Monday, 30 July 2007

Technology put to good use

I'm procrastinating a bit about getting going this morning so I've been wasting, no, not quite wasting time, having a bit of a search on the internet. Just thought I'd share a few things I've run across.

First of all here's a few links to some Youtube videos about ceramics. There's quite a few videos if you start searching, lots of junk to filter through, with many unfortunate "Ghost" parodies to avoid along the way.

Ceramic work in Vietnam

Shoji Hamada Pottery Demonstration

Brubacher Ceramics

A Raku Firing

Carving Pottery

Art of Asia: Ceramics Innovations In Clay

Did you also know that in 2006 the Victoria and Albert museum in England put out a series of PODCASTS called Ceramic Points of View. Check out the link here.

Dennis Stevens of the Redefining Craft Blog has also been working with this new technology and you can find a few PODCASTS on his site as well as a Powerpoint presentation of a talk he present in 2006 at the CODA conference.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Print and ceramics

What seems like a long, long time ago as an undergrad student I ran across the work of Scott Rench in an issue of Ceramics Technical and was blown away by his silkscreening technique of getting imagery onto clay. Before leaving school I got a crash course, literally an hour or so, on how to expose a screen and then I was off and running. Well not really. I quickly discovered how difficult it was to properly expose a screen without the proper equipment and my attempts were admitedly quite pathetic. In the end the direction of my work has lead me down other paths which haven't required a thorough knowledge of printmaking techniques for clay. But I'm still quite a fan of artists who find the means to eloquently incorporate two dimensional imagery into three dimensional (or two dimensional) clay.

Scott Rench's art has changed quite a bit since I first ran across his work. But his interest in combining new technology and the computer in his process has been a constant. It's an interesting mix to take such a tactile maliable material that has such a long history and to combine it with new technology that changes quicker than most of us can keep up with and which is also so dramatically different than working in clay, your maliable material being pixels, zeros and ones.

But I think more and more the computer is invading the studio, either as a tool at our disposal for sketching and developing ideas, for manipulating imagery, for accounting and marketing, recording, storing digital images of our work, and for branching out, communicating with and developing our community. The more I think about it the more I realize that I would be as lost without my computer as I would be without my kiln.

In a more recent series of pieces Scott has worked directly with imagery taken from the computer itself and incorporated with other symbolic imagery to create sometimes complex and other times straight to the point statements about contemporary culture.

Check out the Dubhe Carreno Gallery for more images of Scott's and other great ceramic artists.

Recently Lark Books also published a book on Print and Ceramics. I have yet to get a copy, but have had a good browse at the book and it looks great. As always Lark fills it with yummy full color photos and the work they've chosen is really exciting and contemporary. Lots of different techniques are covered.

But of course the printmaking bible to me will always be Paul Scott's book Ceramics and Print.

A few years back I while I was still a student in Australia I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the ANU's Distance Ceramics Program (an amazing program for artists who want to work part time yet still acquire a degree - I'll post more info in a later blog.) Paul Scott was one of the instructors for that particular distance school and I got to sit in on the workshop. While I had read his book prior to that, it was amazing to see the techniques first hand and many techniques which had seemed complex became quite straight forward it the end. Beyond that Paul was an amazingly talented, hilariously funny and generous artist, willing to share all of his trade secrets. And the poignant nature of his subversive work has always interested me.

There is a quote from Paul Scott's catalogue Remember me when this you see which I returned to quite a bit when working on my thesis work with the figurine sculptures. It spoke to what I was trying to accomplish through my own work, the feeling that we are an intricate part of the greater narrative at all times, whether we are aware of it or not. It says:

"I like to make work that provokes some reaction or thought, work that is more than superficial. The issues I deal with are the ones I come across in my everyday life, sometimes close to home, like foot and mouth, or Sellafield, sometimes further away like Israeli bombing of refugee camps, or US treatment of prisoners. But even these far away issues are close to home because we buy Israeli fruit and veg in our supermarkets, we are or can be complicit in these things. I want people to think…"(Dahn, Jo. Remember me when this you se. Ceramics by Paul Scott and from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and Cereddigion Museum Catalogue Essay.)

Another great site to check out for interesting work with print and ceramics is Robert Dawson's Website Aesthetic Sabotage (I love the name!). It contains great work with traditional ceramic print imagery manipulated for a contemporary context.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

New issue of Art and Perception

It's always a good day when I get my hands on a new issue of Ceramics Art and Perception. And it's an even better day when your introduced to a new amazing artist you've never heard of before. The work of Danish artist Louise Hindsgavl has completely captivated me.

