Friday, November 27, 2009

Crazy Craft Sale Season

So sorry that I haven't written for a while. It's that time of the year again when we craftspeople become unsociable, spending every waking moment in the studio or out on the road flogging our wares. Subsequently, it leaves little time, energy or mental fortitude to write.

The past couple of weekends were spent at Wintergreen (craft sale in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) and Artisans (craft sale in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada). One was average sales, the other a dismal failure. I honestly don't know about craft sales any more. The costs of being there continually go up with the gross sales going down. Our average purchaser is aging and they just don't need any more stuff. In fact, they are downsizing, getting rid of stuff. And for purchasing gifts, their kids are at the stage where they need basics, not luxury goods. I don't know what the answer is. Does any one out there have any ideas?

I am grateful that I get to play at work everyday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The First Fusings

Yesterday I undertook my first fusing firing. While relatively simple, it was not without its moments. For instance. How do you get the program on? I finally did, but I have no idea how I did it. And the quick cool to 960 degrees. How do you get it down to that temperature without causing the
controller to jump to the next step? As soon as you close the lid, it jumps back up in temperature. (Lee informed me that he cools it to below 1300, shuts the lid and lets the rest cool on its own). Or after my panic attack and placing the program on hold, how do you get it back on track? I know it will get easier as I go on. The first is always the most nerve wracking.

I opened the kiln this morning and took out my first fusings. Are they good or bad? I have no idea. I guess it depends on what I was trying to acco
mplish. There were some things that I did note:
  • As Lee said, you do need a lot of powder to make the colour noticeable. Would a white background glass be better?
  • The gold leaf carbonized. Why?
  • The sharp lines from the glass melted and softened. Why was I surprised about that?
  • Air bubbles. Like? Don't like? Don't know.

All in all. A good first attempt I think.

Here's to the fun of first attempts. As you have no base line for comparison, they are all successful!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lee Brady's Studio Visit

Well, my equipment was set up and ready to go except for installing the probe. I left that to do with Lee. He arrived Wednesday afternoon and the fun began. First, was to have a look at the equipment and install the probe. It was a good thing that I waited for him as I would have put the probe in straight which would have taken up a great deal of the kiln. Instead, he drilled on the diagonal, leaving more kiln room.

Our next ste
p was to teach me how to program the profiles. We went through the process he uses with his equipment. When we tested the profile, we discovered that it was different from his (although it is the same, but newer, equipment). We had to program it over again, discovering that the new system is much simpler. Yipee!

Then we got to play, creating pieces to fuse the next day. I also got Lee to teach me to pull stringers. The day was over before I knew it.

I am grateful that there will be more days like today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Equiment Ready to Go

Finally, the external temperature controller was installed. Not the easy job that I had imagined. The relay switch that they sent was 120V for a 240V hook-up and kiln. That necessitated the purchase of several other pieces of equipment and significant time on the part of the electrician. I'm not wanting that bill. But it is done.

Originally, Lee and I were to get together last Thursday, but as the controller wasn't hooked up yet, we decided to postpone until it was. So plans were to get together this week. I'm looking forward to it.

I am thankful that I managed to learn patience. I sometimes really need it.

Our First Regional Meeting

Our first regional Mentorship meeting took place on Sunday,
November 1. Like many artist events, there was food. We had a potluck lunch that didn't disappoint. All but one person managed to attend. Anita Rocamora had recently returned from a ten day world wind tour of Korea and the Cheongju International Craft Biennale, so much of the discussion over lunch was about her experience. Canada was featured in the guest pavilion this year with their exhibition, Canada Unity & Diversity. Paula Cooley, one of mentees, had a ceramic sculpture included in the show. It was delightful to flip through the several catalogs that Anita brought back with her. She has promised to make them available through the Saskatchewan Craft Council at a later date. I eagerly look forward to having a good look at them then.
  • symbolism of light
  • memory of light
  • light painting/painting with light (I have to look up Eric Curry)
  • in abstract painting - one must consider where is the light coming from
  • pop art - optical illusions created by light and eye movement
These ideas will require further thought on my part.

Some other suggestions beg investigation. Plexiglass presents some interesting possibilities in combination with light and clay in sculpture. Plexiglass is available at the Co-op, but one must wear a mask when cutting. Thick plate glass, with sand blasted edges, set on edge and lit has intriguing effects. As does stacked triangles of glass. Any number of new things to try!

