Category Archives: Pottery

Where the Time Goes – of Raku and Coffee

I am not going to write one of those posts about all the stuff I should be doing next year, beginning right this minute. There isn’t much of a point for me. I have really adopted a life of living every second how I want to, need to. I don’t ever feel much like ‘oh, where does the time go?’ these days. It’s been a very big year filled with a lot of new things – completing an immigration sponsorship, learning to be married, raising a new dog, a brand new job, and a lot of new responsibilities and life changes.  I have about a million plans for next year but the biggest one being about me and my incessant worry about getting things done. Hence the reason I don’t need to write about it. I will do it. That’s just what I do.

Something I am starting to find a lot more important is letting myself be an artist, not a crafter or a maker. I will do more art for art’s sake, not for sale.  I will still be spinning yarn, dyeing, doing ceramics and all the other fun stuff I do, but the items I sell will likely be ever so slightly more limited, or at least created when the mood hits and not ‘oh my gosh, show time’ mode.

The holidays were a lot of fun and I was spoiled to bits – I received a little getaway for February to a hotel I quite like, a yearly membership to Toronto zoo where I like to take pictures and make high-pitched cooing sounds at animals, and many other things…including a Raku kiln built by my husband and father. I am too excited to start making pieces to prepare for a firing.

I went to a Raku workshop in November with the members of my pottery guild and my heart was stolen. What a process! It’s amazing to take something dull and white, get to handpaint it (my favourite way to glaze), and then set it on fire, watch it burn and smoke and then wait only a few minutes until you are left with a shiny, blackened, cooked, smoky, amazing piece of work transformed from chalky, gritty clay. My favourite piece of the day was one I will never give up likely- this bowl.

It was a risky piece as my lack of knowledge of Raku at the time didn’t account for someone having to handle it with tongs, so the lacy bit at the top was worrisome for the instructor, and me. However, what a worthwhile risk! The colour is hard to capture – it’s like an oil spill on cement…with a auburn’ish overtone.

Needless to say, I will be chasing more knowledge about this in the coming year and really taking my time to expand my horizons in sculpture/decorative work.

From the same day, this is one of my favourite shots – my husband unveiling his work with our instructor, Denise.  She is the most amazingly kind, and skilled potter.

Mike is relatively new to ceramics. He has been working with clay for about a year and a half. I decided on a holiday once to send him to pottery classes at my guild and his interest was sparked in a lot of different ways. I have always felt like my husband is drawn to being more of a patron of the arts, willing to support anyone who is doing anything, helping them finance equipment, giving of his time, etc. But, what he may not always realize is that he has a really amazing way of putting a unique touch on anything that he makes. A lot of math and planning flow from him….and interesting fingerprints follow in everything he makes. In this photo, Denise was really interested by the geometric forms, staircase and construction technique in this sculptural vase. It turned out so amazingly and luckily it hangs out in my house.

With one of my families, we do a ‘handmade xmas’ each year and with each year, the spectrum of what to makes feels a little tighter but I take it as a challenge. This year, I was watching a documentary called ‘Bitter Coffee’ about the issues surrounding fair trade and coffee and thought to myself …’hmm…I wonder if people roast coffee, in their own homes? I wonder if that is something people do?’ so I started doing research and found indeed that people do it. It led me to a website called Sweet Maria’s where there is information, tutorials, advice on tips on literally everything relating to coffee. What appeared to be the quickest, and cheapest way to roast our own coffee was the purchase of a popcorn popper – you can actually roast your own beans in an air popper. Although it was intriguing, I started to feel like it was a bit more dangerous and tedious than I desired. Over time, the lid of the popper will melt, and it’s plastic. So, I was sort of steered toward a higher end option. Then I found a Behmor coffee roaster and found it was the mid-range model that would work best for this.  I went to Green Beanery in Toronto. The staff there were really nice and spent time answering our questions and showing us different kinds of coffee and flavour profiles. So, we got started with the suggested Guatemalan Antigua – a good medium roast. I also picked up a package of different coffees from around the globe and some Choco espresso.

