Tag Archives: Artisan Tiles

The art of container gardening in clay pots


“The best plants come with a story.”  —Maria Rodale

When I open the door of our greenhouse, the strong scent of tomato leaves and basil washes over me. I just stand there, because it is such a wonderful experience. The greenhouse is a godsend, since it has only recently warmed up here in Metro Vancouver. Called a season extender, it isn’t meant for year-round use, but that’s just fine. All I want is a tomato, a vine ripened tomato! I’ll get my wish….

Our cottage is perched on a hill covered with understory in the form of bushes, thimbleberry and salmonberry. We don’t have a yard, per se, so I rely on container gardening. We have a bed on either side of the greenhouse, a rose and hydrangea ‘butterfly’ garden, and a raised bed for vegetables. I am concentrating on containers, operating on the assumption that we still have a little summer left.

Everyone likes a bargain, especially if it’s a true bargain, not just an enticement leading to an impulse buy. Well, last week, I came across an amazing deal. We were at the  hardware store and I decided to check out the garden store. Good move because I struck gold, coming home with 28 perennials for which I paid only $18 Canadian! After I got home, I immediately started keying them out in a little notebook: shade/sunny, drought resistant, slug magnets/slug resistant, height/width, color/blooming period. I have since been creating diagrams, working with combinations which will allow for blooming from spring to fall in specific beds and containers. Fun!

Because I am also working with terra-cotta pots, the unglazed ones will have to be stored in the shed over the winter to prevent breakage from freezing and thawing cycles. But, I’ve learned that if I keep the glazed ones against the north and west sides of the house, they have enough protection. We also have some large, concrete Italianate planters and I will be planting some of these new perennials in them, too. In fact, so much can be done with container gardening these days, we need little else. Combining vegetables, flowers, and herbs in the same pot is the perfect opportunity to practice companion gardening with magnificent results. Barely beyond the novice gardener stage, I still have the fervor of the neophyte. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than tending my garden. So restful and meditative. And plunging your hands into the dirt is so grounding! Nurture the plants and they nurture you…. I really like the way mainstream gardening is evolving, too. The simple window box has morphed into creations unheard of in our grandmother’s grandmother’s day. The current wave of urban agriculture and urban horticulture are gaining steam, transforming commonplace plots and yards into productive spaces, green spaces and areas of beauty. Outdoor ‘rooms’ are creating separate niches, each with a focus, a purpose and a feel. I very much like the idea of rooms and will be working to achieve such areas. It might take a year of two to get what I want worked out and established, but I’ll know when it’s complete. Another area to investigate is vertical gardening. Because of this hilly plot of land, I believe vertical is the way for me to go next and it could be the perfect backdrop, with beds or containers in the foreground. For instance, I’m going to start investigating twig trellises and panels. I would like to make a low one that will span about 10 feet. Not exactly a fence, but a visual divider about two feet high that will allow the viewer to focus on the plants in the bed: yarrow, speedwell, beebalm, red twig dogwood… Reds to attract bees and butterflies, scents that’re slug-proof. Wish me luck! Happy days are ahead of us with all of our gardening efforts.


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Fun, Home and Garden, My Work, Videos/Photos/Slides

Open Studio Update

Keyhole tile, modeled after antique door plates called escutcheons. Accented with a vintage skeleton key.

A riot of colors! Today was a splendid spring day and I so enjoyed wandering down the hill to meet my friends for coffee. Seated in a booth at the Burrard Public House, we met for our weekly lunch date on Open Studio Tuesday. This week, I felt like an onlooker, as my wrist problems from overwork mean I’m on hiatus. Thank goodness for voice dictation; I don’t know how I would produce my blog, otherwise. Clay projects are on ice, as I’ll take the time to heal up good and proper… Last week, a lovely surprise arrived in the mail: a shipment of antique skeleton keys. There are so many different kinds; they vary greatly in size, shape, color, condition. Am happy to see them and I bought them to use with a decorative tile that has been through several incarnations. It was almost as if the design treatment it needed just took time to reveal itself.

