Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two Shows

The first is the Frederick Street Art Walk on November 8. The second is the Handmade Market on November 14-16. You should come visit!

In the meantime, I am running out of room to fit all the pots...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Daisies and Strawberries

“it is a serious thing / just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.”
- Mary Oliver (Invitation)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mistress of Pinch

I'm making pinch pots this week. Lots and lots of them. Hopefully I can show you why soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

surface design

This week's focus is on surface design and it is my favourite of favourites. Our big project for the week is to design a motif and carry it through four plates using four different methods. The image above are my four: Sgraffito, Printing (with a hand-carved stamp), Resist, and Mishima. My favourite parts of this week have been getting to be more illustrative (with the Mishima and Sgraffito) and trying out different applications of underglaze. I've never used underglazes before and I get butterflies just thinking about them! They're so versatile.

There are more photos in my Flickr photostream, if you're inclined to look.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

a tribute to wildness

The path I take to and from school is lined by wildflowers and tall grasses and reeds. Since I spend an hour walking it everyday, I've become obsessed. My sketchbook is full of Aster and Chicory and Queen Anne's Lace, among others. I have dried milkweed pods sitting in the top of my locker and bunches of wildflowers whose names I don't know hanging all around my bedroom.

Most recently, they've made their way into clay. I did some tests this weekend for new pendants that I'll be selling at the Frederick Street Art Walk and the HandMade Market in November:

Bisqued pieces being glazed and drying in the  sun.

Just out of the kiln and all strung up.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


We successfully completed a Raku firing yesterday. Here are my tea bowls:

I am mighty pleased with them. And by that I mean I can't stop crooning over them. To see more photos of the whole process, go here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Haliburton School of the Arts: Thoughts on Week One

When I was trying to decide whether to come to Haliburton, I couldn’t find anyone who had blogged about their experience in the ceramics program. So I’m going to try to do that a little bit here, over the next few months, when time and energy allows for it. If you're reading this because you're interested in the ceramics program, I'm going to talk a little bit about what brought me to Haliburton School of the Arts and then go into what my first week looked like.

The first time I applied to this program was six years ago. Back then, when I told my extended family, they asked me why. Why would I study ceramics? I answered: Because I want to. I've never forgotten the response. With something very much like a sneer, one particular family member said: "Well isn't it nice to be able to do whatever you want." I was struck by those words. No one defended me, so it must have been true: I was foolish and selfish and entitled. Needless to say, I didn’t go.

Six years have passed and in those six years I've come to terms with the selfishness required to make art. The foolishness. The entitlement, even. This year especially. In the aftermath of my grandfather’s death, I realized that I too am going to die one day, just like he died, and in light of that glaring truth, I have to do what I have to do.

And before I move on (in case you, dear reader, need to hear it): No one will give you permission. You are the only one who can do that. So if you want to make art, make art. No excuses. If you want to move 3.5 hours north and study ceramics 12 hours a day, figure out a way to do it. There is always a way. And don't listen to the naysayers. Take that volume dial and turn it all the way down. And then go and do the work that's calling you.

Okay, back to business:

When I was thinking of applying to this program, I asked a few people I knew who’d either been through it or been through one of the other arts programs at HSTA. The word that kept coming up was “intense”. I didn’t really know what that meant or how seriously I should take it. But that’s definitely the word that sums up this first week: INTENSE. And while it’s sometimes stressful trying to juggle everything (flipping your slabs every ten minutes so they don’t warp while finishing up your lidded box before it gets too hard while being called over to watch a demonstration of the project you need to start and finish by the next day and also knowing that somehow you also need to wax and glaze your pots because there's a firing tomorrow…) the hours fly by because you are so absorbed in the work.

This week our instructor was Michael Sheba, and quite honestly, if all the other instructors are as knowledgeable and as good at teaching as he is, it will be a dream come true. In just five days I have learned SO MUCH.

These are what my days look like:

I wake up at 6am. By 6:30 I've scored a table at this little donut shop next door (it’s the only coffee shop that’s open earlier than 9am, which is when classes start) and everyone who goes there is a regular and seems like they’ve been a regular since 1970. Everyone except me that is. I tuck myself into a corner and write every day until 8am. I do this because I need to; because while I'm here to make pottery, my writing is important to me. So I carve out time where I can.

At 8am I return home, pack my lunch, and set out for school. It takes me 30 minutes to walk to the school, which is exactly on the other side of the lake, in the middle of a forest. Honestly, my walk is one of my favourite parts of the day. It is the perfect start and end to the intensity sandwiched in between. I love my walk to and from school. Haliburton is incredibly beautiful and I soak it all in.

Head Lake, Haliburton

Classes are from 9-5 everyday. But I’m there so much longer than this and I usually work through my breaks and my lunch. From Tuesday to Thursday the studios are open until 9pm and while I first thought this was optional, this week has proven otherwise. Studio hours are necessary. Saturdays are also studio days and sometimes classes happen on Saturdays too, like this week for example (we're doing a Raku firing tomorrow).