We brought the machine home, and did some more reading, and prepared that very night to roast some coffee. It was exciting to have cut out that whole ugly coffee seller market from this process and just do it ourselves from beans acquired in a friendly, fair way. We roasted the Guatemalan first – some for everyone, and then some Decaf for the dad-folk, and some Mexican for the spicy wee sister-kid. Each roast was a new experience, new smells from grassy to nutty, to chocolately…..to that deep roasted coffee smell after the beans settled for 24 hours.

The brains and braun behind the operation was totally the husband. He did most of the roasting, watching and waiting. Coffee roasting is sort of based on a few things..

Pick your roasting profile – the length of time you roast, and how hot. There are a lot of suggestions online and in the documentation you get with the roaster.

First crack – this is when the coffee bean first splits and starts to shed it’s ‘chaff’ – which is sort of like the outer kernel of popcorn. This stuff is what makes roasting coffee slightly dangerous as it can catch fire in the high heat environment of the roaster. It is louder, popcorn like pops.

Second crack – this happens within 30 – 90 seconds after first crack usually and sounds like ‘Rice Krispies’ …little crackles…when the rest of the chaff starts to blow off of the beans. This is the fine line between well roasted coffee and burnt! So, you need to be mindful at this point.

Cooling – the roaster has a COOL button that will blow cold air on the beans. They still roast for a few seconds after this so you have to consider this in the time you are roasting.

Let em sit – for about 24 hours.

Smellllllll…..them….mmmmmm! They smell so amazing after they sit. I even ate a few…and they tasted so fresh and popped in my mouth. But I’m kinda weird.

We are keeping a roaster’s journal of our times, experiences and the smells and tastes of each roast…in an effort to better our roasting. The morning after the roast I setup a tasting. The tasting consisted of 3 small bowls of coffee. The first was just black, the second with milk froth/crema on top. And, the final was good ole milk n’ sugar like a lot of people drink their coffee. We were overall really happy with the first roast and felt like pros to begin with. It was a nice no-curve way to learn something new and cool. Although we aren’t actually pros, we have not burned anything or tasted anything we didn’t like – so I would say overall this is a pretty tame hobby to get in to.

24 hours after roasting…

Time to make some New Year’s eve lasagna with the boy.  More blogging soonish…

Pretty Things

Some days it is hard to feel positive when you have to see things you really despise in politics, social issues, the environment and so on. I have decided recently to try to do my best to clear my life out of these things by getting rid of media, people, and other exposures to things that don’t make me happy. On my own I am able to seek out the issues that make me passionate; I can fight good fights without having to constantly be bombarded by people who feel opposite of how I do.  I think that social media makes people really angry, pseudo-anonymous, and really geared up to fight, shout their opinions regardless of how they could make others feel and so on.  I have taken a step back recently on how that makes me feel – and how I want to basically portray myself more as a full human being, instead of just someone who has a certain view on a specific social topic. There is more to me than just the fact I support a certain decision. That being said however, I am really torn because there are certain people who I love for what they do, but not who they are – and that can really be a hard thing to deal with. I guess that is a good reason to not ‘friend’ someone on social media – instead ‘like’ their pages where they discuss their art, their business, etc. This being said – I am removing a few people from my social media websites so that I don’t have to be blindsided constantly by political things that I have no power to change – things often that take place in a country I don’t even live in. I know that we don’t have the power to agree, but I want to have the power still to respect the amazing art that is pumped out of these people.

It has been an insanely busy week – I have gotten so much done so that I can go away and spend some rare time with my family on a camping trip. I have dyed and packaged 3 new fun yarn kits/lines for KW knitter’s fair. I have done a full load of pottery – new yarn bowls, vases, bowls, cups, and more – some to join me at the Art in the Open market and some for KW knitter’s fair.  I have gotten a lot of work done at my day job. I have dyed a ton of yarn….and spun a lot too! I am bringing my spinning wheel on this camping trip and I hope to get some great, relaxing spinning time along with some kayaking, hiking, photography and just relaxing.