Last, but not least, was a comment about the success of a sculpture from Paula Cooley's perspective. Success is determined by the ability of the piece to animate space. Hum..... I've never thought of that. Will have to!

Our next meeting is scheduled for January 3, 2010.

Right: Paula Cooley, Kathleen Houston (right)

Left: Frances Robson, Anita Rocamora (standing), Lee Brady

I love discussions that provoke thought.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The All Important Resource

I am constantly reading and learning about marketing. I always try to stay on top of the latest and greatest (a near to impossible task). I came across a book a few months ago through the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter and borrowed it through their library. It is, with out a doubt, the best book on art marketing I have ever read. In fact, five pages into the book, I ordered it.

I'd rather be int he studio, The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self Promotion
by Alyson B. Stanfield contains some of the best, easy to read, easy to follow advice. It also contains some great resources, much off of Alyson's own website. I've signed up for her newsletter and through it have found some great stuff. I strongly recommend that you check it out and sign up.

Just a note. I ordered my copy through a bookstore. I wouldn't recommend buying it that way. It took forever! I suggest that you purchase it direct off of Standfield's site. Best $35 I've ever spent!

I am so very grateful for books and libraries. They are too precious for words!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Opening

Is there an artist who doesn't dread openings? I'm sure that there are, but I'm not one of them. It's not that I'm not a people person. I am. It's just that it's really hard on the ego. What if they don't like my work? Even worse. What if no one comes?

When you live out of town and you have no family to guilt into coming, you learn not to expect a large attendance at openings. The turnout was small, but enthusiastic. While I would have loved a huge crowd, more important was the response from those who attended. I got the feedback to the work that I wanted. I got wow! For a snippet of some of the reaction here's a review written by Cathryn Miller.

Since that day, I've run across a series of articles that I wished I had read when I first got confirmation of my exhibition. Written by Alyson B. Stanfield, the articles, Start Promoting Your Exhibit Now, contain very good and useful ideas on how to get some excitement generated about a show. I will certainly be better armed for my next exhibition!

Have you ever noticed that the more that you learn, the less you know?

I am thankful for knowledge learned better late than never.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Final Decisions

I hate to say it, but when the day to set up actually arrives, you are beyond caring. You're just glad that it 's almost over. Getting the work on the walls and pedestals seems like the least of it, but it isn't. It 's just as important as all of the rest of the work that you have done up until that point.

I arrived at the appointed hour at the Saskatchewan Craft Council Gallery with my myriad of boxes. Greeting me was Les Potter and Judy Haraldson, Exhibition Coordinators, and the two summer students. All eagerly awaited the opening of the boxes. Their response was gratifying, in a dull disassociated way. Deciding what went where was a long, drawn out, necessary process. I encouraged the Coordinators to vet any pieces that they felt did not make a valuable contribution to the exhibition. In the end, we only left one piece out.

As I surveyed the final effect I was satisfied. It was good work. It was a good show. Now maybe I could catch up on my sleep!

I appreciate bone weary tiredness. It is the result of a good day's work.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Review, Edit and Narrow the Focus

For the next few months after my meeting with Martha Cole I worked in isolation in the studio. Using the imagery I collected, I began to create pieces informed by their presence. I played with shape and form, but always with the subtext of light. Some works were built specifically for the addition of an incorporated light source. Some just provided nooks and crannies for light to bounce off of. There were successes and, shall we say, opportunities for discovering what didn't work.

About eight weeks out from the set-up date, Martha made a trip to my studio to work with me through the next step of preparing for an exhibition. Reviewing the work, editing and narrowing the focus. At this stage it becomes very important to look at what has been completed to date and to be very critical of what is working, and what is not, both in terms of the individual pieces and how they work together. We examined all of the sculptures individually and collectively. We decided that I had a good basis for a show in two separate bodies, the wall jewel series and the architectural forms and edited out anything that did not fit in that genre. We talked about some of the works that needed further attention and possible resolutions. We determined how many additional pieces I would need to fill out the display and what to concentrate on.

The next weeks were hectic, frantically working to create the balance of the pieces and to finish/rework the existing sculptures. By the set-up date, I was satisfied with what I had accomplished and awaited the judgment of the powers that be.

