Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are We There Yet?

I have been firing the kiln at the Craft Centre for weeks it seems. An endless cycle of load/unload driving back and forth 20 minutes each way, and getting the student's work done so they can take it home and we can start all over again on the 12th. It's a bit of a pain, this catching up thing. Normally I have it all done by now, but we had a bit of a kiln glitch in the middle of term. Then it was waiting for parts, and getting the parts installed and then, catching up with the firings. My preference would have been to just fire back to back firings til they were done, but , I have to fit them in during office hours, and now we have Easter coming. An extra long weekend, right in the middle of Catching up. All the extra running is playing Havoc with my studio time.
On a happy note though. I have the best students ever! they are so creative and are really making some groovy pots.
These pots are the first ones they made, slab built for the most part. The small blue and brown mug in the middle was from one of the more advanced students.

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Hundred Circles

At the beginning of  my first year at NBCCD, I was given an assignment in my 3D design class that will forever be burned into my brain. One hundred circles, one object, 100 different patterns, one week to complete. Essentially we were supposed to draw 100 circles of a uniform size on a posterboard, fill each circle with a pattern using only the assigned random object, there were a certain number to be done in colour, and so on, but essentially it was as stated. My object was a copper pipe connector. It was a brutal assignment, and I was positive that it was designed to weed out the wimps, or that the instructor was a sadistic bastard, possibly both. But with the help of  a full pot of coffee, some good tunes on the ghetto blaster and my sheer stubborness, I got it done, complete and on time. 
That Instructor was Peter Thomas, who was also my first pottery instructor and as it turned out, Peter was not a sadistic bastard, in fact far from it. He is a wonderful artist, patient teacher, and all round fine fellow.  I've been thinking a lot about the circle assignment while working out the patterns on my shellac resist teabowls, and by extension, about how influential Peter Thomas was on my life as an artist. Nearly 18 years later, I am using the circle game to help match, and eliminate patterns, to look at objects differently and to find beauty in the mundane.
I learned more from that circle project and from Peter than from anything else my entire time in art school.  I hope that he knows how much I appreciate his patience, and guidance, and the fact that he never once said that being a potter was a poor choice for a person with one hand.

Thank You Peter, I toast you, with a fine New Brunswick Beer, In a tea bowl made by you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Adventures of Clementine, Teabowls in Progress, and Kiln debates

A few Months back, My darling daughter India made herself a sock monkey, as can be seen on Lizzies Yarns . I posted about India's love of monkeys and a comment came in from a fellow named Gary. It seems that Gary has a sock monkey of his own who gets into a lot of trouble!!! India has become a huge fan of Georges le Soq, and his many hijinks. Last week, Clementine saw what fun Georges was having and insisted that India take her out on the town.
So here is the evidence Clementine MacSock, touring the town of Sydney Nova Scotia....
She insisted she could drive, so I let her.
first stop, the Library, to listen to some drumming, and drop off the smaller children
she had to bum some change from me to pay for parking
she hung out in the stacks
took in some drumming
she even read stories to the toddlers
then it was of to theWentworth Perk for some java
We had to stop at the grocery store on the way home, and she nearly lost her marbles when she spotted her hero on the cover of MacLeans magazine. She insisted that she have her picture taken with the man who brought us the Gold, Mr Sidney Crosby.
It was a great adventure, and she was so tired from it all, that she let me drive home.

On the pottery front, I am experimenting with some japanese textile patterns on my pots. I am trying different methods to get the right feel for the patterning. and exploring a bit outside my comfort zone. It feels pretty good to be playing around with different stuff. As always, I am starting out with teabowls, right size, good surface area, and manageable for tests. Plus I hate having piles of tiles hanging about. They just don't say enough.
I made some handbuilt teabowls for my slip tests a few weeks back, and they all worked out pretty well. But I don't think that the colours were what I was looking for.
Last week, I threw teabowls as a demo for my students, so I am trying a few new things with them. First off the mark are these shellac resist bowls. They are looking pretty good to me, but WOW what a lot of work. My hat is off to you Jim Gottuso you are a very patient man! I am sure that there will be a VERY small run of shellac pots for me! But I have to say they are giving me the subtlety I am looking for in the surface. Here are some progress shot on the thrown teabowls.
Lastly, I need a kiln, It is a difficult choice to make, and a significant investment for me at this point. I have been window shopping for ages, and am having the damnedist time choosing. I like the tuckers, cone art kiln I use at the school, but am unsure about what size I should get. And am I limiting myself by looking at the Tucker's Kiln? is there one out there that is better for me? I do find the shelves a bit awkward at times. I love the computer controller, but is there a better one/ sigh I guess I will have to just bite the bullet and pick one.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break In Cape Breton= Impromptu Ceilidh on the Mira

Well, it’s that time of year again. March Break has hit our fair island, and with it, hoards of giggling girls have descended upon my place. The weather has been fantastic, and we made no extravagant plans for the break, so when India decided she would like to have a sleepover/bonfire party, I said sure! I am told there were only five, the photographic evidence does tend to agree with that number, but I swear at times it seemed that there were at least twenty of them.