Here’s a peek at some faux cashmere I dyed – one braid of several different colourways. This is such a nice fibre to dye.

 

And a peek at a yarn I spun this week with some nice wool flowers. I actually got to spin this at my knit night at Whole Foods – it’s such a great place to do creative things. I find you get a lot of positive attention.

 

I bought this beautiful burl from the exotic wood store some time ago and my husband/business partner/slave finished staining and sealing it for me this week. He is truly the blessing of my life and helps me with so many creative endeavours that I cannot even think of ways to possibly thank him enough for all of his patience and support. I am very lucky.

 

There are still about a million things to do tonight before I head to bed early to prepare to wake up at 5am for the market so I should get packing clothes and toiletries, and washing yarn, and so on! I leave this post with a picture of a sleepy, unimpressed Poppy in his new gnome costume.

Bread and Paper

So, poor week went really well actually and made me think a lot about what I am eating and how I want to change that more than before. I recently made a bunch of decisions about food. I am now eating almost entirely organic, farm raised and naturally fed things. I am not eating at any more big box fast food restaurants.  This week brought me to the salad a day idea – I am replacing one meal a day with salad. The funny thing is that naturally you would want to believe that this will be the dreaded meal of the day – but really it isnt! I mean, on day 1 I got to eat this!

I made my own vinigarette with olive oil, pineapple vinegar, homemade raspberry/strawberry jam, elderberries, and flax seeds – put them in a jar and shake and voila! Then I tossed baby spinach, salad greens, and fresh tomatoes in the bowl with some blueberries. On the side some awesome Edwardsburg cheese from Black River and some rainforest crackers – a real addiction of mine.

I have been reading ‘Made from Scratch’ by Jenna Woginrich and rather enjoying it so I thought I would try out her bread recipe – the standard country white loaf bread. I wanted something decadent during poor week, but also something that was very handmade from scratchy ingredients. So, I muscled my way through the 25 minutes or so of kneading to get to that baker’s window with bread where it is just perfect. And here they are – my loaves of love.

Last weekend I was also treated to a really amazing workshop on handbuilding with paper clay, taught by Lesley McInally.  I really loved the medium and I am finding myself really inspired to work with different shapes and textures in clay. It was a great, informative and fun time. Lesley is a great instructor – very giving of her knowledge and experience.

 

I make my return to the Farmer’s market/Art in the Open tomorrow.  I am looking forward to spinning outside and hanging out in the relaxing market environment. The next month promises to be really busy preparing for Kitchener/Waterloo Knitter’s Fair, finishing up 2012’s canning and preserving of food, and trying to meet a few goals before summer passes by.

Now to share a little sweetness before I need to get down to work on stuff…this is what I deal with every time I have a bubble bath – Toasty is a born water dog and always pleads to jump in. Usually he walks along the side of the tub giving me the cutie eyes.

 

Breakfast and the Workload

This morning’s breakfast did not feel like it was part of my week of being poor. Homemade scones, a recipe taught to me by one of my early mentors in life, my first employer at a lovely little tea room I used to work in. Along with it some leftover cheese curd from Black River Cheese which I picked up on my journey home last weekend, homemade strawberry/raspberry jam that I canned in July, whipped cream, and melted chocolate. Chocolate strawberry tea pulled the whole breakfast together.

I have about a million things I need to do – emails to answer about artist talks and workshops, and a lot of prep work for shows. I am spending the majority of today trying to resolve a lot of issues with one of my projects in my real job but then once the work day comes to a close, I need to try to finish up ball winding 20 more of these super complicated, secret yarns that will be released as a line in hopefully a week or so. I am really excited about them but they are by far the most complicated yarns I have ever made. They will more than likely be very limited edition because I really don’t see myself wanting to make them very often. Some things are just like that – you need to give yourself those allowances in life and not make everything you do marketable, or well, marketed.

