Thursday, April 16, 2015


In the midst of working on orders, I've been designing a new line of pots. As I've mentioned before, the inspiration behind these actually comes out of a story I started writing about four years ago. The illustrations are based on two secondary characters, Ravi and Sable, who are known as shiftlings - creatures that dwell in the woods. In this world of theirs, shiftlings take two forms and can shift between them. Sable is both a girl and a coyote, Ravi is both a boy and a raven, and they've been friends for as long as either of them can remember.

The problem is that Ravi has a weakness for mischief. He likes things like posing riddles and playing tricks and he especially likes making bets (because he always wins them). One day, though, he bets against the wrong person and loses. The cost? Seven years of servitude. Sable tries to win back those years for Ravi, but the one she's betting against refuses to play unless Sable significantly increases the bet. She does. But Sable's no good at games. She manages to win Ravi's freedom, but in doing so, forfeits her life in servitude.

Ravi can't bet higher than a life and therefore can't free his friend. He never gets over this and spends the years blaming himself as Sable becomes more captive and obedient and less like her true self - a girl who's wild and fierce and free.

That's not the end of their story, though.

(You can see more of the series here.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

this week in the studio

If there's one thing I know about myself it's that I get bored easily. So easily. And when I get bored, I get restless and fidgety and agitated. I actually stopped doing ceramics four years ago simply because I was bored. I made the same products over and over again. I wasn't challenging myself. I wasn't excited. My ceramic process became lifeless and I no longer wanted anything to do with it.

Now, to protect myself, I give myself permission to do new things. Occasionally I allow myself to let go of an old design, no matter how many people keep asking for it. I used to feel guilty for saying no, but somewhere in the past few years that's eroded. I've come to realize that I never signed a contract saying I'm obligated to keep making things that no longer give me life. And if ceramics isn't giving me life, why am I doing it? 

The images below are examples of three new challenges I've taken on lately:

The first image is of a new jewellery line, which is rooted in a new pottery line. It's challenging because so many people make jewellery and I really wanted something that wasn't like what was out there. I wanted something interesting and eye-catching and not cute. I've been trying to move away from cute. As of right now, Craft Arts Market is the only place you can buy my feather and wood grain pendants.

The second image is a bunch of new transfers I made for inlay. As you know, I'm a bookseller and a writer, which means I like stories, and for a long time now, I've wanted to have a more narrative thread running through my pottery. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I do think I'm further along than I was six months ago, so: progress! These transfers are based on illustrations I did that come out of a novel I've been working on for a few years now. I have yet to put them on pots, so I'll put an update here when I do.

The last image is a very rough draft of a product linesheet. Due to the One of a Kind Show, I now have some wholesale accounts, which all require linesheets to order from. But I didn't even know what a linesheet was until the show, so I first needed to educate myself (and quickly). I now have a linesheet, and honestly, it was ridiculously fun to both research and design. Definitely the perfect challenge.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Potters Market

For those of you finding your way here from the One of a Kind Show, my etsy shop is now stocked, so if you're looking for pottery, head on over there. Or, if you're in Toronto, my pots are now being sold at Susan Harris Design in the distillery district. 

Last but not least, I wanted to let you know that this is where I'll be next:

Hope to see you there!

(P.S. One of my cups is featured on the poster above. Can you guess which one it is??)

Monday, March 30, 2015

the day after

The One of a Kind Show has been a daunting goal of mine for a long time and this year I was incredibly fortunate to have a booth in the Craft Community of Canada section where I was featured among a dozen other emerging artists. By the end of the show, we were a tight-knit little community all our own and I was so honoured to be surrounded by each and every one of them.

The benefits of doing this show (in my experience):

1.    THE EXPOSURE. You get tons of it. Not only did I get featured in the One of a Kind email blast (which went out to thousands of people) my wood grain pieces were showcased in the main display at the front entrance, and my hawthorn mugs were on television! Even more than this, I had retail stores and galleries approaching me wanting to wholesale my work. Which was incredible and something I didn’t expect. Honestly, it was worth it just for that.

2.    THE COMMUNITY. I’ve been working with clay and doing shows for a long time now and one of the best things about being a maker is the community of artists you become a part of once you start showing your work. Artists and artisans are not only some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, they are also some of the most intelligent, funny, kind, and supportive people out there. They are the treasure you didn’t even know you were looking for.