I learned some very important lessons through this process. Lesson one: a finished piece, while excellent in itself, may not be excellent for this particular exhibition. But it will be perfect for another show. The sculpture is not lost and it may, in fact, be the bridge to another body of work. Lesson two: bringing a critical eye to what you create is an opportunity to acknowledge what can be made better and results in superior work. Lesson three: review, edit and narrow the focus. Enough cannot be said about that!

I appreciate the lessons that I learned. It will make me a better artist.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Conversation

What did I want to say to people through my work?

In an earlier blog, I wrote about my last mentorship with Les Potter and how I was introduced to the work of Henry Moore. A well-known British sculptor, Moore placed one of his large sculptures in a farmer's sheep pasture, He explained how he enjoyed the changing nature of the sculpture as it interacted with the sheep, the landscape and the changing light. I became fascinated by the idea that a sculpture's relationship to its environment, in particular, light, affects how the viewer perceives the work.

I had decided that the main emphasis of the show would be the interaction of sculpture, light and the viewer.
Martha and I discussed how to develop this theme between the individual pieces. She spoke about approaching the creation of each work with the idea of capturing and manipulating light. That in doing so, the body of work should relate to each other in the end.

Martha also talked about process and how she developed her ideas. She talked about the "research phase". Martha collects various images that speak to her about the idea/concept that she is working on and posts them on her wall in her studio. She lets them percolate through her subconscious, drawing ideas from them, mixing them up and spewing them forth in her own unique way. She also suggested that I take my drawings from my small sketchbook and draw them large and put them up on the wall. I followed her suggestion and found it to be a very good way to work. I have adopted this system and now have a wall of continuing changing images on my wall in my studio.

I love the existence of the internet. It provides an unending supply of incredible images.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Curatorial Direction

This year, I put together my first major exhibition in a long time. It was at the Saskatchewan Craft Council Gallery (SCC) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the leading gallery for exhibiting craft based shows. This presentation was an opportunity to display the change of direction in my work and to converse about my fascination with light, sculpture and the viewer.

The SCC felt, and probably rightly so, that I needed curatorial direction in developing the work for the exhibition. They provided me with the opportunity to give them names of other craftspeople whom I respect and admire, and with whom I would like to work. My first reaction was to review the list of various ceramic artists but on careful consideration of all of the many craft based artists that I have met, one person came to mind, Martha Cole. Any discussions I have ever had with Martha has always opened my mind to new possibilities and if I could have anyone to work with, it was she was who I wanted. The SCC approached her and thankfully, she agreed!

Early in the process, I met with Martha in Disley, Saskatchewan where she lives. I brought a finished piece of sculpture to show her where I was jumping off from. We had a very important discussion on craftspeople and exhibitions. While many of us produce excellent work, we do not often produce excellent exhibitions. We get caught up in technique and producing individual pieces. For an exhibition, there has to be some common theme, a relationship between the individual pieces that becomes a conversation with the viewer. What did I want to say to them?

I appreciate others recognizing my needs and helping me to fulfill them.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I've discovered that developing new habits takes work. It seems that my blogging has been on hiatus. Is it that I have nothing to say? Those of you whom know me personally would laugh out loud at that idea. Susan, lost for words? It's about priorities. Juggling them specifically. And for many craftspeople this time of the year is nothing but. Craft sales, orders, squeezing in family and fun! I can't believe that it has been almost two weeks since I posted anything. I promise that I will attack my blogging with renewed vigor!

Last week my external temperature controller finally arrived. Yippee! The first two box held equipment that was fairly simple and self explanatory with regards to installation. The third box, well it looked simple. However, it was not to be. Ian, my husband, reviewed the instructions and decided that it would be best left to an electrician. Charley Anderson to the rescue. Charley has been my knight in electrical armour for years. Whenever Ian can't figure it out, or feels it is best left to an expert, Charley saves the day. He came over last week, had a look at the parts and said it wouldn't be a problem. While I expected him this weekend, he didn't make it over. Hopefully tonight. We do have a bit of a time crunch. Lee is coming on Thursday (or is it Wednesday), to show me how to fuse. I guess I better check with Lee and Charley.

I am thankful for the knights in shining armour who come on a moments notice to save the day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing the project proposal

Now that Lee and I have met I can set about writing the two to three page written project proposal which must be submitted by October 15. I am to define both professional and personal goals that I will achieve during the program. As well, it must outline my project and include a budget.