Another venture I have taken up, along with Mike, is making buttons – ceramic, wood, some highly decorated, some very simple. I have a bunch of lovely exotic wood that needs to be sliced into buttons so perhaps later today I will pull out the band saw. Thankfully my dad was able to turn a bunch of the wood on his lathe and make it much easier for me to work with.

I have also started trying to ramp up enough work to fill up a kiln for my bisque firing this month. I will have a whole bunch of new yarn bowls – some with fibre themes and a big load of my octopus yarn bowls. I will also have a lot more buttons and pendants – all to be completed before the KW Knitter’s Fair in September.

I have been feeling really inspired to create lately and filling up a journal with ideas for all sorts of things I need to make/build/sculpt/create and it feels really good. I am totally stoked that this weekend I am taking a paper clay workshop with Lesley McInally.  I have not worked with paper clay before but I love the look of it and she is an incredible artist who’s work captivates me.

After the workshop it will be time to get my fibre mojo working and dye a lot of yarn. I have to dye up a big load of ‘Candy Sprinkles’ sock yarn, a ton of Bootsie sock and and work on my new line of Bamboo yarns as well as dye up more Bamboo lace. It should be great days of finding a lot of colour inspiration.

4th Annual Mad Potter’s Tea Party

The Mississauga Potters’ Guild, a guild that I belong to, is in it’s 4th year of this amazing tea party and fundraiser that keeps our guild running and inspiring potters in this area. I wanted to send out the invite to everyone because it is a really nice event. It is nice to see the spirit of all of the artisans in our guild come together, making mugs and tea cups, lovely pottery pieces such as tea pots and platters to raffle, and getting their work ready for show, sale and charity.

The event itself will be really nice. Our Tea Party planners did a really nice job finding a lovely new venue this year, quaint and sweet. When you buy a ticket, you are entitled to take home a handmade mug, made by one of our guild members, which you get to choose from a beautiful table of mugs and teacups. Then you can relax, have tea and refreshments and socialize with potters and friends. There will be door prizes and raffles of all sorts of amazing ceramic work.

So, if you are interested – let me know and I can get you tickets!

Ann Roberts Retrospective

Yesterday I had a lovely day trip up to Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph – checked out shops, had lunch, and wandered around the Clay and Glass Gallery.   That was definitely the highlight of the day as they have an Ann Roberts Retrospective and exhibition on right now. They have a LOT of her incredible work, displayed wonderfully. But better yet this weekend she is there doing handsculpting demos. It was lovely to watch her hands molding clay into the shape of a bull. She was depicting the story of Europa and the Bull, a story she has depicted a few times in the past. She had with her a couple of her ‘rejects’: these beautiful sculptures sitting only as examples of her path, where she wants the work to finish. I couldn’t help but mutter ‘stunning rejects!’.

Here are a few shots of Ann working and of her work currently on display:

 

Breakfast of Champions

It’s a nice morning – cool but sunny. I made blackberry sweet cream crepes and bacon. I woke up early and went to the potter’s guild to unload my bisqueware and organize the insane amount of buttons that now need to be sanded, dusted and glazed. A trip to the pottery supply house is in order for some time this week so I can get a banding wheel and new glazes. I have about a million things to do before I go on vacation.

Some spinning is getting done. I have actually been getting through a lot of my fibre stash which feels really great and makes me feel so ready for Maryland Sheep and Wool in a couple of months. I have made a pact with myself that I am not to buy any yarn. It needs to be all about fibre, felting supplies and weird stuff. I have way too much yarn. So much yarn that it makes me vision my own mortality and how much of it will be used before those dark days are upon me.