Soft box with ginkgo leaf handle. White B Mix clay; celadon glaze.

Before I wound down  altogether, I took a  soft box class taught by Pauline Doyle at the art centre. Moving a little slow, I was only able to build two during the  allotted time. One has been fired but I will have to wait until I’m able to finish the last one. It is a lovely type of vessel and  they do have a softness about them. The second one is a floral/marine fusion. The lid handle is based on the frilly bits of a nudibranch. Amazingly beautiful creatures… I find that everything from the sea inspires! I remember with great fondness time spent at the University of Oregon’s marine laboratory in Charleston, Oregon. What an amazing place; world-class tidepools. May be entering a new phase here. I live alongside the sea but the last time I really explored a sea theme through clay was when I was landlocked, living in high desert terrain. It might be time to explore the shore and tidal zones once more… The Benthos calls…

Unfinished soft box that is more freeform, using both floral and sea elements

In the meantime, I’ve received a commission for a soft box from a woman in the state of Georgia. What a surprise! And in due course. Until I am back in the studio, I will be working on a few things I have been putting off. Funny how the Universe steps in and gently guides one’s direction. With a freed up schedule, I’ve devoted the last several days to backend work on my Etsy shop, which has yet to go viral.  Copywriting and designing my banner. Because the weather is so divine this week, I’ll switch gears and start taking photographs of my pieces outside in natural lighting. Soon, I will buy a postal scale so I can start figuring out postage rates in earnest. Etsy prep seemed daunting but if I just take one section at a time, I will be fine. In the meantime, I’m getting back to my regular blog posting schedule after a prolonged break and look forward to many more posts and the regularity of writing again. I hope you are having a most lovely spring or fall wherever you may be…

My sunrise tile with our new Shino glaze… so buttery and creamy…

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Happy May Day, with Frank Lloyd Wright’s “May Basket”

A tile representation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s

“May Basket” by Motawi Tileworks…

Happy May Day!

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Open Studio Update

Llave bronceSoon I will receive the shipment of keys, skeleton keys won off eBay. They should be here within two weeks. When I was first working with a particular decorative tile, I envisioned how it might look with a skeleton key dangling from it. I speak of the escutcheons that have gone through several incarnations. Recently, my colleague Gary mentioned that they would look good with skeleton keys and it was a nice reality check. So, 30 keys are coming my way. I will figure out how to place them after they arrive, though I have a few ideas. Update: I’ve worked hard and have produced much recently, tiles and necklaces. Along the way, I also developed a touch of something that is this the scourge of potters and ceramists everywhere, carpal tunnel problems caused by overwork. Soon I will have a wrist brace made by an orthotics outfit to wear at night. I am also doing physiotherapy, taking anti-inflammatories, icing, basically doing the RICE or PRICE technique.  My doctor told me things will be on the up and up soon if I take care of it now and follow instructions. I had better listen up, too, because I had another reality check, having worked  with clay last

Wrist stretch

Carpal tunnel stretching exercise, By Mfestejo, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday and Saturday. My arms felt like they were on fire each time.  My current projects are going to have to be shelved temporarily, so I can take a complete break.  During this time, I will do a few ceramics-related things that won’t involve my wrists. While I continue to be associated with our local art centre, it is time to branch out, to become part of the larger community. To that end, I am going to join some ceramics organizations. I’ve downloaded forms, read policies, like what I see, and will report more after I’m a member. In other news, I hunted for a tool with which to bevel a clay slab and found one! It has a zippy name: The Bevel-O-Matic! It is nice to come across a tool that meets your needs precisely…the Internet is a wonder! This tool is so specialized, it is unlikely I would have found it any other way. As soon as my wrists have improved, I will be back at the tiles. I cut many of them a while back and they are ready and waiting…for me and my beveler. Also, there is a new artist in residence for the ceramics department at the Port Moody Arts Centre. A sculptor, James Kemp is a recent graduate of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He will be overseeing the Tuesday Open Studio group starting tomorrow. Thank  you for your years of service, Ms. Doyle, and welcome, James Kemp….


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