I find this work beautifully rendered and the imagery is rich with political and social commentary. The accompanying article by Tom Jorgensen is a great read, so I won't ruin it for you by telling you too much, but I love this quote about her work; "Her porcelain figurines break just about every thinkable and unthinkable rule for what we can and can't do. They emanate violence, mutilation, obscenity and wonderfully coarse humour." How's that for a description?

Check out the Nancy Margolis Gallery for more images of her work as well as other greats such as Justin Novak, Bean Finneran, Steve Heinemann, Eva Hild, Annabeth Rosen, Tommi Toija and Sun-Koo Yuh.

Justin Novak

Bean Finneran

Annabeth Rosen

Sun-Koo Yuh

The Sidney Myer International Ceramics Award

Deadline October 1

The Sidney Myer International Ceramics Award in association with La Trobe University was established by Shepparton Art Gallery in 1997 to provide an unprecedented opportunity for a major international ceramic award and exhibition in Australia. This biennale award developed from the Sidney Myer Fund Australia Day Ceramic Award, a national prize established in 1991. The new format award has offered Australian audiences the opportunity to view contemporary ceramic art from around the globe for ten years. The supporting seminar and master-class workshops with the International judge, provide a platform for cross-cultural learning and exchange.

Shepparton Art Gallery was established in 1936 and with the appointment of its first Director in 1970, began collecting Australian ceramics. This collection of Australian and International ceramics now spans over 3000 works and is rated amongst the best ceramic collections in Australia. The gallery’s permanent exhibition highlights the development of this art form, from the first kilns built in Australia through to a contemporary art from around the world. This year the gallery is delighted to announce the inaugural Indigenous Ceramic Art Award to be held in December 2007. This new prize will be a strong counterpart to the gallery’s flagship Sidney Myer International Ceramic Award and each will be held in alternate years.

Download Entry Form

Call for residency applications.

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft Studio Residency Program

Deadline September 1

Program supporting emerging, mid-career, and established artists working in craft media, including but not limited to clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood. Artists selected for the program will receive a 200–square-foot rent-free studio and a monthly stipend of $400. Studios are naturally lit and equipped with sinks, telephones, and DSL Internet access. The residency length is variable: three, six, or twelve months. Artists will be selected based on the quality of their work and their interest in working at the center and making a difference in Houston’s cultural community. In addition to studio space and stipend, participating artists will have access to a wide variety of resources and opportunities, including teaching opportunities, representation in the HCCC sales gallery, and collaborative opportunities.

Applicants must be able to fulfill a program requirement of twenty-four hours per week spent in their studio during the center’s public hours. For information, contact Amanda Clifford, (713) 529-4848 ext. 104;

A must read blog posting

Diana Fayt's blog One Black Bird is one of my regular reads and lately she's been having guest bloggers, which I think is a brilliant idea. She's always got insightful posts about her studio practice and related topics and is a great artist and thinker in her own right, but I wanted to bring to light a recent post by guest blogger Laura Zindel as I think it raises a very important issue about "green" ceramics, which I know for me is always in the back of my mind in my own pursuit to be not only a thoughtful consumer in my day to day life, living in the most sustainable means possible, but also finding a way to bring this into my ceramic practice which is by it's nature not very eco-friendly. It's a great topic for discussion so I hope you'll check it out.

Colourful geometry and soft, subtle fluidity of clay.

I think it's sometimes weird how my attraction to different ceramic styles develops. Some seem to be obvious aesthetics for me to be drawn to and others are sometimes quite far removed from my own working aesthetic that they are almost another language, yet I still find I can acquire inspiration from the whole spectrum of varied styles and processes which make ceramics so unique. I thought this week I'd spend a bit of time introducing some work that I've recently fallen in love with, have been inspired by for a while or have had in the back of my mind for years now.

This first artist I just recently discovered via the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition's website which has a great database of participating artists from the last few years. Frederique Bonmatin's work stood out to me because of the crisp colors and dramatic geometric lines. He's a potter from Montreal and although his website is in french it's easy enough to find the gallery section and he does correspond in english if you're interested in further info about the work.

His work also reminds me of the work of Ettore Sottsass whose work I've found inspirational since discovering a book on his work at a small used book store in London in 1999. I'm particularly drawn to his Tantra Ceramics from about 1969 which have had an obvious influence on my latest series of functional stoneware. Here's another website with info and images.

