Thursday, 31 May 2007

Great Design Book

I recently attended an artist talk by Ana Rewakowicz and at the event she had a copy of a book I knew immediately I had to have. Now mind you to put it into perspective, I have to have most books I run across but this one was a particular must-have case. The book, Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crisis is edited by Architecture for Humanity and is filled to the brim with projects and prototypes from designers all around the world in response to the need to develop housing for displaced people as a result of war, famine or natural disaster.

While I'm still just beginning to make my way through the book, already I'm amazed at the ingenuity of these designers, their passion and their commitement to the needs of others.

I've pulled out 2 projects to mention which were chosen due to their material which is of course ceramic!

This first one is a housing project which was designed and developed by Nader Khalili and the organization Cal-Earth ( The houses are 150sq foot buildings that can be built for approximately $625, plus as an additional bonus the communities themselves are involved in the construction due to the ease of building the structures. The book highlights all of the political, economic and technical chanllenges that were faced in trying to get this project on the ground in the communities that needed them.

This ceramic water filter project is by the organization Potters for Peace, who also have a sister organization here in Canada called Potters Without Borders. The primary community they serve is Managua, Nicaragua and they have a program for potters to travel to Nicaragua to do volunteer work in the area. The filters cost about $10-15 and can purify just under 2L of safe drinking water in an hour.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Tired of calls for submission yet?

Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramists

Deadline: August 10, 2007
As the only national award for young ceramic artists and potters, The Winifred Shantz Award presents $10,000 annually to an artist to recognize achievement and invest in the future.

The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery welcomes submissions from Canadian ceramic artists and potters who have been working for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years in a productive studio capacity.

This award is designed to allow the recipient time away from the studio, travel for career development, connect with mentors, visit other studios, study museum collections, investigate kiln sites, or liaise with industry to perform research that will further in-studio production. It may also be used for international residencies or symposia. While recognizing that not all ceramists arise from an academic background, this award is intended to assist at a post-graduate level of accomplishment and may not be used for tuition purposes.

The selection panel is comprised of experienced contemporary ceramic artists, potters and curators. This jury will choose one winner and the results will be announced at a gala event at the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery on September 20, 2007.
Hard-copy applications should be delivered to the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery by August 10th, 2007 by 5pm. Applications should include:

* 2-page cv detailing the applicant’s accomplishments over the past five years
* Creative Material:
o 20 labelled .jpg images, 72 dpi, maximum 1024 x 768 (height must not exceed 768 pixels). Title each file with a number, your name, and title of the work. (ie. 01.artistname.title.jpg). Save images directly on the CD-ROM without creating folders, and do not submit PowerPoint.


o 20 slides clearly numbered and labelled with the artist’s name
* image list indicating the number, title, date, process and size of each work
* single-page outline describing how the award will be used, i.e. a proposal of the research program and its intended relevance to the applicant’s future work

All submissions will be kept on file at the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery’s Artists’ Registry for archival purposes and cannot be returned. All applications must be hard copy (email submissions will not be accepted); additional support materials are not required

Submissions should be sent to:
Winifred Shantz Award
c/o Robert Achtemichuk, Director
Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery
25 Caroline Street North
Waterloo, ON N2L 2Y5

The award recipient must deliver a brief report to the Gallery, summarizing the benefits received from the award, no later than two years after the award is granted. Documents outlining itinerary, as well as confirmation by receiving mentors or industrial partners and disclosure of the terms of agreement between partners and the recipient, may be requested prior to disbursement.

For more information, contact:
Robert Achtemichuk
Executive Director
519.746.1882, #231

500 Plates, Platters, & Chargers

Lark Books is putting out yet another in their 500 series...

Deadline: July 16
Juror: Linda Arbuckle

Lark Books seeks images of contemporary handmade plates, platters, and chargers to publish in an international collection of studio ceramic work from around the globe. Diverse techniques and styles are desired. Slated for release in Spring 2008, 500 Plates, Platters, & Chargers is intended to inspire beginning and professional ceramic workers, as well as collectors, scholars, and enthusiasts. We accept high-quality transparencies, 35-mm slides, and high-resolution digital images. Artists whose work is selected for inclusion will receive full acknowledgement within the book, a complimentary copy, and discounts on the purchase of books. Artists retain copyright of their work, and there is no entry fee. Entries must be postmarked by July 16, 2007. To submit images of your work for consideration, please go to and look under artist submissions.

