Last night a student asked me which I prefer: throwing or painting. My teachers of painting were Rick Burns and Philip Iverson, so my approach gives a lot of grace to method of application and to the material itself. When I am throwing at the wheel I can’t dance around like Philip, which I’ve never gotten used to anyway. I like throwing like I like a fantastic grilled vegetable salad with no dressing, with a light, peaty single malt scotch (not sherry casked). I like painting on my pottery like how I like Birthday cake and ice cream, with a mochachinno (with whipped cream, a heavy sprinkling of nutmeg, and only one shot of chocolate-stirred at two critical stages). One cannot decide between these two things, they complete life.
Because the screen is green on my phone, I take a fewer pictures of my process. but I recently posted this video of me making handles. I love making handles because it’s a little more musical. Here’s a video of that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FhGln1Qnyg
The things I am glazing today (I was making in this video) will be available at my studio sale this Dec 15th, Saturday at one until 6 at 244 Duke St WEST.
I’ll have snacks and things for you as well as a clean studio. I’ll break an apple in half in front of you too, just for bragging rights.
So, basically these days I make lots of things in my studio, which is very quiet because I am the only person there, most of the time. Sometimes I luck out and Joanna is there at her wheel, or a student comes up and helps me see clay in a new light. I’m making my winter line for for Handworks.
I teach classes at the Saint John Art Centre to children and to adults. In the kids class there are up to eleven students, and up to four in the adult classes. Both classes have things in common. I always start things off by sharing that my goal is to introduce any new things they would like to know, as well as improving areas were they need work. They help me know what the ambitions of the group are and then we make a plan to form the class structure. After all that we know one another well and then we establish the ‘cool rules’. I ask them – and it’s harder for grown ups to talk like this than it is for children- “what kind of environment do you need in the classroom in order for us to get all this work done?”
Most of the time someone reels in the usual suspects, like: raising one’s hand to share (more important in the larger class), only walking around in the room, only speaking positively about one another’s work, and leaving other people’s work be. That’s usually all they ask for and I write them down on a large sheet using only positive statements, like: walk only, use and inside voice, hands off others and their work. I refer to the rules as little as possible, but please remember that many of these kids can’t read yet.
Last group, the kids wanted to make small clay houses, among other things. Adorable. So here is the list of things they determined were important to the construction of a clay house:
So I cut up the clay into bits for the home, the roof, the chimney, balconies and left a slab for the yard. They each used the clay differently and then painted them to the next level:
So, the big things I have seen turn my class room into a smoothly operating creativity mobile include: everyone talks positive about the work, no matter if it’s their own. Adults especially try and get away with saying that they find their work boring or that it’s ugly. The way that I indicate this is in violation of the cool rules is to say: “if you looked at my pottery and said that it was boring and ugly, that would hurt my feelings. So, we can’t do that here. Let’s find a way to talk about what your pieces need in order to inspire you.”
Maybe that sounds lame, but we all have to be jarred out of our mental tilt-a-whirls to see what’s really going on. I need that tremendously, since I spend so much time alone. It’s easy to say small cruel things to ourselves, and get away with it, but it’s important to have a cool ruler inside who sticks up for and demands positive growth. I think it’s a little easier for me to enforce this in the classes because there’s a physical space and in that space, the cool rules are in effect. So, if things get totally out of hand I can say, “of course you can engage in negativity, once you’re all done here.”
I will say more about the adult classes soon. They’re a bit more complex and difficult to document, but probably more interesting for this crowd.
Here’s a link to a ceramic object of interest by Agnieszka Mazur:
I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle a bit before writing about the conclusion of the 2012 Saint John Sculpture Symposium. The part of me that saw this project as a staycation thought to write: in a way it’s like I never left the city; but I didn’t leave the city – it just felt like I did. The Coast Guard site was an impromptu, ad hoc country with its own set of needs and its own structure – our sovereignty was in laying down lines, acquiring tools, removing stone, polishing, and clearing out space and time to support these artists so they could extract their inspiration from our granite.
First most asked question: “Will you be taking up stone carving?”
Perhaps being a potter has entrenched my philosophy of craft with a bold sense of utility. I would like to make a granite bathtub and then build a house around it. I would like to make some small animals, but most of the things I think of making out of stone, I could also make out of clay. My imagination peters out a little. It’s great that you don’t have to fire stone for it to last for 10,000 years. I think Phil Savage should take up stone carving, that’s for sure.