3.    THE FEEDBACK. Feedback is invaluable. One of the most helpful pieces of feedback I received again and again were on my wood grain tumblers. So many people asked about handles, which I’d refrained from putting on because these pieces in particular were designed in such a way that handles would really mess with the design. So now I know that I need to incorporate handles, which is a fun challenge.

4.    THE ACCOMPLISHMENT. At so many points leading up to this show, whether I was sanding the bottoms of hundreds of pots or carefully wrapping and packing each of those pots, I would turn to Joe and say: Can you believe I’m doing this? Well, I did it. At six o’clock last night, when the official closing announcement was made, cheers went up from all down the Direct Energy Centre. Cheers of camaraderie, solidarity and celebration. It felt so good.

And now I need to clean my studio and get back to work to prepare for The Potters Market (which you should totally come out to).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

hawthorns, fresh out of the kiln

In some folklores, hawthorn trees mark the entrance to the otherworld. In others, they can heal a broken heart.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

as if a woman quietly walked away

vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-coloured shells…
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance-
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright, silk against roughness,
pulling the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care…

-Adrienne Rich

In the past seven months, I’ve been burrowing. Or maybe running. But certainly I’ve retreated.

It began when my grandfather passed away. Just… disappeared. Forever. I didn't realize that the people you loved most could do that to you.

The burrowing intensified as over and over again I was met with rejection and disappointment and failure in the pursuit of my goals. I worked harder than ever only to find myself going in circles. Endless circles of endless failure.

So I ran North. I burrowed up there in a sleepy little town and a school made of windows and bright red doors. I woke up before the sun to write and came home long after it went down at night when my work with clay was done. It was what I needed – to run away. To burrow and mourn and remember which way my compass pointed.

But now that I’m back home, I’m still burrowing. My days look like words and words and words on the page or clay on my hands, my face, my jeans, my hair. This week I completely forgot about a shift at the bookstore and when my colleague called, wondering where I was, I was in the studio, disheveled and covered in mud. Obviously. This is who I am now when I don't have to go meet the world in any official way. Disheveled and covered in mud.

It was worrisome. In burrowing, I haven't been in touch with this or that person. I've been wearing the same clothes for three days straight. Every book I read moves me to tears for days. Going North was supposed to fix me. So why does it look like I'm falling apart?

But then, the poem. The one above that I started this blog with. It arrived and kept arriving. And it's changing my mind. I think maybe I'm not done yet. Burrowing, I mean. Retreating. It's what I still need to do for as long as I need to do it. Because the truth is, I still seek out the people I love most. And being moved so deeply by books means that I'm choosing the right ones. And who cares about what I'm wearing, anyway?

So I'm burrowing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

almost there...

I took a poll on Facebook yesterday, asking which tumbler people preferred:

The one on the left has a shiny black interior and exterior. The one on the right has matte black exterior, white interior, and translucent white lip. Out of the forty or so people who weighed in, it was almost an exact split down the middle. So. I'll be bringing both versions to the show… in exactly two weeks. Yikes! So much still to do!

Booth numbers have been assigned and I'll be in booth K34. So if you're planning on going, come visit!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

new venues

I'm very happy to say that I've just been accepted into this year's Potters Market. This is one of my all-time favourite pottery shows, partially because of the setting (the Goldie Mill ruins in Guelph) and partially because most of my favourite potters are there. I'm so thrilled and honoured!

Second of all, I just dropped off a batch of pottery at a new shop in downtown St. Catharines. Guys. Craft Arts Market is the sweetest, prettiest little shop around and if you live in the Niagara region, you should go check it out.

Friday, February 13, 2015

some housekeeping

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'll be exhibiting at the One of a Kind Show this spring and thought it might be good to do a general housekeeping post about everything that this entails.

The dates are March 25th-29th and the location is the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. For show hours and location, click here.

First of all, if you're thinking of coming to the show, you should first check out all the talented artists who will be there this year. How do you do that? Go to the website and click on "Meet the Artisans". From there you can customize your search for what you're interested in most.

Second of all, if you're planning on coming to the show, here's a link for you to get discounted tickets! Pretty sweet, right?

Third of all, my booth will be in the Craft Community of Canada section, along with nine other artists in a variety of mediums. The Craft Community of Canada section self-describes as:

"A platform for emerging artists to launch their careers! This section features ten of Canada's brightest talents in the handmade industry, as nominated by the nation's leading art and cultural organizations."

