piece, you will be better at clay if you practice it, try it, study it, and sometimes, fail at it. But you're always stocking up your knowledge of your craft.

Making clay pieces feels that way to me in a way painting doesn't- it's a Craft. I don't mean the kind of craft where you glue pom poms to Popsicle sticks either, I mean traditional- apprentice at the age of 16, put in ten thousand hours, become a master, type of Craft.  Robin Hopper is that sort of potter, he's a Fine Craftsman, and I love that.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Baking

Lemon Curd

Marshmallow cookies before their final chocolate coating

My Marshmallow bearded child

Sometimes a blurry picture just expresses the moment better, don't you think?
I was really getting going on my Christmas baking for a while there last week- but then the babe and I got a cold, and now the super tart lemon curd is the only thing I can actually taste- and it just tastes mildly lemony at that. So of course I've lost all desire to bake- because if you can't taste it what's the point? Ah well- the sense of smell is coming back- I can sort of smell the Christmas tree again, the babe is losing that 'glazed doughnut' face a runny nose will give you (especially if you blow your nose by making the sound with your mouth only, or better yet- just saying "BLOW" or "ACHOO" into the Kleenex, which while being hilarious, has a less funny end result).

In other news the Christmas sewing is done! So I can now focus on making eggnog and drinking egg nog, as soon as I can taste it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In the Studio

These last few weeks have been taken up with Christmas sewing, a table runner, a present for N, more gift bags, and a bunting or two for N's room, I'm almost done though I have a few gifts to ready for the nephews and nieces, and then I can tidy away the sewing stuff, get my sewing machine in for a much needed service call, and focus on making some art. I'm really looking forward to starting 2012 with a studio clean and ready for some painting and some clay. I have few clay pieces lined up for the kiln though- and I'll actually get the glaze firing done before Christmas I think- I'm looking forward to coffee out of one of my own mugs on Christmas day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Tom Thompson

Tom Thompson, Birch Grove, 1915-16, (Source)

Tom Thompson, Decorative Landscape Birches, 1915 (source)
I don't think I've posted about Tom Thompson yet, I can't think why, his paintings are among my very favorite, the ones that stand out as highly influential when I think of all my 'inspiration artists'. He's commonly associated with the Canadian 'Group of Seven', though he was never officially a part of the group- he was seen a mentor to them, and he died rather mysteriously quite young, in 1917, before the group really came to seen as a "group".  He only made paintings for a short time, but his works are incredibly well known in Canada, and part of our collective art history in a very special way.

One of my dream vacations would be to pilgrimage to the National Gallery of Canada to see as many of his works as I can, I've been there before but not since I studied art- and I think that would make all the difference. I love the light in his paintings, the reddish gold quality of it- the way he paints the sky as though it's fragments of light, very appropriate to the Canadian landscape.

There is of course a group of people who feel that the Group of Seven did a disservice to Canada, by painting it as though it were an empty landscape- no people, unpopulated, even though it was populated- by Aboriginal people. If you look at the paintings through that lens yes you can object to the idea of Canada as a great wild area- with rugged scenic places, and pristine forests, which were first available to human eyes through colonization. Though I understand those critiques, I also think that the idea of Canada as a rugged wild place is surely true, even today, all it takes is a short drive north and you can be ensconced in a place in which People seem absent (even though they might not be actually absent).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

*Joy* A Winter Walk

Linking up with Sarah Jane to celebrate joy this month,  check it out!

Go West!

Oh my gosh- I've been neglecting this space lately- I know, but really I just have been full up with things to do besides blogging, and though I fell guilty enough to fess up to the neglect- apparently I don't feel guilty enough to actually post, (by the way this is exactly how I feel about washing the floor too- guilty when I don't do it often- but not guilty enough to break out the mop bucket) so anyhow- I'll just continue on like nothing happened okay? okay.

We went for a trip out west a couple of weeks ago- I was so excited to drive through the mountains, we actually only went as far Kamloops- so we drove through the Rocky Mountains, but not the Coastal Range, and I have to say I think it's an essential thing to do. I've driven through them numerous times, mostly with different people, and then a couple of time with K. I was born in Manitoba, which is the quintessential Prairie province; flat vistas, big sky, lots and lots of Horizon, and then we moved out to British Columbia when I was 8. I love both places, even though I moved back to Manitoba right after high school, but there could not be two more different types of landscapes.

If you are Canadian and have not driven through the mountains, I strongly recommend it, there is nothing so shocking as seeing these giant mounds of rock spring up out of the gradual rolling hills. When you drive from the flat lands to the foothills it sort of changes slowly- there is no moment when you can say  "now it's hilly" but the mountains are just suddenly there looming in front of you, or receding into the rear view. Also we are lucky to have really great roads through the mountains, I mean really great- with regular weather updates- and even a giant screen in most major mountain towns that advises you of road conditions, it's fantastic.

Travelling across the provinces really gives a sense of just how vast, and vastly different each part of this country is, but despite that difference, or possibly because of it, it's all uniquely beautiful.
Though if you have small children you should not expect them to be as awestruck as you are by the mountains- and your trip will go much smoother if you can manage not to be offended when your excited ravings about the mountains!- or the eagles! or the elk! are basically ignored because your child looks like this for the entire trip:
 (well, pretty much the entire trip, only looking up from the movies to snatch a cheese string from your hand, pretty much ignoring the world outside the portable dvd player- which may make you feel like a questionable parent- but will likely make your spouse rave about " making good time")