And this brings me to day 1 of OOD, or Object of the Day rather…

For those who know me really well, it is already known that I am an avid dollhead collector. This is not the same as a doll collector. I really am only interested in the head. I either use the other body parts in an artwork, or end up donating them back to goodwill with the hope that someone could love a headless doll. I also thrift for them, seek them out in antiques stores and obsess over them online from places like Germany, which are by far my favourite. This particular doll was picked up somewhere in an antique store in Ontario (I want to say in the KW area) in a big white house that was really cold. I got it with one other dollhead for about 10 bucks and when I brought it to the counter, the lady lovingly said ‘Aww….do you restore these? How nice. My husband wanted me to just throw these in the trash but I thought someone might want them’. So, I left her with the idea that I would restore this doll into something of Victorian beauty. But actually, no – it stays as it is and joins the happy menagerie. There is just something about dollheads that really appeals to me. They aren’t even funny to me…but they have some kind of dark..class. It’s weird but I see them as though they should be in design magazines. I guess this is why I am not an interior designer and why my house is kind of like a scary art circus maybe.

Out of Blog Hibernation

Holy cow! I have failed at blogging recently, but it’s not because I haven’t been up to much. I have just been focusing a lot of doing different life stuff. I have joined a gym and I am working on a lot of personal health goals, and I have been up to a lot of fun stuff. But, I think I am ready to try to keep things in my online life up to date a little bit more.

So, each morning I still wake up and get to see my wee Poppy doing something cute, like sticking his tongue out at me.

The puppies have been doing really well although sometimes they perform self-imposed pillow seperation.

Lately I have also been feeling more creative with making breakfast. Breakfast is a meal that I struggle with. I am not really a breakfast person. I think it’s a genetic thing – my parents aren’t breakfast people either. However, everyone around me these days are breakfast people. So, I have been playing in the kitchen with some fun things. I will write up the recipes for both of these a little later so you can try them out for yourself.

First off – Sausage Fudge Pancake with Sugared Pecan Topping  (or as the boys call it – Pigs in a Mattress). I decided I needed to make something really special to go with this single press bottle of 2o1o maple syrup I splurged on. And it was totally worth it. Imagine a fat pancake with fresh organic breakfast sausage and bits of yummy dark fudge in the middle, sprinkled with sugared pecans and baked golden brown. Yes, it was that delicious!

Then I experimented with chicken and waffles and this has become a bit of a favourite for any meal when we are feeling like we have spent enough time at the gym. 🙂 Waffles are one of those easy go-to favourites that are really hard to mess up, and the batter is my dad’s old family recipe.

I have also been really busy with fiber related things. I will be getting studioloo.com updated this weekend with a bunch of information. First off, I have confirmed that I have the following shows coming up – with dates and links below:

April 2 and 3 – Etobicoke Fibre Arts Festival

June 11 – Stitch n Kitsch

September 10 – Kitchener Waterloo Knitter’s Fair

As such, I have been preparing and starting to get lots done. I am planning to do a lot of spinning in the upcoming weeks as well as a lot of dyeing and making loads of other things. I recently updated yarn stock at The Fibre Garden so if you are in the Niagara region and looking for some new yarns from me, check there. It’s a wonderful shop with lots of unique fibres. I will be adding a bunch of art yarns to my site this weekend, if not sooner.

I have also been dyeing up more bamboo sock yarn, and will have bamboo lace next week to get started in the dye pots.

And there has been mass felt making – beads and freeform!

I have been very busy with pottery as well. I am now participating in my pottery guild’s executive as the coordinator for monthly meetings and workshop planning. It has been nice scheduling guest artists to present to the members each month and also gives me a chance to do lots of baking. Right now, the boy and I have been making buttons like crazy!

I am hoping that winter starts to make more of an effort at going away. I really want to get to work in my backyard and try to turn it into a multi-purpose space this year. I need room for outdoor dining, the BBQ, and would like to have a bit of a garden. I see much pruning in my future.  I just want to get planting. Work has been unbelievably busy lately that I am behind in to many things. But, I am inspired by the lovely things I come across. Sometimes I find such pretty pottery that I can’t help myself. I recently picked up this plant pot – glazed amazingly in a colour and texture I could never get in non-toxic glazes I am sure.