Another artist I came across via the TOAE website is Danny Choi. I just love these "Torso Flasks"

These pieces were developed while Danny was a student at Sheridan and are thrown and altered, creating a beautiful movement with the clay that shows the sensibility of the artist. Here are a few more pieces of Danny's which I find captivating.

I find in my own work I lean towards the more geometric structured aesthetic as the graceful movement of pliable soft clay often alludes me and when I do try it looks overworked and contrived. Yet from the boldness of colors to the subtlety of traditional celadons and copper glazes, from the drama of geometry and architecture inspired forms to the material properties playing centre stage, I just can't get enough. It's all just so darn inspiring!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

New studio assistant.

Okay, I realize that this is now 2 pictures of my cat on the blog and I promise not to turn into someone who talks about and shows constant pics of their pets and children, I swear there is no photo of my cat in my wallet! But this was just too cute. It's a late friday night in the studio and she's been patiently keeping me company. Takes up more than her share of the bench though!

Well time for a break, the weekend is going to be ridiculously hot so I'm taking a bit of a breather. I've got a few things i'm putting together for next week, hopefully a few artist profiles so keep an eye out.

Have a great weekend where ever you are!

Monday, 16 July 2007

New direction with brown pots.

When I was working on my masters I was introduced to Southern Ice Porcelain which was unlike anything I had ever worked with before. I quickly fell in love with the ease of achieving translucency and the stark white of the fired clay. For the past four years now I have been working almost exclusively with the clay for my functional work. However last fall during my semester as artist in residence at the Red Deer College I began slowly to experiment with other clay bodies again. I began looking for a clay that I could use in contrast to the white porcelain. At first I thought of working with glazes and making some darker, matte black pieces, but that juxtaposition seemed to obvious and overdone. So I thought of my reasoning for loving the Southern Ice so much and it was because of the inherent properties of the clay, and thus I set out to find a clay body that I would appreciate for it's material properties and then figure out the glazing later. I ended up working with Plainsmen H440 and 443 which is an iron rich clay that fires to a darker brown in reduction and interestingly somewhat mimics a traditional stoneware look in highfire oxidation (which I have yet to really explore and experiment with). I found that the speckling of the iron and and richness of the color were an interesting mix for the porcelain. I'm still at the beginning stages of this investigation with the claybody, partially as I have limited access to gas kilns right now, but so far I'm intrigued by the path it's taking. I think there's still lots left to be refined and exploited with this new material, but I thought I'd post a few pics in the meantime.

I've also started working on new but complimentary forms as well, I didn't want to simply mirror the porcelain work in a new material, so the new forms have slight alterations or are a different form altogether. But hopefully, and I find, they still work well together in sets of porcelain and stoneware. I'll post more pics in the next month or so as new work goes through the kiln, I've been working on large covered jars, platters and altered pieces with this clay ~ another perk in that it is far more responsive to certain forms than the porcelain which is far more likely to warp and crack when I push it too far!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Too hot to work.

It's late Sunday afternoon, and I think I've now resigned myself to the idea that it's just too hot to work today. The heat has made me procrastinate all afternoon and now, well I'm just not in the mood. I did take a few pics today of some new floor vases. I love testing out new pieces and the sun was just too nice to not take advantage of. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Friday, 13 July 2007

"handled with care" call for submission

Here's another posting for you.

From the Design Boom Website:

"‘handled with care’
contemporary ceramic works

'designersblock, shoreditch high street, east london
september 19 - 23, 2007
as part of the london design festival designboom will
curate an exhibition of contemporary ceramic wares
from established and upcoming international designers.

since their origin ceramic works have expanded the
functional dimension and contemporary production
engenders ornamentation, sculpture and installation.
the exhibition will feature a selection of ceramic objects,
which express subjects and details of everyday life,
their departure from tradition, the current conflict of
ecology and consumerism.
we are currently selecting ceramic pieces for the show,
which should be, either created by the designers
themselves, or under their direct supervision.

if you would like to show your work as part of this
exhibition please send us images of your prototypes
or fully realized design
(we will not accept drawings, renderings or concepts).

please send your application to < >
subject line : handled with care application
(emails should be no heavier than 1 MB)."

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Sadly another one bites the dust...

I just heard a rumor that the Ontario College of Art and Design is planning to terminate their Ceramics as a degree-granting program at the college. From the sounds of it they will still offer ceramics classes to interdisciplinary students.