Another call for entry

5th International Biannual of Ceramics, the City of Kapfenberg, Austria - 6/15/2007
Deadline: June 15, 2007
Topic: Illusion
September 28th – November 11th 2007

A maximum of three works are allowed to be entered to the competition. The works must not exceed the age limit of two years and there has to be an obvious connection between the topic of the biannual (“Illusion”). Only works that have never been entered to take part at any other competition are accepted.

The dimensions of the objects entered have to be of reasonable size, height and weight. In other words, an exhibition at the gallery of the Cultural Center should not take extraordinary efforts for the organizers.

Photographs of the works are required. Please take the pictures in front of neutral background. The minimum size of each photograph is 13x18 centimetres of measure. The photographs can also be sent via CD ROM. A resolution of at least 300dpi is required. Please take the pictures of each work from at least two different angles.

On the backside of each photo taken, please write the name of the artist, the year of production, as well as the title of each along with its measures and forms of technique.

To enter the competition/exhibition of the 5th Biannual of Ceramics the Cultural Center of Kapfenberg requires a package of the following data:

The filled out application form. The list of works entered. The photographs of the works entered.

Please write the password “Keramikbiennale” (Biannual of Ceramics) on your package and send it to the following address:

Stadtgemeinde Kapfenberg
Kulturzentrum, Mürzgasse 3
A – 8605 Kapfenberg Austria

All entries have to reach the Cultural Center before June 15th 2007.

An eventual publication of the works is only possible if the photographs are liable to be reproduced or – in case of digital photographs – contain a high resolution (300 dpi).

The data/documents entered will remain with the organizer and will hence not be returned.

All participants that are admitted to enter the contest / exhibition will be notified until July 10th, 2007.
For more information visit,

2008 NICHE Awards

Applications for the 2008 NICHE Awards are now available online at Artists can download an application at the newly revamped NICHE Awards web page. Other useful information includes updated rules and guidelines, as well as information about the 2008 NICHE Awards ceremony, special display and finalist notifications.

Call for Submission

The New Cartography of Craft: Charting a Course from Regional to Global

As part of Craft Year 2007, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University will be hosting the NeoCraft Conference, 23-25 November 2007. This conference has been designed “with the objective of further developing critical thinking, theory and history in relation to the crafts. It is the intention of NeoCraft to not only acknowledge the vital role the crafts play in our culture and economy and to challenge the position of craft by creating a forum for lively exchange and debate. Modern art has always been defined by the way it deals with material modernization. The next modern art will likewise address global modernization. As part of this process, the crafts need to continually rethink their position. NeoCraft, the conference, will explore the possibility of craft practice that engages with the modernizing world.” (Source:

This exhibition, The New Cartography of Craft: Charting a Course from Regional to Global, has been designed with the NeoCraft Conference in mind; the exhibition will be on public display concurrent with the Conference. The NSDCC seeks submissions of works that look beyond our geographic and/or cultural boundaries; works that consider global cultural influences and reflect those influences through the work, utilizing innovations in techniques, materials, designs and/or subject matter while still retaining the unique identity of the maker. Submitting artists are also asked to submit a brief explanation of each work and the cultural references that inspired its creation.

For more information, please contact the NSDCC office at 902.423.3837.


Being a new home owner I've caught the reno and decorating bug pretty bad, and although we're working on a very limited budget (which has still allowed us to do amazing things) it's always nice to dream bigger than life. But i suddenly find myself pouring over the house and renovation mags in the grocery line, scanning for ideas. Most mags have let me down in that they all seem too polished with houses looking a bit unlived in. But my husband and I finally found a mag that seemed to fit our aesthetic. Dwell is not only a great mag, but has a nice website too. Check out this piece by Agape Design. I'd have a hard time washing my dirty clay filled hands in this one.