This task was relatively easy. Through the reading that Lee gave me to do and our discussions, it was abundantly clear what I wanted/needed to learn and the equipment that I would require to complete the tasks. What was much harder, was to articulate my goals. Also, when we talk about personal goals, is it personal goals related to the mentorship or just personal goals. I don't see how a personal goal of mine to learn Greek has anything to do with the program, so I interpreted it to mean personal goals with regard to the mentorship.

So my personal goals for the mentorship include:
  • relentless devotion to daily improvement
  • continue to grow and develop my artistic practice
  • focus on improving technical skills
  • learn how to blog
  • improve my writing skills by maintaining a journal of the mentorship experience in blog format
  • develop and sustain artistic relationships
My professional goals for the mentorship include:
  • lay the groundwork of experimentation that will produce a body of work based on the mentorship experience
  • acquire the necessary additional equipment to be able to conduct the proposed work
  • learn the skills associated with the different aspects of warm glass
  • experiment with various surface decoration methods
  • develop potential designs for combining glass and clay
I am notorious for waiting until the last moment to meet a deadline, but I am happy to say that I was early. While I planned to be early, I emailed it even earlier than I thought because, for some reason, I was a day ahead of myself. I wonder if I can hot wire my brain for this to happen all of the time?

I am grateful for days that get turned upside down and leave me with happy accidents,

Monday, October 12, 2009

First project

I recently had an opportunity to create some Artist Trading Cards in clay for an exhibition held at the Norman McKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. I made and submitted five trading cards. After the exhibition, they were distributed to five other artists whose work was in the show and I got five cards back, one from each of the recipients of my work. It was really fun and I got some neat miniature masterpieces. The group in Regina are planning a repeat of this project next year, so I thought that it would be fun to do some fused glass cards this time.

Each card must measure 2.5 x 3.5" and fit in a standard collector's sleeve. So, to practice my cutting and prepare some tests for fusing, I cut some tinted cathedral glass for the base and added various bits of coloured glass on top. Nothing pre-designed. Rather, abstract responses to my trials and errors in cutting. Just to let you know, cutting glass in a straight line is no small feat, as I have discovered. Let your mind wander for a fraction of a second and, well you guessed it, so does your cut. I also determined that it is much easier to make a cut on a larger piece of glass rather that smaller. On a personal note, I've discovered something interesting about myself. Generally, I do not like to work small in clay. Way too fiddly. However, for whatever reason, I don't seem to mind to in glass. Hum....

I take comfort in knowing that learning can produce interesting results.

Creating space

In order to work with glass, I need a space that I can somewhat dedicate to it. In my studio, I have 3 work spaces. 2 for shorties like myself and one taller for Matt (my ceramic technician). As I only need one space for myself right now, I decided to convert the other for working with glass. This required clearing off the accumulated debris that seems to collect over time and cleaning the space. Then I needed a smooth working surface. As it turns out, I had a piece of masonite board on hand which was perfect. All that was left was to dig out all of my tools and lay them out . VoilĂ . Ready to go to work.

I am grateful for having things on hand just when I need them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tiny steps towards fusing

I have taken the first important step on the path towards fusing. I ordered my remote temperature controller. A Digitry GB1. Not inexpensive, but an investment. And while fusing can be done manually, everything that I have read (and that Lee tells me) is that it is far easier with a controller than without. It would require patience of Job to babysit the kiln and honestly, that has never been one of my inherent traits.

Thankfully, the Canadian dollar is doing better these days. Every bit helps. It also helps that the Mentorship program does provide some money to offset the cost of equipment and supplies. It should be here within the week. Then comes the installation. Already I can hear "colourful metaphors" coming from Ian, my husband, in the kiln room.

I am thankful for the opportunity to learn new things. It keeps the mind sharp and the body motivated.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A daily ritual

I find that daily rituals are an important part of my life, such as walking my dog, Rudy. I know that he certainly thinks they are the highlight of his day and he sulks when we don't go. I had planned to make these posts a daily ritual but some days are just crammed with too many other seemingly more important things to do. When I sit down and write, I can write several at a time. The words just seem to flow. It's just being disciplined enough to park my posterior at the computer and do it!

While part of writing this blog was to develop the skill to talk about my work, the flip side is that it takes time away from doing the work. What if I have nothing to talk about? I am working daily on learning about glass. Mostly reading at this point as I still have to purchase a controller for my kiln for the fusing. I brought home a box of glass from Lee's to play with, but so far, I haven't done much with it. So today is the day to get out the cutter and play! It is also the day to contact Skutt about the cost of a retrofit controller for my kiln.

