This semester I am taking a Directed Study course in Ceramics at VIU. Part of the course requirement is to keep a blog of our process, ideas and ceramic work. So all my ceramic posts will be at rather than here on my general arts blog.

Yesterday, September 4th, I visited Gretchen and Lawrence on Gabriola Island. Gretchen has bought for a reasonable price a complete ceramic studio (wheel, kiln, and all supplies) and had asked if i would be interested in some of the glazes. Hence the excuse for the visit for which I was most grateful.

From arriving at the Nanaimo dock, the clouds were an immediate attention grabber. So out came the camera for the journey to and from Gabriola. The return ferry was very late, I think according to an overheard conversation, because an earlier ferry took an ambulance to Nanaimo out of schedule. But just hearsay. So as we waited for the ferry the clouds put on a spectacular display, as they did on the crossing.

In the afternoon Gretchen and Larry took us for a row around Silva Bay in their lovely small rowing boat. What a treat. The weather looked menacing, but the rain held off until we were safely drinking a nice cuppa back at their home. The islands appear to be well stocked with racoons, who almost ignored us as we drifted to shore. They blended perfectly with the beach and rocks so at first we didn’t see them. A delightful, refreshing day.

Some of the photos from the day. I have touched up some of them in Photoshop to try and impart more of a sense of how I saw them with my eyes and not through the camera.

I attended the Aberystwyth International Ceramic Festival on July 4th and had a thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational day.

The very first lecture that I attended was by Tip Toland, whose work I only recently became aware of thanks to a magazine cutting from Jackie. Tip’s lecture was not only informative, but inspiring and moving and after it I was able to talk to her briefly while she worked on an example for her demonstration. Each lecturing or demoing artist had a studio space where they either worked or showcased examples. Tip actually lives in Seattle. Later in the day she gave a demonstration of how she creates an armature, models the form and then hollows it. Very similar to the way Scott taught us last Fall.

She creates her huge pieces as solid ceramic blocks, then cuts them into sections, hollows them out, fires them and reassembles using epoxy glue. The final effects are achieved through paints and pastels. Some pieces are surprisingly large. Do check out her website: Here is a photo montage of her demo – sorry about the quality, but I just used my iphone in poor light. She worked up the basic head in about 45 mins. Her armature was angled with the top section loosely attached, so that when she first chopped off the back of the head she was able to unscrew it and start hollowing.


Other artists whose work I saw either demoed, lectured or on show can be found at: It is hard to put across the general excitement and inspiration of the day as it was super busy from start to finish! I did enjoy a lot of the student work which can be found at the bottom of the demonstrator list. So do check out their websites.

In the general art gallery at the university there was also a very interesting show by the Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins which I greatly enjoyed. He is not an artist I’m familiar with, but have bought a fantastic book showcasing his work. Unfortunately the book doesn’t contain his latest work from this year, which I really enjoyed, so here are a few photos which they let me take. The reflections don’t help, but they do act as a reminded. I particularly liked the way the flowers transfer from the horse to the man – this theme he has explored over many years and relates to his father’s fear of a particular Welsh legend. His website: These images aren’t in the right order.




I feel as though this post can’t pu across visually my experience – it will just have to show up in my work of the next few years!

Yesterday I took the train up to Birmingham for a day workshop called ‘Constructing Crows’. It was held by Jo Naden at the RBSA Gallery on Brook Street in Birmingham. My first visit to Birmingham, and the walk from New Street Station reminded me a lot of London. Very lively and lovely big and varied architecture. I was rushing on the way to the workshop, and carrying a big box on the way back, so no chance to take photos.

The workshop was terrific – Jo Naden is an excellent teacher. We began with listening to crow calls, drawing our response and then drawing from the stuffed crow. We also examined the crow skeleton – beautiful. The drew 4 views of the crow.

From there we learned how to make a wire armature that had strong enough legs to support itself in a polystyrene base. We continued by rolling out slabs of paperclay, and applying them to the armature.  Then we started to model and add the paperclay to fill out the form. Just what I wanted to learn – armatures and paperclay. The partially finished crow survived the train journey in a cardboard box. I hope to work on this weekend after a visit with brother Dillon. Here are just a few photos of the event;

For other photos of my travels in the UK this summer please check out

Our current ceramic project is to create pots inspired by 1500BC Mediteranean vessels. The main point of the exercise is to throw separate pieces that are then joined together. Here are my first attempts. The first one didn’t turn out as planned but I managed to rescue it. I didn’t wait long enough for the bottom half of the bowl to be really dry before adding the top half. So it sagged. From this experience I learned patience and the second pot, which is more like a bird bath, went together with more ease and control. The third pot is my slow reproduction of the Jomon pot. Its getting there – I added about 3 inches on the bottom. You can see the original on the wall.


It is ridiculous the way in which spring has come early this year. Here are some of the flowers out right now:

Every year the Island Illustrators Society create an Alphabet – this year it was all about the City of Victoria. Our images are displayed throughout the year in the Greater Victoria Regional Libraries. My contribution was Q is for Queen Victoria: queen vicky finalYou could say she is not exactly amused…

An Adobe Photoshop illustration as I had to produce it at the last minute, and anyway how else could I have created all those diamonds!

So we are already in the last stages of February 2015. The year, like recent years, seems to be rushing by! However a moments reflection returns lots of memories, proving that time has been well packed with interesting events.

It is hard to believe that we just had week 7 of this semester’s ceramic course. This course is all about learning to use the wheel and although initially challenging, is proving to be one of the most enjoyable of creative experiences. I find it a relief to move away from flat planes and 2 dimensions into a world of forms – lovely round forms created on a rotating wheel. Who’d have thought it! Today I turned a 4.5 lb piece of clay into something that resembles a vase. This was the biggest piece of clay I’ve worked with and it was a pleasure. Our current assignment is to create a large vessel from separately thrown pieces in the style of Mediterranean ceramics dated 1500 BC. So I was practicing what it feels like to throw larger pots. Here are some of the forms that I’ve created since Christmas – just click on an image to open a larger view. The mugs and bowl have yet to be fired. Just learning, so everything is an experiment!

The weather

This must be one of the mildest winters ever and so there have been beautiful walks along the harbour. Here are just a few photos from the other morning and a couple from my brief stay in San Diego at the beginning of the month. That’s it for this week. next week is reading break up t the university, but there is a lot of homework to do…

Well almost – just one more class in which we each talk to our instructor to review our work. Here are some images of what I’ve produced this semester:

There are some other items that I’ve not photographed yet. Had a great time and am looking forward to learning how to use the wheel in January

this is my latest project – a self portrait in clay.


July 15 - Today was a creative day - 5 new ideas for book projects...

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