And this bookshelf by BlankBlank is so wickedly clever. The piece is called Religion and the books on the shelf are copies of the main texts of the major world religions.

This wallpaper though is the kicker! I would so have some of this in my house if I could afford it. Maybe not a whole room though, just a bit for an accent.

You can find it here and it's by designers Sofie Eliasson and Matt Duckett.

sooo etsy exciting!!

I'm so happy to know that now my awesome, super, fantastic artstar bud Mel Robson has set up a etsy site to sell her beautiful wares. You must go check it out! Click here for the website for her shop.

She also has a blog ~ feffakookan ~ definitely worth reading, with tons more pics of her work and great links to the work of other ceramic and craft artists.


Well after too many rants I figured that maybe it was time to post some more images of great and inspiring work. Just this morning I was flipping through my copy of Lark Books' 500 teapots. You see i'm trying to mentally prepare for a week long teapot making workshop I've signed up to teach at the end of July. You've gotta love those lark books, they're like porn for ceramic artists, full color glossy shots with close ups of glaze drips, hmmmm... I never seem to get tired of flipping through them to be inspired. And it's always nice to look at the work of artists you know and to see them getting their work out there. One of my fellow grad students, one of the loveliest guys you'll ever meet from Hawaii, Daven Hee, has a few images of his gorgeous teapots in the book. I'm lucky enough to have one of my own sitting in my living room, collecting dust due to it's non-functional nature, but loved and appreciated none the less on a daily basis.

And while taking that shot right beside it was a piece of Avi Amesbury's so I had to snap that as well. Avi is one of the lovely women that I got to hang out with in Australia and recently showed with at NCECA in Lousiville. Here are 2 of her beautiful nesting bowls, they have a celadon interior and the outside is stamped with delicate little markings highlighted by her use of the oxides she collects. She has a great website with tons of gorgeous art and information at, definetly worth checking out. I think there is also a link to her personal site from there.

The teacup beside it is a sweet little piece that I picked up at the artisans market at the Gulgong conference in 2004(?) For the life of me I can't remember the name of the artist, but I will promise to search it out and update. The same unfortunately goes for the last name of the artist who made the little white cup, her first name was Natalie and she was an undergrad student at the Canberra School of Art when I was there. I must get better at this memory thing!

and on a sad note i accidently broke the lid to a beautiful covered jar I picked up while in oz. It's a Janet Mansfeild piece, and it's a bit heartbreaking, but such is life in ceramics and it will live on in a glued-together-so-well-that-only-i-will-ever-know sorta way.

the joys of teaching

I think it'll always be the question posed...what do you do with a degree, or even better 2 degrees in ceramics? It's funny because I still run across people, particularly students while i'm teaching that ask what I went to school for. I've got a Masters in Ceramics, of which I'm damn proud, but i'm constantly finding people that are surprised that such a thing as a Masters in Mud actually exists (none the less a phd!)
But it is a question, a legitimate one, what do you do with a ceramics degree? the awnser is not necessarily teach. Of course if you want to follow the path of academia and teach at a college then the degree is a requirement, however I think that of all of the friends (and correct me if I'm wrong) that I have that have gone through and completed such degrees, teaching hasn't been the sole or main goal. What ever happened to knowledge for knowledge sake. When did learning for the sake of greater awareness about the world become not enough? Why must everything have a monetary, 9 to 5, working towards the CEO position methodology behind it?
As an artist education to me was all about me and my practice, exploring and challenging myself, my technical skills, the scope of my research and my abilities as an artist to make relevant and thought provoking work. And none of this was for the sake of paying bills at the end of the month, but rather to feel fulfilled and contribute as an individual, as an artist, to the current debates, to the arts and cultural community, to altering the course of society as a whole through positive and proactive (and passionate) engagement with the world.
Don't get me wrong though, teaching is an incredibly rewarding practice, I teach all the time, and love it, love my students, find it rewarding on so many levels and draw constant inspiration from it. But it is not the only thing we as artists, educated through universities and colleges are qualified to do. The ever widening scope of the arts and cultural field offers countless possibilities to artists to find work and to make work for themselves. The key thing that I've found so far is the idea of making work for myself. There is no 9 to 5, so find a way yourself to fill those hours, teach, work in administration, advocacy, write (even when writing isn't your background - more writing about art - in particular craft - has to get out there!), work with different business and community groups as creative consultants, work with youth at risk groups, sigh... the list is endless, but it must be approached proactively. Work in partnership with organizations, schools, etc as an artist in residence, find ways of making work that intertwines with community involvement, not only does it get you out of the solitude of the studio, but gets your work and your name out there.
phewww. A rant for a wednesday afternoon. Obviously feeling a bit opinionated, or maybe trying to motivate myself out of my own quiet studio...