Now when I was a girl, we had sleepovers all the time. We would lug our sleeping bags to someone’s rec-room, listen to music on our ghetto blasters, eat junk food and stay up all night playing silly games or telling creepy stories. Fingernails were painted, too much eyeliner applied, hair was styled in wacky ways. It was a blast, and an important right of passage. I wouldn't trade those times for the world.

India’s sleepover started pretty much like ours used to, the girls arrived with sleeping bags, and pillows. There was much giggling and chatting. The bonfire was pretty typical, a few roasted marshmallows, some spider dogs, and a lot of smoke. But this is where it morphed a bit and became something else. You see when I was having sleepovers; we tuned in to the radio, or listened to records, or the latest mix tape someone had made, or we watched “Friday Night Videos” on the TV.

Apparently in Cape Breton these things happen differently than in New Brunswick. With the bonfire out, the girls trudged up the stairs, and into India’s room. There was some pretty serious giggling happening, and then I heard some odd thumps, and bangs, and a guitar being plucked a bit. Then, the tunes began, the flute joined in and they were making their own music. Some of it was really good! Some was very beginner and the notes a bit sketchy, but it was all very enthusiastically played. They had their own little ceilidh. We were lacking a drum, and a fiddle, but we can work on that for next time. For this time we enjoyed a newly mastered (I use that term loosely) version of the classic Cape Breton tune "Song for the Mira" By India and Jocelyn, and some lovely spanish Music played and sung by Alee, who is an exchange student from Columbia. It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys!
And there was no lipstick, no hairspray, and very little junk food consumed. I approve, come back anytime girls!
Here are some pictures of the party girls, the morning after the impromptu jam session on the Mira

India, Alee, Rachel and Jocelyn
India, Alee, Rachel and Jillian
jill, india, jocelyn

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It Ain't Easy Being Green.....

It's that time of year again, when the snow begins to recede, the river thaws and the view out my window looks like this. It makes it pretty darned hard to concentrate on making things. Spring is coming, St Patricks day is nearly here, and I am trying out new cameras.  My Daughter's old HP has nearly bit the dust, and doesn't take a good product shot for love nor money. I borrowed an Olympus from my friend last week, it worked ok, I liked it well enough, but today my Friend Lynda Lou handed me her camera to try. I may well have just found the camera that was meant for me. I hope it falls into my price range. I am almost afraid to ask. My budget is pretty small, my needs are few, just decent product shots with minimum fuss. I am not patient with fiddly photo equipment. These shots turned out pretty good I think. Green and quiteIrish with Their Celtic triskele stamping. Ready for Spring, and a good Irish Stout

Friday, March 5, 2010

East Coast Music Awards, and Cape Breton Craft.....

Those of you who are not from the beautiful East Coast Of Canada, may not be aware that our little corner of the planet is teaming with world class musicians, and artists. We have pipers, and fiddlers, potters and painters, silversmiths and wordsmiths, weavers and spinners and so much more. There is something about this place, that breeds creativity, blends it with good honest hard work, and tosses in an innate ability to just make a party happen spontaneously, wherever you might be. Its a great place to call home.Once a year, the East Coast Music Association hosts an Awards Ceremony, and music festival to celebrate the unique talents of our Atlantic Canadaian Musicians. This year, the festival happens here in Sydney and what a party its turning out to be.
In celebration of the ECMA's The Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design ( that's where I teach) is hosting an exibit of locally made musical instruments. There are some truly unique pieces in this show.
This Guitar is particularly cool. It combines the working heritage of Cape Breton, with the rich musical culture. Made from the last coal shovel used in the mines here on the island, this electric guitar has been played by some of the finest musicians across the continant. It is signed by Natalie McMaster, and George Jones. The photo just does not do it justice. It truly is a magnificent instrument.
In addition to the many beautiful stringed instruments on display there are some beautiful Native drums, made by local MiqMaw drummers, and we were lucky enough to have the Sons Of Membertou Drummers perform for us, from Membertou First Nation Community here in Sydney. It was fantastic, I love native drumming. It was an honour to witness  such a fine performance by our first people of Canada.
There are many fine instruments on display at this show, and Many fine musicians. The second performance of the evening was buy Pepito Pinto, a steel Drum maker from Cheticamp, by way of Trinidad. Pepito did something truly fantastic. Mindblowing really. He managed to take a traditional, and very well known fiddle tune and translate it Trinidad style on steel drums check this out http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=337099664681#!/video/video.php?v=336980124681pepito tearin up the fiddletunes trinidad style...
Also in this exibit there are some beautiful paintings by our very own Kenny Boone. Kenny is well known for his watercolour landscapes, but has outdone himself with some of the most beautiful music inspired paintings I have seen. But Kenny has other, talents I didn't know about....When he dropped by the centre on Thirsday with his pal Angelo, he did not have a paintbrush in hand, but a harmonica...
Kenny and Angelo drop in to hang out, Kenny and Angelo reprise
Instant Cape Breton Kitchen Party, smack in the middle of the gallery. I love this place!