Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Once Upon a Time

 All kids fairy tales start with “once upon a time”  and as you grow older they begin “a man walks into a bar”.  A friend Sandra Upfield sent me some pics shot thru the glass at the Art Gallery of Burlington of a show I am in entitled “Setting Ontario’s Table- Once Upon a Time. Once upon a time is such an appropriate title as it seems a life time ago that I I made the work in the photo.
The colander dates back about 40 years ago and was made at Gleason Brook Pottery on the Bruce Peninsula that I shared with Gayle Fairchild. We had an Olsen fast fire wood kiln we fired twice a week,  a 45 cubic foot Minnesota flat top gas kiln, two retail stores, a store manager and supplied shops in the province. If you think this sounds like a recipe for relationship disaster, you’re right!
The big jug was made 30+ years ago. I remember making those pots and including lots of aggregate in the clay. I tried bird seed, sunflower seeds, beach sand and blew up most of them. There was a gallery in Toronto called Ashton’s that bought them from me. It was the best gallery I ever saw in Toronto. Their down fall was they picked work that they liked and not what the market wanted. They left in the cover of darkness one night and let some potters hang out to dry. Lucky for me the work had been paid for and they donated it to the Art Gallery of Burlington.
The basket is 10 years old and is the work I made in my first year of graduate school at USU. This was just as Sour Cherry Pottery was winding down and I went off to school. I think this is a period when Sheila Franklin and I were really setting the table in Ontario. We fired our 2o cubic foot gas kiln 25 times a year and our wood fired train kiln 5 times a year. We produced all that work out of a 250 square foot workshop.  Are you smelling another recipe for disaster???
So here I am today the sole proprietor of The Cactus Lounge. I have the gas kiln firing and a bisque as I get ready for two back to back wood firings this coming week. The weekend after the wood firings I have a show at Shane Norrie Contemporary and then the next weekend I do a workshop in Ottawa. That is my bus man’s holiday where I will go out with friends Jen, Chandler and Mike.
The greatest gift you can give might be the gift that you yourself were never given. Give that gift!

 Once upon a time in the kingdom of Potterdom  it was said the future sky can handle all kinds of new stars. I see the hard working ones shining brightly.  Do as I say, not as I do. That is my gift to you,

oh shining stars.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Potter's Tag

I believe there are plenty of relationships that stay together because of economic dependence. The worst kind of dependence. Money is power in a relationship.  I have that kind of relationship with clay. If your partner is also your paycheque, you’re in a different position to make demands. So if you earn no money, or less money you’re going to be less likely to win when it comes to what you want to make.
I came back from two workshops in BC where I got my workshop fee, sold some pots and some books and two pockets of cash. That was 6 weeks ago and I’ve had a good time making what I want to make feeling the freedom to explore new work, and do pretty well what I wanted to do in the studio. Well the money is gone and I’m thinking of making for the market place again. The lower the bank account the tighter the pots! 
 The good ole tray sets that are a no brainer for me and sell like hot cakes are back in production. I also made some teapots with slip cast lugs and knobs that are pretty tight by my standards. They could use a good poke! I also made some cups with my slip cast diner style handles. Opps, they only fit one finger and I know the majority of the market like huge cups with handles that fit a fist or at least 4 fingers. I dislike those handles so until the wolf at the door actually comes in and bites me the handles remain my sanctuary from dependence.
The diner style handle is actually a small version of the dog bone handle. Since I don’t pull that handle all that well I slip cast it. Porcelain handle on a stoneware cup.

For those of us in Ontario that fondly remember Blue Mountain Pottery sold in Birk’s Jewellery Stores across the province I slip cast this vase. Every house in the province proudly displayed a piece of BMP in the window. I would buy my mum a piece for Christmas. The vases were expensive so it was usually a swan, bear or some small novelty item. I gave the vase a poke with the palm of my hand when I pulled it soft out of the mould. So far that is it’s only sign of my vandalizing it with this potter’s tag. The vase was usually cut at the top to give a bird beak appearance. I decided I liked that line. Now to decide about further pokes, slashes, little lugs. It takes some time to develop a recognizable tag. 

Friday, August 18, 2017


I am totally excited to have received the invites for “Storytellers” in the mail today. I had nothing to do with the title and I love it. I probably would have come up with something like “ A Painter, A Sculptor and a Bull Shitter! More likely I would have titled it “ The Mutual Admiration Society”  or “Birds of a feather” since all three of us are total fans of each others work.

We all tell stories with our art. Narrative art tells an ongoing story of what is happening at a particular time in the artist’s life. I don’t date my work. I know exactly the time frame it was made in. I can tell you of the birth of a child, the death of my mum or dad, divorce, new loves, and most recently life begins at 65.

This carbon dating is all me looking at the work. Sad moments don’t necessarily mean sad pots. Looking back, I see that some of my strongest work was made during sad times. This can be a time in the studio were you listen to your own voice and not that of someone else. You dig down into your inner soul and have blanked out on what is going on in the world and what others think.  I’m having the time of my life picking the colours of my doors, rooms, furniture, art work, clothing, plants for the garden etc. etc. I’m telling my story not that of someone else or trying to please someone else. I fire next weekend and to be honest I forget what I’ve made. I’ll be as surprised as you are. Please come out to the lovely town of Stratford to see Mary, Shane and I. There will be good stories by three veteran “Storytellers”. Bring your shovels and your hip waders. I have a story that starts with” A man walks into a bar…..