Monday, 28 May 2007

the skilled hand of the laborer

I recently returned to my old stomping grounds where I studied for my undergrad to do a gas firing of some pieces for a sale next month. I seem to be endlessly drawn back to the aesthetics of reduction firing, even though I'm in love with the results of electric highfire. It's always an interesting debate to get into with people as I still often find that the ceramics community has its own share of elitists who would have you believe that electric firing is easy. In the 4 years that this has been my focus I have found that it is anything but. And in arguably I think that each method of firing has it's own perks and pitfalls, but none is easier than another, less labor intensive...maybe. But while the firing of a wood kiln for 6 days, plus chopping all of the wood is exhausting, there is a reward in that the atmosphere of the kiln plays such a great role in resulting finish and aesthetic of the work. On the other hand, it is true that all I have to do is program my digital electric to do as I wish and then I'm off to do other things, but I believe that the skill and knowledge required to make electric fired work beautiful is difficult. The results are more under your control and your responsibility. Nothing is a given, there are great predictable firings, and then there are those that go horribly wrong with no explanation. While I don't look favorably on the labor of long hours of firing into the night, breathing carbon filled air, I find it equivalent to the hours in studio researching and testing glazes for electric. I once fought with a glaze for over 4 month to get it to perform just right.

Personally I'm a sucker for anything and everything clay based, and have no elitist notions of which firing aesthetic is better, but I do take offense to the snubbed nose attitude I've seen from other artists who think that electric fired is a sub-aesthetic.

On a different note though I had an interesting encounter with an old prof, actually the one who had taught me to throw years ago. While working in the glaze room, preparing for this gas firing, the subject turned to pricing and sales of work. I had recently seen some of this prof's work for sale at a local gallery and had been shocked at the cheapness of the prices. Not to name names, but this is an artist of high standing in the Canadian community and I guess I had just expected higher prices. So standing there in the glaze room, I called him on it, and asked why? The response I got to this day troubles me. And admittedly I'm not sure if it was meant with sarcasm or not, one can only hope. When asked why he sold his work for so little, he replied, "I am but a laborer". To me this is the epitome of what is wrong in the craft discipline - the artists themselves devaluing their own skills, knowledge, artistic vision, disciplined craftsmanship, and researched and developed aesthetic. A laborer...sigh. Why not a highly skilled laborer? "But a laborer"? It seemed so negative. I truly hope that it was a comment intended to be sarcastic otherwise as a young artist trying to make a living and challenge myself in the craft medium of ceramics, I have more opposition that I thought, the opposition not only being outside of the field, but from within.

Friday, 18 May 2007

lazy friday

Well it's not like I didn't get up early enough, it's 9 in the morning and I've already spend an hour on-line reading blogs. But it definitely seems to be a lazy friday, I think another cup of tea will have to be in order to get me motivated and into the studio to deal with all of the backlog there. But here's to the joys of working at home, the choice is mine as to whether or not to actually change out of my pyjamas before work. It's sorta like in elementary school when you had dress up days and once in a while it was pyjama day...hmmm.

I guess I should grab my trusty sidekick Yarra and head off to work, she'll likely sleep through it all under my chair while I throw, it's good company, but the sort of company that makes you want a nap on the sunny part of the couch.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Is design evil?

Icon, the architecture and design mag, published some interesting design projects in their November 06 issue. The subject - designers engaging with controversial topics such as war, terrorism, poverty, etc...
Beyond the interesting images of projects by a multitude of designers, there is an interesting text that accompanies. The article states that this focus towards more "darker issues" in design rather than mere functionality and fashion leads to the "descent from a noble cause into shallow sensationalism".