And with spring, comes new shoes! These are my new shoes for the season. They are so cute and comfy. They are made by Groundhog shoes and are environmentally friendly.

A Foggy Fall Weekend

So, apparently I have been too busy living my life to write about it….gosh, but I miss blogging! It has been unusually foggy yesterday and today…but I am not bothered. Mat won the use of a demo car, a Kia Borrego, for the week, so we are off on a roadtrip to the Paris and Woodstock, ON area and I am going to hide a Domokun letterbox!

I have been really busy just organizing different aspects of my life and trying to work on things here and there. I did manage to get a load of pottery out of the kiln…here are some pics of finished yarn bowls:

There are plenty more pottery photos on my Flickr. I made a ton of buttons, most of which sold at the amazing Woodstock Fleece Festival, and this little acorn pot.

I have also started a new vintage Etsy shop – Hullabaloos Vintage. It’s been lots of fun so far – a place for me to share the kitschy, cutesy stuff I collect – because mama’s running out of nooks and crannies to hide things!!

Also, if you are a Muststashyo podcast listener, fear not! There will be a Movember episode – Mat and I are putting it together this weekend. We just havent had time, both working in the technical and financial sectors – the end of the year is crunch time. This means lots of overtime, and just general job stress. Weewaw…

My latest project is one I am working on hopefully to be finished for this holiday season …we shall see. I have had little time to get to the pottery studio, or maybe it’s a motivation problem. Not sure, maybe because summer is over. I need to boost my vitamin intake and find a sugar daddy to send me on a tropical vacation.

Anyhow, here they are…my little Bird in the Hand project:

Also, one other thing I wanted to share! How cool are these socks?

They are the Rainbow Shell socks and you can buy them here on Ravelry or from The Black Lamb in person or via email. 100% go to this sweet little boy, Ben, who has cerebral palsy and is saving up for a second stem cell treatment in Mexico. His aunt, Pat, designed the pattern. She is a local, unknown on the internet, ingenious knitter and designer who creates incredible socks. These are actually a lot easier than they look!

Also, I have a whole new yarn line called Foot Fetish – merino/cashmere/nylon sock yarn!! Check em out here: http://www.studioloo.com/yarnpages/footfetish.html

Ok, out into the fog I go!

Great Fall Weekend!

It is the nicest weekend! The weather is beautiful and the leaves are starting to change. On Friday I bought some beautiful Indian corn from the farmer’s market and hung it on the front door. The colours are so exquisite.

Funny enough, I cast on the Aestlight shawl in a really similar colourway of Creatively Dyed Calypso.

I replanted a bunch of small succulent cuttings and they are growing up nicely.

On Friday night I went to the ballgame and saw the Jays beat the Orioles again. It was a fun game and a nice night – not too hot and the seats were 100 level so it wasn’t so cramped. I think going forward I am going to always sit in that level. It’s overall nicer – the food is even more decent, not as many vendors interrupting the game and just better in general.

The other thing I am working on this weekend is getting all of my bisqued pottery waxed because I have to glaze this week for next weekend’s firing. Here are the backs of my waxed buttons:

Yesterday I went downtown to the fashion district on Queen and bought a bunch of nice beads from Arton beads, some yarn from Americo Original and had an awesome lunch at Rivoli. It was my first time there but won’t be my last. I had the Laotian Spring Rolls – they were really yummy. My company had the macaroni and cheese (with peas…yum) and the Siam Wookie Balls – not just a hilarious Star Wars reference but these awesome little sticky rice balls coated in toasted sesame seeds. They were chewy, crunchy and had a nice toasted taste. Really yummy!

Then we wandered through Chinatown and Kensington market and I stopped into Lettuce Knit’s new digs.  The new space is nice and I picked up a beautiful skein of Madelinetosh Prarie and some cute bumblebee buttons.