Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring, Life, Art and Gardening

Ah spring. It's not my favourite season because it always seems to go on and on and on. There's no more snow to play in, but it's still too cold, muddy or wet to do a lot of other things comfortably outdoors. Gardening is the exception and I'm starting to embrace gardening even more enthusiastically.

It's finally warm enough to start working in the garden here. I love these first few weeks when the soil has warmed up and old, faithful plants are re-emerging or showing some fresh green colour again. The other great part of this time of year is that the weeds haven't taken over yet either. It's a very manageable time. In my mind's eye, I can see what the plants and flowers will look like as they grow and blossom. It's all as clear as can be. With nothing but the soft, rich earth and the transplants from other parts of the garden, it really looks so tidy and my vision seems completely plausible! Ha!

Gardening is great thinking time. Once I decide what's going where and what the tasks are, I let my mind go where ever it wants while I sink into the manual labour. Today, while my mind was wandering and I was consciously taking mental notes of how tidy the garden is starting to look (again), I concluded that there might be some similarities between my garden and my life in art as a business. Too big of a leap without some more explanation?

A year ago, just like in the garden now, I had a reasonably clear idea of what I wanted to do with my artwork and where I wanted my "business" to be. Fast forward through the weeks and all the unpredictable things that life threw at me, including a journey through the world of canine osteosarcoma and modern veterinary medicine with my old buddy who is now sporting three legs instead of his usual four and just finished his last round of chemo... all things I would have said I would never do (famous last words)... but also a variety of other art-related distractions that weren't in the original plans. And suddenly, as if it happened overnight, the weeds have taken over. There are still a lot of great ideas planted and taking root, but it's harder to see them right now.

My good buddy and studio companion/guardian.
 I'm looking forward to more time in the garden (and time with my buddy, who also enjoys our gardening time). I'm going to use it to reset my focus and priorities in the studio. I'm already starting to work out some of the kinks. The first step... getting back to basics with students and other clay enthusiasts. Workshops start up again on a monthly basis in May and there are a couple spots available in my "open studio" arrangement. All part of my plan to have fun with my career and give other people an opportunity to enjoy the recreational side of ceramics. See my facebook page for more information. In May we're making platters with slabs and slump molds! :) If you think this sounds like fun, please call or email soon to book your spot... (space is limited).

Copper Fox Gallery and the Chicken Coop Folk Art Gallery
Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia.

May 6 is also the grand opening at Copper Fox Gallery in beautiful Halls Harbour. Copper Fox is carrying my work and I'm very excited to be part of this gallery. Fabienne Leydecker (artist and gallery owner) has brought together an exciting group of very talented local artists (I can't believe I'm part of this group!) and she is always motivating us with her seemingly boundless energy and delicious french crepes!!! I hope you can come visit the gallery. It's also a great opportunity to have a nice lobster dinner down by the wharf.

Bird feeder - "Four strong winds, No. 1" (available at Copper Fox Gallery)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Fear of Losing

There a days in the pottery studio when I need to remind myself to let go of my expectations. Generally those are the days that I open the kiln after a glaze firing. I never know what I'll find. As an artistic medium ceramics will allow the artist to lead the way for most of the journey, but in the final stages, you MUST surrender the piece to a variety of factors beyond your control. At that point, what will happen is never a given, no matter how many practice runs you may have made. 

Just a week or so ago, I was reminded that this is not just my own personal experience as a potter, but the journey of all studio potters. I stumbled upon a notice of Paul Soldner's death.

Paul Soldner (1921-2011) was incredibly influential to American ceramics, but it's his spirit rather than the many prestigious accolades he earned during his life that inspire me. He's well known for encouraging divergent thinking and teaching his students to embrace "mistakes". "In the spirit of raku," Soldner wrote in 1968, "there is a necessity to embrace the element of surprise. There can be no fear of losing what was once planned and there must be an urge to grow along with the discovery of the unknown."

If you've been following my blog, you might remember my November post about perspective. It's the one where I got over my disappointment about a glaze I'd made and discovered it was more interesting than I thought at first. I was pretty happy that I hadn't abandoned it completely, but my latest results with this glaze have really exceeded my expectations.

close-up of poppies mug, 2011
another close-up of poppies mug, 2011

I mentioned before, that I was struggling with a style that felt "right". I think that these new discoveries are beginning to shed light on where I'll be going in the coming months.