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.