Were have all the ceramicists gone?? Departments are closing down everywhere. And is there an alternative than to simply stand by and watch while this happens?

For the love of information sharing.

Whilst I will always agree that the internet is largely full of garbage, I love it when it is used efficiently to bring together communities of people through common interests and the sharing of information. As I mentioned in an earlier post I was luckly to have work accepted into the New Craft Future Voices Exhibition at the conference in Scotland at the beginning of the month. Sadly I wasn't able to attend the event myself, but I did recently receive an email from one of the organizers that the conference proceedings are available to order online. The conference had great speakers such as Paul Greenhalgh (Persistence of Craft), Bruce Metcalf, Joruun Veiteberg (Craft in Transition), Marie O'Mahony (The Soft Machine - Design in the Cyborg Age) and Sandra Alfoldy (Crafting Identity: The
development of professional fine craft in Canada

Here's the instructions from the email for anyone interested:
\Proceedings are available to buy online at

In the search tool, type: New Craft Future Voices and the following
information will come up:

Conference Proceedings, New Craft Future Voices - BW Edition
Published by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
Proceedings of International Conference held in Dundee, Scotland, July
2007. NB: Black & White Edition.
(502 pages) Paperback: £35.00

Conference Proceedings, New Craft Future Voices: Colour Edition
Published by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
Proceedings of International Conference held in Dundee, Scotland, July
2007. Full Colour Edition
(502 pages) Paperback: £75.00

Exhibition Proceedings also available to buy at

In the search tool, type Future Voices: Celebrating Diversity and the
following information will come up:

Future Voices: Celebrating Diversity
Published by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
An Exhibition Proceedings document for International Craft Research
Conference held in Dundee, Scotland 2007
(148 pages) Paperback: £36.99

Full Colour Edition

I think this is also available through the Future Craft website but my browser doesn't seem to like the links found there.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

2 things: July 15th

Closing on the 15 of July at the Ferrin Gallery (one of the galleries at the top of my list of must get to someday)is an exhibition of new works by Sergei Isupov. His work has intrigued me for years now and I sadly missed meeting him when he was an artist in residence at the ANU where I did my MFA. But shortly after his visit there I returned to Australia for a visit and at least got to have a very close "inspection" of his work. I had always been overwhelmed by the detail in his pieces and wondered if they would hold up in reality. They do not disappoint in any way. The intricate detail is in fact a bit mind numbing. Alongside the work of his he left behind for the school's collection, the National Gallery of Australia also had this piece.

There's little that can describe the feeling of seeing work in person which is why events such as NCECA in the States are so valuable for bringing the clay community together and exposing us artists personally to great international work. And on that note July 15th is also the extended deadline for the NCECA call for exhibitions for the 2008 conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Check out the NCECA website for further details.

1st Jingzhe International Ceramic Exhibition

Ceramics Today has a new posting with a call to enter the 1st Jingzhe international Ceramic Exhibition & World Contemporary Public Ceramic Art Exhibition. As stated on the website the "Display Objective: Recommend new artists, promote original ceramic design, develop the use of ceramics in public spaces, strengthen international ceramic exchange and cooperation." and the "Display subject is: Ceramics and Environment."
See Ceramics Today for full details.

The function of function

Lately I've been working on my functional work a lot more, primarily because my soon to be new studio is in the process of being insulated and my current work space in the basement of my house is poorly lit and has only enough room to house my wheel and a limited number of drying pots. But I'm not complaining as I love a concentrated time to focus on either body of work without distraction. But the functional has gotten me thinking again lately...I think I question myself more about my reasoning or justification for making objects in an object saturated world in relation to the functional work over the figurative work. Likely because of the more obvious intent and desire for critical dialogue that the figurative work brings forth. But my aim has always been for the functional work to also compel dialogue, particularly about sustainability of design over disposability, the handmade as an environmental/social/political stance, as resistance to market driven desires over and above the desire of the consumer and finally as a means to address the individuality of that consumer in the face of homogenizing marketing practices.

But then there is a reality that sets in when the work itself, imbued with whatever meaning I desire for it, is presented to the public and somehow the most common question then becomes, "what is this for?". Well this is a bowl, it's for eating out of, serving food, holding paperclips, water for your cat, sitting on a shelf unused but perhaps visually appreciated, but likely collecting dust. Some days I feel like my intent falls flat. But the intent is itself likely quite esoteric anyway and therefore who cares. But I question myself when I'm making the work what I can be happy with, what makes making the work meaningful and rewarding enough for me to continue. And I think what it comes down to is the simple appreciation that I've caught glimpses of in the faces of those who have purchased or received a piece. There is an awareness I like to think, of the patience, the consideration, the skills, the dedication and the love that goes into each piece that I think the owner gets on some level and that to me taps into all of the intent and content that I try to put in the work.