Second most asked question: “Are you glad it’s over, or do you miss it?”
If it’s possible for both to be true, then let’s have that. I’m glad the project was a success, but I am a person who thrives in intense scenarios, not in transitions. I’m most focused when I know I can work on a project until the essence is attained and elevated, in this case, we (the interns) were not as much a creative element as muscle and precision tools. So, it was more about performance, support, and troubleshooting than aesthetics, but I was relieved because seeing the potential in something so massive kind of hurt my brain in a good, expanding way. So yes, I am glad that I got to learn so much about tools, utilities, language, sunscreen, site maintenance, tools (again), safety, cranes & rigging, prognostication, music, popular movies, skinny jeans, cohabitation, food, and extroversion. I find all of it quite engaging and could have been with the project for longer. I’m also glad to be back behind the wheel because I need clay. I need my cat. I also need my community and my business and they need their alison. So here I am: a potter at your service.
I’ve been told it’s like I am leasing my pottery rather than selling it – and it’s true, I always want to see (have) them again. I’ve seen Asano’s piece ‘Sunshine and Night Time over Saint John’ installed at the entrance of Rockwood Park, but I’m going on a sculpture tour this Sunday to have a look at all the pieces in what’s now their natural habitat. On Saturday the 15th, seeing them all without the manifold’s electrical wires, air, and water hoses felt risky somehow. It’s as though I wondered if they would be ok without these life lines. I know that’s irrational but this is coming from a person who does not particularly enjoy letting her creations go.
For the locals who worked on the Sculpture Saint John project: wasn’t it alarming to be here, and not see the faces we’ve seen every day for six weeks? But at least we have the sculptures to visit. Maybe the people who’ve returned to their homes miss the site and the sculptors, sculptures, volunteers and interns. We miss them and we are extremely grateful to have had this experience. Come visit!
Getting back to the grind: I’ve been completing the Sculpture Saint John mugs while I also prepare the Saint John Arts Centre’s first kiln for its first glaze firing, amid commissions, my productions for Handworks, and learning to cook again. It’s very quiet. I taught a really fantastic class on Saturday and that’s what this blog will be transitioning into: a place to reflect and share about how and what I teach in Art with Alison, Adult pottery classes, what I do in my studio, what I do in the community.
I will be hosting an Empty Bowls (of soup) fundraiser on October 5th at 6:30. Come to the Sanctuary Theatre (in the InterAction School of Performing Arts) on 228 Germain St, eat (amazing and hearty) soup, listen to soothing music, and buy a bowl – the proceeds will go to Outflow, a group who provides food for Saint John’s people in need. For tickets, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Harvesting the Arts Festival is that following Sunday (Oct 7th), so please come and see me, so that I can give you some money to buy me some biscotti from the Queen Square Market. I will have new pottery at that time as well, and I don’t mind telling you it’s a bit of a departure from my typical line.
It was a false alarm, but we all gathered in the rain, then car. I grabbed my purse, quilt, and the mug I made in Montreal.
Sleep? Don’t mind if I do.
Last night we learned eachother’s national songs and the music popular in each region in 1981.
The night before my friend Adam Dickinson hosted a whiskey tasting.
The night before we watched ‘Hugo’.
Tonight we will visit my friends the Fleets and eat with them.
I am mostly introverted, but I find people fascinating. Living among (these well informed and dedicated) people has been very healing for me and I will miss it. I like eating together most of all.
Anne Hickey knew I would have a good time on Thursday (a little day trip to St. Andrews). I insisted all the way up until Wednesday that I must go to my studio and work on some ideas; I came to my senses.
Started reading a new book called ‘Quiet’, and chilled in Signe’s car until we reached the whale watching warf. I opted out because I start to feel famished the moment I get outside of town and the tour was three and a half hours long. I worried that they were hungry the whole time, so I bought crystallized ginger, gluten free scones, raw coconut butter truffles (oh.my.god), and some cured duck breast.
We went to Ken’s studio and saw how he turns stone on a lathe. He also showed us his (extensive) rock collection before we met up with the (successful and starving) whale watchers: Kingsbrae Gardens for a (scrumptious) lunch and a sculpture tour.
Their collection is pretty decked out, including a smattering of mediums and scales. It’s a gorgeous place too, quiet. Whenever I hear an air compressor or heavy machinery working or masonry saws, I feel the need to investigate. We all do, right?