I am comforted that each day is followed by another (so I can get done the things that didn't get done today)!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Misty Mornings

I love the fall. Every morning I take my border collie Rudy for a walk in our regional park. This morning the beauty of the olive and moss greens mixed with the golds, yellows and browns of the fall took on an ethereal quality as it was further blurred and soften by the morning mist. The geese and cranes filled the sandbars, waiting for that exact moment that they all seem to sense it's time to go; to continue the journey. They lift en-mass in huge graceful clouds, sounding their voices and heading in the direction of their winter homes with supreme confidence.

For me, with my senses honed towards the interpretation of my world in clay and glass, I perceived the landscape as a greyed pate de verre. Would it not work lovely in the wall jewellery designs that Lee and I discussed? Somewhere down the line I will have to order frits in that palate and try to recreate this morning's scene.

I am grateful for misty fall mornings walked along the river.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Play Date

When I was a child, I played with my neighbourhood friends. Now-a-days, parents arrange playdates. Yesterday I discovered the pleasures of the playdate.

Lee Brady, my mentor, and I got together to play. I travelled out to Lee's studio which is located just west of Saskatoon, nestled into a well treed acreage. Unfortunately, access to his place is by grid road. It had been raining all day which meant greasy, slippery roads and I am not a happy camper driving a grid road at the best of times. With a slow, white knuckled crawl, I traversed the 7.5 kms of gravelled road to his place. I had arrived!

The studio is a well organized, comfortable space with good natural light. The windows, unsurprisingly, sport beautiful examples of Lee's stained glass work. Fused pieces graced the table tops. With a cup of Earl Grey to calm my taut nerves, we began to talk about glass. How to cut it, equipment that I would need, the best type of controller, potential design possibilities, fusing firing schedules, etc... We decided that I would spend the next month practicing cutting glass and playing with fusing.

The Glass Workers Guild was putting in a group order so we spent some time looking at glass. We picked out a few simple panes of glass that we thought would work well with the smoked vessels. We also came across pate de verre which I really liked the look of. As it turned out, Lee has been wanting to try it out as well. He has the paste on hand so we ordered some of the necessary frits.

Left: Pate de verre bowl by Cyrille Morin

As Dr. Oz recommends taking 3 things away from his show, from the day I took: a box of glass scraps and a sheet of glass to play with; the realization that glass is way more expensive than clay and that I have to get a controller!

I am grateful for the pure joy of play.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Provincial Meeting - Orientation Session

Our first provincial meeting was held Saturday, September 19, 2009 in Craik, Saskatchewan. It was an opportunity to meet the other participants in the program, as well as to learn about the various administrative requirements of the program.

This years eight pairings include: digital drawing/painting; painting; digital photography; sculptor; mixed media; 2 clay artist pairings and myself with clay/glass. While were each given 5 minutes to present an overview of our work, this part of the meeting went way over time. After all, give an artist an opportunity to talk about him/herself and their work... Well, we do like to talk. Wow! The work that I saw and the possibilities. It was amazing. It was also interesting to find in later discussions how we all found our own work to be pedestrian (we're too familiar with it) and all the other work exciting. At the same time, refreshing to see our work through another artist's eyes.

Our next requirement is to submit our project proposal to the office by October 15. Lee and I have decided to meet October 1 at his studio to lay out our plan.

(l to r) Kathleen Houston, Linda Gudmundson, Lee Brady, Ruth Sulatisky, Frances Robson, Jack Anderson, Susan Robertson, Paula Cooley, Iris Hauser, Kirk Loveland, Sharon Eisbrenner, Sally Greenough, Griffith Baker. Absent: Anita Rocamora and Gerri Ann Siwek.

Today I am grateful for inspiration gained from the exchange of visions with other artists.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Throwing in the towel

There are days when we all feel that we've had enough. That throwing in the towel and getting a real job seems like the better option. When what we create seems to have no meaning for anyone else and is fast losing its meaning for ourselves. A few years ago I found myself in this kind of deep, dark, abyss. I found myself doubting the merit of my work and, well, what was the point any way? Maybe it was time to quit.

