Thursday, 21 July 2016

Wabi Sabi and the Art of Imperfection

Last week I touched upon the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi that is the world view based on the idea of transience and imperfection.

Wabi Sabi
Shino glaze Cone 6

I find the nation ofWabi Sabi and the ways in which to achieve it incredibly exciting. It is the idea of letting go and letting the materials talk for themselves. There is an element of chance and the unexpected. When my ceramic pieces are fired in a reduction atmosphere kiln, I can control the results to a certain extent, however it is always difficult to predict exactly how a piece will be fired. Opening the doors of a kiln after firing is always an exciting event to see what has happened.

Wabi Sabi
Shino glaze. I love the pinhole effect
A reduction firing requires the use of a gas kiln, which depletes the oxygen atmosphere which means that the glaze and clay body will trap carbon which can affect the colouring of the glaze and clay. I enjoy working with Shino, a Japanese glaze which can be white although due to the carbon trapping process can also become darker and sometimes metallic.

Detail of the shino glaze

These are some of the results of my most recent Cone 6 reduction firing.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Artist: Susie Brandt + Studio Visit

The super summer visiting artist series at NSCAD continues with Susie Brandt participating in the artist in residence program and also exhibiting at the Anna Leonowen's Gallery.

Susie Brandt

Susie is a textile artist and her exhibition is a work in progress consisting of piles of donated worn clothing and textiles that will be processed using scissors and her hand-crank sewing machine into rope. The exhibition is an interactive experience where the audience is invited to participate in the making of the rope, but cutting up post consumer textile waste and twisting it into rope. 

image from
who participated in one of Susie's projects
at Haystack Mountain School of Craft

About her process, Brandt states, “ropemaking is a basic gesture in textile production. The phenomenon of twisted and plied fibers resulting in a strong flexible line dates to 1700 BC. Because lines of rope can be used for hoisting, fastening, and climbing, rope had transformative effects on pre-industrial communities. Considered Post-industrially, rope offers an entry point into textile issues around locality, labor and waste/re-use.”
I have been very fortunate to meet Susie and she visited my studio to chat about my work and provide feedback. I find it is always helpful to get receive external advice as this provides opportunities to talk about my work which helps to tease out areas that I overlook.

One topic that Susie brought up was the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi which is the world view based on acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-natureCharacteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

I was first introduced to the idea of Wabi Sabi by my ceramics teacher (and amazing artist) Ian Jones who taught me to love the imperfections in my ceramics as I was learning. This was incredibly insightful since I have a tendency to be a perfectionist and was attempting to make 'perfect' ceramic pieces.

Having Susie reflect that my pieces also capture the delicate balance of grace and ugliness made me realise just how influential Ian's teachings were. Below are some very recent pieces that I have been working on which reflect the wabi sabi aesthetic.



Thursday, 7 July 2016

Artist: Anna Hepler + Studio Visit

Also last week I was incredibly lucky to spend some studio time with Anna Hepler, who is also exhibiting her work at the Anna Leonowen's Gallery and an Artist in Residence at the Ceramic Studio. Anna is a sculptor and print maker who creates large forms using a variety of media. When it comes to using different materials she believes it is very important to keep an element of unfamiliarity in her work, to keep her work more 'honest' or 'vulnerable'.

Double Hung
Anna Hepler

Anna's work is incredibly inspiring and there is a great interview which talks about her creative processes.

Whilst the work in the Anna Leonowen's Gallery are explorations in ceramics, she is continuing to explore the 'slumped' form, like in the image above.

List of Works

I have found the visiting artist studio visits incredibly insightful and helpful to give critical comment and feedback about my work as an external 'eye' provides clarity and a new way of looking at things.

We have been experiencing thick summer sea fogs recently - this is a view from my studio window.
It generally looks like this...

I think I may need to upscale these wire sculptures if I want to create more of a dramatic impact! 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Artist: Meryl McMaster + Studio Visit

This week I had the pleasure of a studio visit from Meryl McMaster, who is currently exhibiting her work at the Anna Leonowen's Gallery as part of the NSCAD visiting artist series. Meryl is a photographer who uses the medium for self discovery, exploring how we construct our sense of self through lineage, history and culture.

