Ceramics Shows: Salon des Métiers d'Art, Montréal


This yearly event is a creation of the Conseil des métiers d'art du Québec (metiersdart.ca), an association which represents professional art & craft artisans. 

Many new and experienced potters were on display at this event, which I visited with my class on Monday, December 12th 2016.  What did I learn?

  • A few ceramicists noted the importance of the display - it has to draw the eye and be an ally to your series being showed. Also be manoeuvrable and settable easily by one  person. 6-8 lights with 2 spots was typical. It's best to rent or buy a cheap used display the first time, so you can see in action what you need. 
  • Pricing ranged from 20 to 30$ per bowl. Not super pricey, but obviously more expensive than the Ikea productions.
  • The more experienced potters seems to have more 1 of a kind offerings rather than production sets.
  • Jamie Goodyear had great variety of styles, from really experimental designs with cloths woven into raku-like dark bowls to more sedated pastel plates.
  • The eye is drawn to stands with a strong personality where every bit of the stand talks about the art - the lighting, the shelves, the seats, the carpet, the banner, the music, the entire ambiance should envelop the visitor.
  • Renée Larochelle had a lovely large banner which won my prize for most effective.
  • Christine Audet had the sophisticated shelving, with green backing that made it feel like a living room wall, and soft lighting coming from her own lamps. These were very effective. The color of the wood from her shelves matched the color of her vases on display and few items were shown at a time.
  • Momplaisir was also consistent throughout about her nautical theme: her simple white shelves had lines like boat planks; they had integrated spots lights as well as 5-6 spots on top. It was large enough to be commanding, something a number of other displays lacked. 




 More Momplaisir and her nautical theme. Lovely.


Marie Serreau




Rafael Pérez

Spanish ceramicist Rafael Perez born in Haro, La Rioja, Spain in 1957) makes pieces which challenge the traditional concepts of pottery. A piece by Rafa Perez isn't functional; it isn't traditional in form; it isn't plain; it isn't easy to categorize. What is is however is expressive and surprising.

HandMade at Kew


There's always so much to learn from makers exchanging on their experiences.

Handmade at Kew provided a deep well of such exchanges today. 

Spoke to Leach Pottery (above) about their technique for striping their vessels as shown above and below. These pots with their leopard-style dots or moving stripes have a wonderfully rich and lively effect. They're achieved by glazing in tenmoku before letting to dry and painting thin stripes of wax resist on top. The pot is then glazed again in clear glaze or another color. Final results vary, but a "bit of practice" (translate to a whole lot) brings out these amazing designs.


Still from the Leach Pottery studio at St Ives in England.

Leach Pottery at HandMade in Kew


On another very different style, I enjoyed speaking with the a passionnate ceramist Norman Yap about his use of traditional Chinese colours with a modern appealing twist.


Another interesting ceramic bowl was one which was turned then scooped with a small tool in fish scale like patterns before being glazed and the glaze gently wiped off. This expertly done by Suzanne Luthi - picture below.





Project: Music

Having a musical son is an inspiration in itself. But when he asked me recently: "Mum, could you make me an Ocarina Clay Whistle?", a tid bit of inspiration turned into a full new pottery project.

A full pottery project? Surely, I could make a ceramics cylinder with a few holes and a mouthpiece and a slanted whistle.

Yes, I could; but could I make one that actually whistles and produces sounds? 

Making a Clay Ocarina

Came across Janis Wilson Hughes' helpful video on YouTube. Janis is from Evolution Stoneware Pottery and offers some good tips on making a mineral clay ocarina that can sing.


Tuning the Ocarina

However, it is not enough to have your ocarina whistling. It really ought to play in tune. And that's the next big challenge. 

With patience on lots of trial and error, you can get reasonably tuned ocarina in greenware (unfired clay). 

First, get the fundamental pitch, the lowest pitch produced by blowing through the mouthpiece with all holes closed.

With the first hole (say right hand, middle finger), you'll want to be the next note up on the scale. If the sound is too high, carve a slightly bigger hole. Be careful to keep the holes small at first as you'll may loose sound on the upper range as you have more holes. Each next hole will be slightly larger than the previous one.

Got it sounding about right?

That's good. But it's not all.

At some point, you will need to fire your ocarina and it will shrink. By how much it will shrink is tough to predict (depends on temperature of kiln, clay content, position in the kiln, etc...) but roughly by 10-15%. This means your tuned greenware instrument will morph into a sharper toned instrument. It might even go sharper beyond the desired pitch.

To compensate this, some experienced clay ocarina makers make too flat of a greenware instrument so that it's closer to the desired pitch after firing. If it ends up too flat after firing, a tiny drilling hole could be drilled. It's more difficult to handle if the ocarina ends up too sharp rather than slightly too flat. 

So how best to deal with the shrinkage?

Make multiple ocarinas tuned a tad differently up or down. Measure the pitch before firing & after firing and scribble them down. After lots of tries, you will figure out how to adjust your tuning on greenware to get what you want on a finished product.
It isn't an exact science, but it is hugely satisfying when you can play an instrument you made yourself.

Project: Wood

Ceramics_WoodEtsyWork by: http://www.corduroyclay.com/



 From:  SweetIssuesArt, Etsy


Ceramics_Wood_BirchVasesTurning Clay into Wood.

For the Jan-Feb 2015 slice of ceramics time, the idea will be to turn clay into wood. You can make wood-clay bowls or cork oak, 2x4 plates with nails etched, or clever vases of rectangular trees. Any woody thing goes.

Vary your technique to see what works best:

  • wood grain engraved into the clay;
  • wood grain painted on over-glaze;
  • wood grain slip carved;
  • wood grained rolled from existing wood;
  • wood grain glazed through fire.

Express the nature of wood and stretch this essence into view. 

You should make use of slab work, with a particular emphasis on the quality of the finished work: edges polished, bottom painted, glazing even, artist stamp. 

Planned portfolio approach:

Make 4 amazing vases of wooden material. (1) Three Birch Trees. (2) Abstract Oak. Huge Tree. 

Monday 2-5, Tuesday 10-13, Thursday 10-13, Friday 2-5 -- Plan on 2 items per day.

Week 1: 

Monday, Jan 12, 2015 with Maggie.

  • Refined Decorated Plate (overglazed) and Vase (urban) and set them off to bisq.
  • Rolled 2 slabs from buff clay. Set out to dry piled with wood planks on top, newspaper between clay and wood, wrapped in plastic. Awaiting to dry.
  • Asked Maggie about ideas to make wood. Why do it? was her response, but she suggested painting really w/ overglaze.

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2015 with Jo Aylmer ** great teacher **

  • Made 3 Wheeled Vases of varying shapes in White Stoneware.
  • Jo's feedback: "Wheel with intent. That's the key. Go with a goal and pursue it. Like open up the clay where you want it to and opposed to the other way around."
  • Jo's other great feedback: "Slice your pot open to dissect and learn from its insides." My dissected pot showed a very thin bottom (likely to punch a hole through it) and thick sides at bottom. Work on that.
  • Jo showed me agatheware too. Need the clay to be a bit firmer than it was then to have more defined colors when you mix them together.
  • Made 2 small slabs of White Stoneware (resting by wheel)


Week 2: Prepare slabs. Carve, Paint & Slip.Week 3:

Week 4:

Week 5 (on vacation).


Ceramics_Wood_ElegantVases Ceramics_Wood_Shape


image from media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

Making your own stamps is a great way to insert your own design as a repeatable pattern. This is a good thing to do at home rather than during class, to save a bit of precious class time.

Also good to have your own signature stamp!