Earlier in the year I had submitted an application for a Saskatchewan Arts Board Individual Assistance Grant. On a day when I was feeling particularly blue and depressed, I received notice that another grant application that I had applied for, for our provincial Ceramics Association, Sask Terra, had been turned down. So I called Doug Townsend, Visual and Media Arts Consultant, to discuss what we could have been done to make a better proposal. At the end of that conversation, I broke down and asked about my own submission. Doug's reply was (something along the lines of), "You haven't received your notice yet? Well, they always send out the unsuccessful letters first." My reply was, "You mean I got my grant?". Followed by, "Not only did you get it, you got all that you asked for." My reaction was not what I imagined that Doug expected to hear. I literally broke down in tears on the phone. "This is just what I needed. (sob) I was about to give it all up and get a real job. I really needed someone to believe in me and my work."

That news was exactly what I needed at that time. The grants are selected by a jury of your peers based on merit. It was the vote of confidence that I needed to continue pursuing my artist vision. I would like to think that I had the fortitude to plow on, grounded in the certainty of my abilities. Unfortunately, I suffer the frailties of humanity. So, I guess the moral of the story is, never give up.

On another note, the next time I saw Doug I'm sure that I saw fear and trepidation in his eyes... Would he experience another emotional outburst?

I am grateful to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the jury of my peers for believing in me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guiding hands

Over my lifetime, there has always been someone there to lend a guiding hand. They seem to come into your presence just when they are needed. Or perhaps, you happen to instinctively put yourself next to them when you need their wisdom.

In this particular case, I seemed to be chasing around in circles. I thought that I was doing all the right things. Submitting applications, getting my name out there, you know the drill. But all that I seemed to be doing was spinning my wheels. I ran into Jack Sures, a professor emeritus of ceramics from the University of Regina. Jack has a well earned ceramics pedigree a mile long. So I put the question to him, what was I doing wrong? His answer was simple, "its all about the work."

I went home and thought about it. I come from a business background. While I was doing all the right things on the business/marketing end, I had forgotten that in the end, it is all about the work. Mediocre work promoted, is still just mediocre. I vowed to put the effort into producing work of merit. Work that I could be proud of, that pushed boundaries. I promised to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. To grow artistically every day.

I am grateful for a few words kindly shared that significantly changes one's outlook.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our first meeting.

On September 13, I met with Lee Brady (pictured at right) to discuss our mentorship. While I had forwarded a copy of the proposal I had submitted to CARFAC, he hadn't got it. Seems that I had an old email address for him. Have you ever wondered where all the lost emails disappear to? Do they go to the same place as all the missing socks? But I digress!

We met over coffee at a really neat coffee house on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada). We talked about the mentorship, what I hoped to accomplish and what I was interested in exploring. As it turns out, we are both working on investigating similar properties in our sculptural work. Lee is working on fused glass wall pieces that hang out from the wall,
playing with the refracted light colours on the wall. It was very exciting to discover common ground and to realize that this mentorship has the ability to benefit us both significantly.

Lee also brought some reading material for me and we discussed what equipment and materials that I would need during the year. We are given a small budget for materials/equipment. While I have some equipment (grinder, pliers, nippers), it seems that I will need to purchase a controller for one of my kilns. That kind of blows the budget out of the water. I'm going to look at the cost of retrofitting my new kiln and the cost of an external controller (Ramp Master). Any one know of where I can get a good used one cheap?

Our next meeting is the scheduled group meeting in Craik, Saskatchewan Canada on September 19. That's when we will get to meet all the other pairings.

A mean, cold northerly wind is blowing here today, reminding us that winter is just around the bend. So t
oday I am grateful for windbreakers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Body of Work

I remember when I first started out to become a professional artist. I kept hearing this term body of work. What did this mean? After all, I had what I thought was a body of work. I had made lots of successful pieces, some that had even been exhibited. I was an artist after all!

Salt Water Bowl, Marigold Cribb

Thankfully, I asked this question of Marigold Cribb, a weaver, with whom I was working with at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. She was kind enough to take the time to explain what this meant. I guess she was my very first mentor. She explained that it was all well and good enough to make individual pieces but a body of work was a group of pieces that related to each other in some way, or another. For instance, they could be related in form, colour, firing methods, etc... It shows a certain maturity as an artist. Now, twenty plus years after her educating me, I laugh at my naivety. It all seems so simple now but back then it was a huge hurdle.

So to those of you just starting out on your artistic journey, find one idea that that has captured your interest, follow it until you become truly bored or another vein of thought captures your interest and you will have a body of work.