The last week’s been a blur, but I have a minute now. We came from a reception with the town of Grand Bay Westfield where a flash thunder & lightning storm destroyed the tents, drew us all inside. No rainbow (Japanese rainbow: Riji, Bulgarian rainbow: дъга), but plenty of fruit, violin playing, and excitement for Radoslav’s sculpture.
Yesterday we had a heavy machinery synchronistic moment: one large crane came to move Jhonny’s stone, while the Carnival Glory lingered in the mist and Coast Guard helicopter ascended into the fog and a fuel truck meandered over to the compressor. Alice Fudge instagramed a great shot. Follow Meghan Barton and Christiana Meyers for even more great shots of the Sculpture Saint John 2012 site.
Agnessa is bending the stone, it seems, when she carves her rectangular waves.
Jo’s tower is now starting to remind me of a rook at sea. Lots of polishing going on there.
Jim’s sculpture’s waves are peaking out of St. George pink granite.
Radoslav has made perfect steps swirling into the middle, square space. Asano referenced Radoslav’s sculpture to tell me that he had no need of scaffolding, but would prefer a step ladder instead.
Asano had Megan Barton and I help with the pneumatic drilling and chiselling of his base stone. My wrists are like He-man’s.
I stayed at the Villa for a few nights and played linguistics games with sculpture people, took walks through the stations, ate gluten free, and gathered textures for my SJAC ‘Make Six Mugs in Six Hours’ class. I just made it on time for when CTV ‘Live at 5’ came to film at the site.
The City of Saint John has loaned the Symposium a (literally) green Hybrid – completely silent – automobile. We’ve been sharing music: Lightning Bolt, Austra, Blood Brothers, Azelia Banks, Motorhead; Bulgarian Klezmer stuff like that.
A teeny bit of whining: at the end of the day before my day off, while looking in the shed for my book: a wasp stings the back of my neck. It was a moment of personal insult, because I stuck up for them.
Parts location gratification: Harbour City Electrical sold us some carbon brushes for our saws. When they go, the saw sounds clunky, starts to skip, and then stops completely. The carbons degrade quickly with frequent sustained use, so when Agnessa’s saw went chunky I got a few (they come in tiny boxes); luckily, Asano knows how to replace them.
We’re waiting for 5” blades and no one likes the blue 7” blades because they wear out too quickly. These are kind of first timey things that happen, and it’s not the end of the world, it just means more frequent flange changing and some protective feelings about the Allen keys.
If you’ve not been to the sculptures in a couple of days, please come down to the Coast Guard site and see the progress. I’m not on site Wednesday: I’m making Empty Bowls with seven children from Iran, China and Korea, then after that: Meet the Sculptors: 7pm at the Saint John Arts Centre. See you there?
The (air, water, and electric) hoses are crossing a high traffic area and were run over again yesterday. Chuck renailed down the bridge (that thing you drive over, instead of the hoses). Oh and we’re spraypainting it pink too. The hoses belong there though; the Coast Guard hanger is close and that’s where the compressor’s parked. Monday’s crane, maybe?
Crane day is always exciting. The rigging is extraordinary. Alice Fudge took a fantastic shot of Jo Kley and his beautiful ark rigged to the crane. See it on instagram and on the Sculpture Saint John facebook page.
I managed to buy Wendy (of the Shoot’s Bookstall at the Saint John City Market)’s copy of Jane Urquart’s ‘The Stone Carvers’. She kept claiming she was reading it (therefore c(w)ouldn’t sell it), but I can tell you I never saw a bookmark pass through that thing. Now it’s mine!
At first, I thought my garden would be miffed that I hadn’t been by. But no: it’s better than fine. There’re carrots and peas, beans and radishes, swiss chard and strawberries, beets and herbs galore, oh and a zucchini plant, oh and something that I didn’t plant which’s growing with the peas. If someone is playing a joke on me: I predict it’s cucumber, since I don’t like cucumbers – but guess what – I recently acquired a taste for cucumber! Who’s laughing now? But if it’s watermelon, they got me.
Success on the tool provision front! We had a damaged M14 shank to arbour adapter duplicated for Radoslav and it totally works. Thanks to Dale Forbes, the new larger splitting wedges are popular with Jhon, Jo, and Asano! Like I said, things are taking shape.
At the Saint John Arts Centre, the kids have been having lots of fun making clay animals and cups, books and paintings, and more. One of my most familiar students (he’s taken quite a few of my classes) said, “I feel bad today!” So I asked, “What would make you feel better?” He then replied, “Tomorrow!”