Last of all, due to the time and energy I'll be putting toward preparing for the show (I have less than six weeks now! Egads!) I'm officially closed to custom orders until April 1st. Thanks for understanding!

xo Kristen

Friday, January 30, 2015

protect your imagination

Those who fear the imagination condemn it: something childish, they say, something monsterish, misbegotten. Not all of us dream awake. But those who do have no choice. - Patricia A. McKillip
I’ve long since deliberated over whether I was a weirdly imaginative kid by nature, or by nurture, and I’m still not sure which it is. Growing up on a farm in the Niagara region, surrounded by orchards and vineyards and valleys and forests, I grew up with a deep sense of wonder. Television was only allowed in very small doses and once the TV got turned off and we got kicked out of the house, we were on our own.

This setting was a very safe one for me and there is thankfulness for that in my heart that I carry with me everywhere. I grew up protected by my family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles– but not overprotected by them. They fed me and clothed me and gave me a bed to sleep in and the love I needed, and then they left me to do my own thing.

I was also protected by the landscape around me. Those vineyards and forests were a refuge, a place where I was free to be my truest self. Again, I’m not sure if this made me into the sensitive child I was, or if it just nurtured that sensitivity, but whatever the case, I ended up with this sort of soft, naive interior. But a wandering imagination coupled with a sensitive spirit quickly became a problem the moment I stepped across the threshold of that refuge.

The problem was this: traditionally, those who hold the most power in the world tend to have the least imagination. I don't say that to offend or cut down, I say that because power and imagination (along with its sister, creativity) are opposites. Power, by its very nature, is about knowledge and control and effective, measurable results. Imagination and creativity, on the other hand, require wonder and curiosity, long periods of time daydreaming, as well as chaos, uncertainty, and a willingness to take risks, to try something that will probably fail. Power does not like these things. So when those who have the most influence in our lives are also the ones who see imagination as something that is not only useless, but detrimental, a conflict arises. The worst part is when those who love you most, those who want the best for you, are the people who see imagination as something that you don’t take with you when you grow up. In their minds, imagination is something you leave behind in childhood, because that’s where they left it. And because they’re tasked with helping you grow up, they see it as their responsibility to dissuade or diminish or snuff out your imagination entirely – not to be cruel, but because they love you and they think it’s in your best interest. They want you to value things like knowledge and control and effective, measurable results.

You can probably sense where this is going.

The sensitive, imaginative child needs to foster these parts of herself, so that she can become more fully who she is. But if the ones around her – the ones who love her most and have the most control in her life – are explicitly or implicitly* dissuading or diminishing these parts of her, she has to make a decision. She’s too young to cut herself off from her loved ones and pave her own way, so she has two choices, which are actually just variations on the same choice: she can actively turn against her true self, or she can hide her true self. Both of these things are detrimental to her, and I would argue, to the ones she loves.

The good news is, the damage is reversible. Usually the reversal happens much later, in adulthood, when the threads that bind us to the ones we love most start to loosen and we start to see things in a new way. But there’s a lot of work to do. Not only do you have to reclaim those parts of yourself you hid or turned against, you have all of these dysfunctional strategies to counter now. You can’t just water that little seed and hope it grows, you have to pull out all the weeds (and keep pulling out the weeds) and expose it to the right amount of sunlight and you might even have to put up a fence to help protect it from all the things that want to eat it up.

It’s hard work, but it’s more than possible. And it’s important, work, I think. For you, and for all the ones just like you who haven’t come through it yet. So protect your imagination. It's precious and the world needs it.

*The distinction between explicit and implicit is important here, because the sensitive child is adept at reading implicit messages, like body language or silence or sarcasm, and implicit messages are harder to negate or act against. For example, it's far easier to say: "Dad said that reading all day is a waste of time, but he's wrong because [insert logical reason here]." When nothing is said outright, though, when the loved one uses implicit signs (like slamming cupboards or constantly interrupting the child from reading to remind her she has homework to do, or whatever), it's much more difficult to figure out. All the child knows is that she now has a feeling of shame associated with reading all day and she doesn't quite know where it comes from and if she doesn't know where it comes from, then maybe it's inherent. With implicit messages, the child can't confront her father and say, "It's okay for me to read all day because this is the only time I have to read all week and reading is important to me for these reasons..." Because her father will say, "I never said you shouldn't read all day." Which will be both true and untrue, and the child will be left with the feeling of shame without any way to negate it. That's a much harder web to disentangle yourself from. When something is clear and concrete, you can concretely act against it. When something is unclear and illusive, you can't.