Today I am grateful for the wisdom of experience shared.

Friday, September 25, 2009


On August 11, 2009 the news came that I was selected for a CARFAC Mentorship pairing. I was relieved and ecstatic about the news. Then with supreme arrogance, I acknowledged to myself that of course I got the Mentorship. Didn't I work hard on my application? Wasn't I clear about my goals? Didn't I spend hours polishing my proposal? Hadn't I found the perfect mentor?

The truth is, as I see it, is that the art world is subjective. Everyone one else who sends in an application has gone through the same process as you and has submitted a proposal every bit as good as you (or should have). The question is, is what you proposed of interest to the selection committee? Has it captured their interest?

Yes, there are some basic fundamentals to all applications that can see it screened out. Did you submit all the information required? Did you submit it on time? Are you images good, clear images? Are the images representative of what you are proposing and does it represent a body of work? Are you capable (preferably proven) that you can deliver on your promise?

Given that all proposals start on even ground, what makes yours stand out from the rest? In my limited experience I've come to the conclusion that it is three things. Honesty, clarity and passion.

Honesty of your work. By this I mean have you reached into your soul and created work that comes from within you. Pieces that have been made with sincerity and integrity; that reflect who you are and what you value at this particular point in time. Clarity. Have you clearly articulated your vision and what you hope to accomplish? And lastly, passion. Is it evident in what you have written that you are truly passionate about your vision? Does your enthusiasm shine through?

I'd be interested in hearing what others feel makes a winning proposal. Anyone out there?

Today I am grateful for youthful enthusiasm and exuberance. It brings a smile to my face.

On Being Grateful.

I'm on a personal growth/development jag right now. Actually, I am almost always on one. The topics just vary according to the latest thing that captures my interest.

When I was last at the public library I perused the CD section looking for something interesting to listen to in the studio. I had got completely jaded by the garbage that is on the radio. I stumbled across a CD by Robin Sharma, a leadership and personal development guru and thought, why not?

Yes, I did listen to all
4 discs. And yes, I did get something out of it. A few salient ideas. One was on being grateful. We often ignore all the good things we have in our lives and just focus on what we don't have. How very sad. So I've decided to add to the bottom of each post, what I am grateful for on that particular day.

I am grateful for my aches and pains. It is the body's way of reminding me I'm still alive to face the world for another day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let the Waiting Begin!

The deadline for submissions was July 15. I sent off my polished copy on July 13, ahead of the deadline (but not by much). I had done my best submission ever, had arranged for a great mentor and now I just had to wait. We were informed that the successful applicants would be notified the week of August 10.

I'm not much for waiting. It has taken me years to learn patience. So I tried to block it from my mind. From time to time, it would creep back into my thoughts along with the self-doubt. What is with us artists? We continually seem to see the worst. When we complete a piece, all we see is what is wrong with it, or what it could be, not all the good things it is. My husband, Ian, often shakes his head at me. For the thousands of "I love your work" that I receive, I only seem to hear the one negative thought. Is it just artists, or people in general who think this way?

I think it is time to change my ways and try to see the beauty and accomplishment in what I create. I still need to see the what could be, otherwise, there would be no growth. No experimentation. No pushing the envelope. But for the moment, in the moment of saying it's done, I will just bask in the glory of my own perceived genius and enjoy my work!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Other Part of the Equasion

Preparing the application is just one part of the process. Finding a suitable mentor is the other. In principle, the CARFAC Mentorship Program will match you with a mentor. The truth is that a good mentor is critical to the success of the pairing, so best to seek out and submit applications together.

The Cultural Careers Council Ontario, Get Mentored!, suggests starting a list of candidates of people who have succeed in achieving the goals you have set for yourself; the candidates success usually being an expression of:
  • technical competence
  • professional status and prestige
  • knowledge of their industry, discipline and/or organization
  • an ability to work closely with others.
So I looked at what I needed to learn. In order to integrate glass into my ceramic sculptures it is necessary for me to obtain technical knowledge of glass; gain an understanding of the technical aspects of combining glass with ceramic and develop design skills for integration of non-ceramic objects into my sculptures. I was looking for a glass artist who
  • exhibited high degree of technical competence in glass
  • is well versed in various forms of working with glass (cold, warm and hot)
  • has worked in clay
  • shown an ability to work closely with others
After speaking with some friends who work in glass about what I proposing to do and who I was considering, they strongly recommended that I contact Lee Brady. I've known Lee for years and he previously had had me out to his studio to talk about glass. I love and respect his work. Would he consider mentoring me? I just had to make the call.