I guess I would argue against the shallowness of making such needed and current commentary, as while inarguably it does sometimes rely on sensationalism, to me there is no greater noble cause than to wake the world up to what's going on in society and throughout the world.

This is the work of Industreal (designers: Andersson Frida and James Steiner) called "Smokes Like a Chimney". It's an ashtray with a lid with bronchi-shaped tubes.

Dominic Wilcox created this "War Bowl" of melted plastic toy soldiers.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

some newly documented pieces...

Here are a few new pieces off to Red Deer later today, so I just quickly took some digitals. They're for a group show to be held at the Harris Waarke Gallery which will present the work of faculty from the Red Deer College Ceramics Department where I was the Visiting Artist last fall. Should be a great show including the work of Trudy Golley, Candice Ring, Brian McAuthur and Dawn Deterando.

They didn't really know what was next.

They felt the tug of war.

4048 : 783,209

Alot of my figurative pieces in the past had dealt with violence and inequality, but for these ones I decided to make a more direct statement about the war. It's hard though to make work about current events that are constantly changing and shifting in front of your eyes, and for a long time I had held off making this work as I didn't want to make work that was hollow and simply jumping on the bandwagon of political art about the war which has been in fashion in the last few years, with some artists producing incredibly strong and powerful statements, while others arguably aiming to make confrontationally charged work that falls flat. I'm not quite satisfied with the development of the ideas in this work thus far, but who am i kidding, i never am. But it has been interesting to put the ideas into concrete form. What I wanted to discuss though was the inequality of the media representation of the dead count, the North Amercian or eurocentric overendulgence and valuing of one soldier loss over the countless Iraqi civilian and military loss, the political game at play which brings nations into the situation regardless of the views and stance of the people in their so-called democratic societies, and the fate of all those injured in battle, whether they be army personal or innocent civilians and the uncertain future that they face.

Hopefully in the near future i'll be able to update with other images from the exhibition, so stay posted...

Ceramics in the Dominican

There's not much better than escaping a cold and dark Canadian winter for sandy beaches of another country. It should almost be a yearly gift from our governement to restore community spirit and sanity. So when the opportunity presented itself to travel to the Dominican with family this year one could hardly pass up the chance. Of course for me no trip is complete without a bit of local culture, cuisine, and what else but some ceramics.

While we were emersed in the generousity of the Dominican people, some of us took a day trip into the Dominican Alps, passing through Santiago where we stopped to visit a local ceramics factory. I of course was the nerd of the group enjoying every second of it. The type of work produced was tourist goods, alot for the local tourist trade as well as some for export. We got to tour around everything from the clay pits to the kilns. Gotta love those huge walk in kilns which dwarf my own tiny electric back home.

The tasks were all divided between men and women, the men doing all the harder labour such as crushing and filtering the clay, throwing the pots and loading the kilns. The women's roles centered around altering the thrown forms, making attachments and painting or glazing the wares, mind you not many of the pots had glaze, most were painted with acrylic washes as the main product of the buisness was planters and garden pots.

I was practically sitting on my hands not to jump on one of the kick wheels and have a try of the local clay which was a beautiful yellow ochre color and quite plastic. I think I could have been left behind here and lived my life quite happily.

This last picture I love of some of the women working in the painting studio.

Monday, 14 May 2007

The Spafford Collection of Ceramics

Should be a great exhibition worth the drive to see it. My former prof Jack Sures, who is one of the reasons i'm a ceramicst today, will have work alongside so many artists for whom Saskatchewan ceramics are known. The list includes: Gisele Amantea, Victor Cicansky, David Gilhooly, Marilyn Levine, Jeannie Mah, and Zane Wilcox.

A review of some great art, by an amazing writer.

