Project: Ocean vessel

A couple of years ago I spent some time at a studio out in the east end of the city. I worked under a potter there who was a brilliant sculptor, and it was under her tutelage that I learnt most of the core slab-building techniques that I now use. 

When most people think of pottery, what comes to mind is the classic scene from Ghost, where Patrick Swayze “helps” Demi Moore on the pottery wheel, and sexiness ensues. (Let me assure you that there’s nothing sexy about wet clay. It gets everywhere, and it’s gritty.) Wheel-throwing is just one method of building structures in clay, though. It’s great if you want something round, or at least round-ish, but it’s far from the pinnacle of the fine art of pottery. 

Slab-building doesn’t employ a wheel at all, though you can build most of the same basic shapes with it. Instead, the potter begins with a hunk of clay and rolls it out flat, much as you would a pie crust. The slab can be draped, pressed into a mould, folded, twisted, curled, cut into strips and re-attached at crazy angles – the options are endless. 

For this piece, I started with a slab draped over a dinner plate for a gently rounded base. Then I cut asymmetrical strips and attached them to build up the sides and form the handles. 

I didn’t have any specific creatures in mind as I formed it, but rather impressions of sponges and corals and sea stars and eels and seaweed. I wanted it to evoke the feeling of a coral reef without actually depicting one. Similarly, I chose glazes that call to mind the ocean for the interior of the vessel, but glazed the outside in the matte white of bleached shell and bone and coral. 

This is one of my favourite pieces, so I hope you enjoy it!


here be dragons

this one has been a long time in the making.

about two years ago, i started vending at small local craft shows, getting my feet wet and trying to figure out how one does this selling-of-art stuff. one of the graduate students in my lab, who is quite possibly the best person on the planet, and certainly better than you or i, soon asked if he could come assist me at my table. he asked nothing in return, and in fact refused to accept any reimbursement i offered. he helped me at a half dozen or so shows over the course of that year. finally, he asked one small boon. a little thing, really. no trouble at all. he just wanted a dragon mug.

well, how could i say no? it wasn’t possible to refuse. so i tried. i made aborted dragon mug attempts again and again, never happy with the results. they were too heavy, too awkward, too unbalanced. not at all the thing to repay a young man for so very many hours of carefully preparing packaging, sitting my booth while i got up and chatted with other vendors, and generally keeping me sane. it took me several months before i hit upon the design that would work, and another four months to implement it, since i couldn’t do it at my usual studio*.

so here it is, in all its glory, with in-progress shots from every stage of development: the dragon mug.

IMG_2421 IMG_2427 IMG_6094 IMG_6087 IMG_6089dragon_mug_01_smalldragon_mug_02_smalldragon_mug_03_smalldragon_mug_04_smalldragon_mug_05_small

gosh i hope he likes it.

*my usual studio is all low-fire earthenware pottery, which is fine for decorative work, but not really sturdy enough for daily washing and microwaving and such. i made the dragon mug from a stoneware clay that was fired at a much higher temperature, and should withstand years of abuse.