Second Self

In her series 'Second Self' which is exhibited in the gallery, the artworks reconsider identity through portraiture incorporating drawing and sculpture. The process of making this work is fascinating and goes through a number of steps to reach the finished piece. First, she asks each participant to draw a self portrait of themselves, using a line drawing where the pen is not allowed to be lifted up off the paper. She then recreates these images using wire, which act like a mask when worn by the real person.  

She is inspired by Alexander Calder, who explored the use of wire in his work through sculpture, mobiles and jewellery. I too, love working with wire, and that is perhaps one of the many reasons why I am so attracted to her work. 

I have been exploring wrapping objects with wire as part of my exploration for 222 Grips for a Stone series. 

copper wire, found coal
Jogging Fossil Beach

copper wire, found stone
Bay of Fundy

copper wire, found wood
urban Halifax

As part of an ongoing exploration, I am interested to see what happens to each of these objects when exposed to heat.

I received some great feedback from Meryl when she visited me in my studio and I look forward to applying it to my work.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Jeweller: Jan Smith + Studio Visits

I had the pleasure of a studio visit with Jan Smith, who is a brilliant jeweller and printmaker visiting NSCAD as part of the University's Artist in Residence summer series.

Enamel Brooch and drawing by
Jan Smith 
Jan combines mark-making in metal with enamelling techniques with fascinating results ending as wearable jewellery pieces. She is based in British Columbia where she also teaches.

Because of her interdisciplinary approach, I found her feedback to my studio work incredibly helpful.  

One of the key things she suggested was to tidy away all the 'conversations' I was currently exploring (I have about 10 different directions my work could go in) and focus on just one of the conversations. This is harder to do than it sounds, and I have 'hidden' half my work behind sheets so that I cannot see it and be distracted by it. There are now about four 'conversations' which will eventually need to be paired down into one. 

This is a photo of my studio before her visit. It looks quite tidy - but within this are too many ideas for me to focus on over the next 6 months.  There is probably a lifetime of exploration within this space, which is why I am thinking of doing a Phd next - but more about that later. 

Studio space before Jan's feedback

So I took Jan's advice and did a BIG tidy up. Ill post an 'after' picture soon.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Shibori - the art of binding fabric

Most of us are familiar with the beautiful effects of the ancient Japanese art of shibori. Fabric is dipped in rich indigo blue with white organic patterns created as a result of the binding and resist methods applied to the cloth.

The Simply Irresistible Dye class have been experimenting with the indigo dye vat throughout the duration of the course. With an array delightful designs to share with the class we all 'ooh and ahh' as we discuss how we achieved the desired affect.

Fabric folded and a resist is formed using wooden sticks

It struck me that the binding of the fabric is also an art form, often under appreciated and overlooked as the shibori fabric (the end result) which is what we strive to achieve.  

The wooden blocks used to create a resist have also been dyed by the indigo and become beautiful artefacts in the process, retaining the memory of where the bands were placed to hold the wood in place.

The lines show where elastic bands were used
to hold the wood in place on the fabric. 

These binding techniques could be applied to my fascination and exploration of 222 grips for a stone.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Dying with Rust

The fun continues in the Irresistible Dye Class I teach at the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design.   This week we explored dying with rust. Its quite a simple process and it achieves some fabulous results. 

To start we laid down a large plastic bag and upon this we placed our fabric that had been sprayed with a 50/50 water vinegar solution.  

Fabric with rusty huddles from an old loom laid upon it

Then we placed the rusty objects on the fabric and covered the rusty pieces with another bit of fabric. This was all wrapped in the plastic bag to prevent the fabric from drying out, the dampness encourages the objects to rust onto the fabric.

The rusty fabric after a week of soaking

We left the fabric for a week, and the above is what happened in the space of 7 days.

Each layer of fabric reacts differently to the process

Tori displaying her rust dyed fabrics 
For more images of the results of our rust dying visit the Irresistible Dye Facebook page.


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