Left: Nestweavers by Lee Brady

The call was easy. He was interested and willing to submit a joint application. So we were in the horse race!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Application Process

The application process. Always challenging. How does one articulate a dream? But I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I really needed to get this mentorship. So, for once in my life, I started to work on the application early, not leaving it to the last minute.

To apply, I had to submit a letter of application with the following:
  • your reasons for wanting to be a participant
  • a brief written statement about my specific ambitions or goals as an artist
  • a brief outline of current work or specific projects that would benefit from support of the program
  • an explanation of how I would take full advantage of participating int he program, devote adequate time to the development of my projects and goals while balancing other commitments
  • a resume describing education, training, exhibitions, and related experience
  • ten images with slide list
I already had an Artist Statement and images on hand from my exhibition, Interplay. I also had an up-to-date resume (One of my anal-retentive habits. I religiously keep it up-to-date. Never know when you will need it.). But the rest. Well, I drafted and rewrote, sweated over, rewrote... You get the picture. Selecting just the right word or turn of phrase. Then I enlisted the help of my daughter who is studying at this time to become an editor.

My first stuff I sent to her came back red. And I thought that I could write. I rewrote and sent it back. It came back again with more red. Discussions ensued about content. More rewriting. More editing. Then finally, it was done. But was it?

I decided to send it to a friend who's opinion I value for her assessment (as a non-artist). Did it say what I wanted it to? When I asked her what she thought I was trying to do, her summary confirmed what I was trying to say. Eureka! The application was ready to submit. It had taken over a year to prepare.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Next Step.

My next step was to apply for a Saskatchewan Arts Board Individual Assistance Grant. I received the grant, which enabled me to take three months off from my production work and devote myself to exploring sculpture. During this period I deliberately broke away from what I was doing and played with different firing methods, larger forms, texture and working without colour. Through this process, I rediscovered primitive firing! I loved the lack of control and the immediacy of the process. The subtle effects of fire and smoke over the architectural forms . I began to look at ways of using form and texture to manipulate light.

It was also during this time that I found an image of a piece of jewelery that I found to be inspirational. The stone had a very landscape feel to it and I wanted to recreate that feeling in clay. I created a series of "wall jewels". As I made the pieces, I began to see the possibilities of incorporating glass and crystals into the work as a way to increase the dynamic tension and create greater contrasts. I have since become fascinated with following this line of investigation.

Unfortunately, I have little knowledge or understanding of glass. I realized that I need to acquire the technical knowledge and skills of working with glass. What was the best way to learn what I needed? The CARFAC Mentorship Program worked very well the last time. Would it work for me again?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


You might ask, what is this Mentorship experience I speak of.

CARFAC Saskatchewan (Canadian Artist Representation Front des artistes canadiens )
offers a mentorship program. In its 10 year (in its present format ), the Mentorship Program seeks to create opportunity for productive and supportive relationships between established professional artists and visual artists wishing to develop and enhance their artistic practice.

In 2004/2005 I was granted a Mentorship with Les Potter, a multi-disciplinary sculptor. I had wanted to pursue the making of more one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces and I felt that this would be the impetus that I needed to propel me in that direction. The pairing resulted in my floral bark series, which saw the juxtaposition of a soft flowing floral on a textured "bark". I was incredibly proud of this body of work.

It was during this Mentorship that I was introduced to the work of Henry Moore. A well-known British sculptor, Moore placed one of his large sculptures in a farmer's sheep pasture, He explained how he enjoyed the changing nature of the sculpture as it interacted with the sheep, the landscape and the changing light. I became fascinated by the idea that a sculpture's relationship to its environment, in particular, light, affects how the viewer perceives the work. Now what to do with that idea?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here we go!

Blogging. Striking fear in the heart of a technologically challenged person such as myself. So, as I step off the deep end and jump into the morass, bear with me.

I've wanted to start a blog for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of anything that I could say that I thought would be of interest to anyone else. Then, as I was researching blogging, I came upon a story about a blog where an artist journals her experience preparing for an exhibition. Well, why couldn't I do the same with my Mentorship experience? It would be interesting.

So, there you have it. This blog is my opportunity to share my Mentorship experience with you. Welcome aboard my journey!