Recently I returned to Edmund DeWaal's website . Way back in my early days of throwing I often looked to his work for inspiration. And a lot of his more recent installation work sparked interesting questions about the presentation of functional wares and their use value, in particular how this use value can fluctuate between traditional notions of function and more conceptual notions of function.

I find this second image from his site particularly compelling. It's from a 2 part exhibition in two separate locations, one Kettle's Yard and this one at mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art). There is an interesting play undertaken by the artist which melts together the history of functional wares, traditional forms and historically revered glazes, the personal and social lives of pots and the cultural signifiers that they become through museological interpretation. The approach taken by De Waal to both address the material in space as well as the space's intervention or influence on the material is both poetic and inspiring, hinting to me of numerous associations, whilst remaining simplistic and focused on it's meaning.

On the site there are various downloads definitely worth a good read. The one for this specific project is a catalogue of essays which will take you much farther into De Waal's work then could ever be accomplished here. And beyond that the photos alone are worth the visit.

There is a quote by Jorunn Veiteberg from the catalogue that is beautifully elaborated upon which states; "It is no longer just porcelain that is his medium, but also the museum itself."

I guess I have a lot to ponder today as I humbly take my seat at my wheel and begin to mold and manipulate the clay. There is so much to consider beyond the object itself, beyond the medium itself. Beyond the function.

Here's wishing you a creative and productive day.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Monday after all...

Well after the hot heat of last week, today's overcast sky is a welcome sight, but for a monday it's also promoting a bit of procrastination as I find myself still on the computer looking over old bookmarks of sites I intended to, but rarely got back to. So I thought another post of eye candy was in order as it's not a day for deep thoughts or critical engagement, it is monday after all...

This piece is one I fell in love with a while back on the Rose and Radish site by Royal Tichelaar. They also have work by Hella Jongerius and these cute pieces by Jorine Oosterhoff.

And check out this sweet piece by Gesine Hackenberg.

Akar Designs' current exhibition is showing the awesome work of Kevin Snipes. Yummy pieces still for sale on the website.

And on a more local note here is a few pics of the work of a friend of mine Zane Wilcox, who is a amazing potter as well as ceramic sculptor. He currently has an exhibition up at the Saskatchewan Craft Council in Saskatoon, definitely worth seeing.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

nice design

A few weeks back I was in Calgary for a visit and stumbled across a great design store called KIT. It was one of those shops so filled to the brim with beautifully designed objects that you have to leave without picking up anything at all or else risk taking home too much. But one piece has plagued me since and I finally found it this morning. It was a beautiful porcelain plate with a crisp red design, produced by the company ARTECNICA.

The company mandate is worth a read as they advocate "design with conscience" and work on a global scale with designers and artisans to produce objects that are sustainable in their production and materials.

From their website: "Our challenge is to develop a competitive product that will encourage the survival of indigenous craft. Fulfilling this mission requires a smart designer, a savvy and visionary project producer, and a willing and ambitious artisan. Our objective is to avoid the mechanization of the artisan, which devalues his work and undermines the project from both a design and an economic standpoint."

"design with conscience projects employ production methods that are human and environmentally friendly. we denounce child labor, promote safe, toxic-free environments, and use purchasing criteria that prevent labor and environmental exploitation. our vision is to promote self-sustaining communities of skilled artisans in underdeveloped countries. design can be used to advance living standards worldwide. through design with conscience, artecnica hopes to inspire others, promote global awareness, and help generate a better and more humane world."


Here are a few other designs from their site:

I love these reinterpreted bottles because it's less about the recycling of materials, which takes it's toll on our environment as well, but about finding new uses and interpretations for the objects that already exist.

ARTECNICA also works with designer Hella Jongerius, and she's one of my personal faves. Below is a projects she's developed with ARTECNICA in which "Artisans located in the primary coca leaf-growing region of Peru handcraft the collection. With the help of Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization that provides practical assistance to artisans worldwide, Artecnica offers an alternative economic reality to the people of this dangerous and oppressed area."

Here are a few other images of Jongerius's work which I can't get enough of.

Alright, that's enough eye candy for one to work!