The nice thing about the ceramics program is that you can’t take your work home with you. It has to get done in the studio. So home time really is down time – even though I don’t get much of it. (And the nice part about not getting much down time is that it leaves no time to feel homesick.) When I do get home, it’s almost dark and this is when I Skype with Joe. Often while eating dinner. Which is usually cereal. I love this time of the day because even though we're far apart, it feels like we're coming home to each other, checking in with each other. I try to Skype with Yonder (my dog) but he doesn’t quite understand the concept and whenever I say his name he looks towards the stairs instead of the screen.

Last of all, just before falling asleep, I read. This week I'm reading through "Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed. Her letters are just short enough that it's easy to read a few before getting too tired and yet they're so rich and wise that I leave the page feeling like I've read so much. I keep going back to one of her letters in particular, especially this part:

"If there's one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it's that you can't fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It's a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees."

And that is all I have to say for today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

in the studio

I'm taking an online pottery course this summer and this week we're making footed platters and wall tiles - for the purpose of learning new surface techniques. Here are some process shots, taken in my studio:

Slabs waiting to set up. 
Leather-hard tiles about to be covered (to keep them from drying out).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Writer Blog Hop

These four questions have been circulating the internet for a few months now in the form of a "Blog Hop". It's basically tag for writers who blog. So, I'm answering them here and tagging two lovely writers at the end who will answer them in turn:

What am I working on/writing?

Right now I’m undergoing a mentorship with an author I really admire and rewriting a fantasy novel. This is my third rewrite and the story has changed pretty drastically since its first incarnation, written four years ago. It's about a dragon hunter whose father will cancel the odious marriage he arranged for her if she can kill the First Dragon – a task so dangerous, no other hunter will take it on.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

This is kind of a hard question to answer. I’m in various stages of working on three novels and all three are very different from each other (dreamy/poetic, fast-paced/epic, urban/edgy), so talking about how all three are different from all the other books in my genre? I'm honestly not sure how to do that.

Why do I write what I do?

Well this is an easy question to answer. I write what I do a) because of questions that I'm grappling with, b) as a way to push back against the world’s hard edges, and c) because I want to see the world I know and love reflected back to me.

Example a) I write about characters under forgetting spells because I watched my grandfather slowly forget everything and everyone he ever loved. I listened to people tell me that the man he'd always been was gone and yet, if I looked hard enough, I could still find hints of him. I wrote to answer the question: If someone forgets themselves and everything they love, are they still important? Are they still who they've always been?

Example b) I write about characters who believe that their deepest, truest selves are deficient because that’s what I believed (and sometimes still believe) and because there are plenty of others out there who believe that about themselves too. So I write to challenge this notion.

Example c) I write about characters who are just like those I live and love and laugh with but who I can't easily find in the stories I crave. I want stories to be fantastical, but I also want them to be truthful. I want to see the world I live in reflected in the stories I love.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process has changed a lot over time. With the first incarnation of this novel I’m rewriting, I started at the beginning, had a vague sense of where I wanted to go (a few key scenes throughout the story) and just wrote towards those scenes. The problem with this was that I didn't really know who my characters were, and they ended up feeling very flat. Rarely did they initiate action. More often they were just reacting to things that were happening to them.

With the most recent incarnation (and this is largely due to my mentorship) I started with the main character first (her history, wounds, etc) and only once I had a grapple on her did I start in on the story, loosely plotting it out with her at the forefront. This has given my character more depth. It's also changed the way I view plot - instead of just letting things happen to my character, now the plot exists to challenge her and it forces her (through her actions and choices) to move the story forward. It's a lot harder than the "just start at the beginning and write to the end" method, but it's given my story so much more depth and life.

I assume my process will change more over time, too.

And now I am tagging Anya Monroe and Andrea Brame. Go forth and check out their answers!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Viable Paradise XVIII

So. This happened on Friday:

If you're unfamiliar with Viable Paradise, it's a week-long writing workshop that takes place in the Fall on Martha's Vineyard. N.K. Jemison is a former grad. N.K. Jemison!!! Ahem. Anyways. Needless to say, I'm over the moon.

But that's not the thing I really wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about was how, over the course of that day, I went from feeling like I was a fraud, that my writing was utter garbage, that my goals were completely unrealistic and silly, to feeling like maybe I'm actually doing okay.

The morning started at 5:30am, which is when I bike from my house to job #1 and bake my little heart out at Cafe Pyrus. It was just as I was leaving Pyrus to bike to job #2 (Words Worth Books) that I got an email saying that the writing contest I'd submitted to months ago had chosen it's winner and nine finalists... of which I was not one.

It's funny, but after getting so much rejection throughout the years, I've learned how to shrug and keep going. But this year has been a particularly hard one, filled with loss of loved ones and hard work that hasn't amounted to anything and also: I'd been up since 5:30. So I was ill-prepared for the soul-crushing feelings of failure. My day was ruined and it had barely even started. I still had to bike across town and work a whole shift at the bookstore.

I was miserable, on the verge of tears all day, and the only thing that got me through was the fact that I had a campfire with friends to look forward to at the end of it. It was there, at the week's end with my friend Ruthi taking orders for how everyone wanted their marshmallows (golden or burnt) and Joe playing the guitar and this pretty lady wanting to play that I put aside my feelings of inadequacy.

Which is when I got another email: the one at the beginning of this post. And suddenly, the world opened up and I could breathe again.

The creative life is strange like that.