Ever since I spent 2 years living and making work in Australia it seems that all things Australian and in particular Australian craft have been on my radar so it was no surpise to run across an article about the work of Patsy Hely, a PHD student at the Canberra School of Art at the Australian National University. While I was a student there I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet Patsy and see her amazing work first hand. The article, PASTORALIA - The Work of Patsy Hely, is published online at Craft Victoria's Craft Culture site and is written by another dear friend of mine, Sarah Rice, a ceramic artist, art theorist, writer and instructor in the art theory department of the ANU.

Here is an image of Patsy's work from the exhibition and another vase form from an exhibition held at Beaver Galleries in Canberra.

New Craft - Future Voices Conference and Exhibition

As their website states:
"New Craft - Future Voices is an international conference and exhibition organised to encourage debate surrounding the future of craft. It seeks to expose and articulate craft issues currently being investigated via doctoral research, post-doctoral research and craft practitioners, and to document new ways of questioning and disseminating the dialogue of craft practice.
New Craft - Future Voices will explore the relation between skills, intellect and culture within the individual vision of crafts practitioners."

I'm lucky to be participating in the conference's exhibition and it's worth checking out their website at as they had an interesting submissions process wherein you had to post your submission to their website and undergo a very public review process. While it was a bit unsettling, it was a great experience to participate in as you were able to read the other submissions and gain valuable insight into the range of theorectical research being undertaken internationally. Should be a great conference as a result.

The conference will be held July 4th to 6th, 2007 at the University of Dundee in Scotland. There is also a related blog site - worth a read.

Power of 10

The Saskatchewan Craft Council is currently hosting an exhibition of work from Saskterra, which is a Saskatchewan based Ceramics collective. The exhibition showcases work from members of the organization over the last 10 years. The exhibition can be viewed online at

Here's some pics of my work from the exhibition.

New Craft Journal calling for submissions

Cahiers métiers d'art * Craft Journal is a non-profit organisation that encourages and publishes critical, historical and technical research on local and international craft.

They are looking for essays, reviews and artist profiles. The first issue to be out in July 2007. Their site details all the submission info and how to sign up to receive the online mag.

NeoCraft Conference

NeoCraft Conference is going to be held at NSCAD in Nova Scotia next November.

An International Conference on the Crafts and Modernity.
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University is pleased to be hosting the NeoCraft conference, 23 - 25 November, 2007, as part of the Canadian Crafts Federation’s Craft Year 2007/Année des métiers d’art.

The NeoCraft conference has been designed with the objective of further developing critical thinking, theory and history in relation to the crafts. It is the intention of NeoCraft to not only acknowledge the vital role the crafts play in our culture and economy, but to challenge the position of craft by creating a forum for lively exchange and debate.

Check out their site at to see a full list of speakers and papers to be presented.

should have known...

Well I guess that's what you get for trying to set up a blog site right in the midst of a move to a new home and studio, i've neglected the site already for about a month, sigh, but things will change as the dust settles and boxes get unpacked and I need to procrastinate and avoid all the renovations that still need to be done. A few things have come up in the last little bit so I thought i'd post some upcoming events and sites to check out.

Come to the Invisible/Visible Crafts Conference
June 10-12!
Alberta College of Art+ Design

This event gives craftspeople unprecedented exposure to exhibitions,
demonstrations and presentations in different media, to meaningful
professional information for crafts practice. Superb speakers and
information of note. This symposium enlarges and enhances the Calgary public's awareness and appreciation for Craft Practice, objects and Making.

The keynote speech by Peter Powning, the 30th Bronfman Award winner will be free and open to the public, as will the opening of exhibitions that evening. The city will have several national exhibitions and numerous smaller exhibitions for the symposium including the National Glass Exhibition at the Illingworth Kerr gallery along with a regional ceramics exhibition,
a furniture retrospective of the work of Henry Schlosser and the National Metal Arts exhibition (MAG). "All About Alberta" will be at the Nickel Arts Museum, fresh from its Washington DC and Edmonton success.
The Metalphoric Group will exhibit at ACAD, a Print exhibition and student exhibition 'Base Elements' with other works exhibited at ACAD and in window showcases. The exhibitions will be free and open to the public and can be viewed for several weeks. Many private galleries across the city are hosting craft relevant exhibitions to coincide with the events.

Information: or