Tag Archives: creative endeavor

Creativity Group’s Clay Workshop

I’m part of a low-key little group that meets once-a-month. We gather at each other’s homes and enjoy a workshop facilitated by that month’s host. Today, friends and neighbors will be seated around the kitchen table on Jane Street as we transform plain,  white clay tiles into something of our own. It feels great knowing I’m going to introduce them to something that I feel passionate about. The finished sizes will be 6 x 6 and 4 x 4. To help my friends understand the different methods we’ll use, I made up a ‘sampler’ of different techniques:

  • Sgraffito
  • Relief, shallow and deep
  • Underglazes
  • Textures
  • Sprigging
  • Slip trailing

Because they’ve never worked with clay, I’ve done some advance work…I painted some of the small tiles with blue and green slip to prep for sgraffito.  I am providing some designs they can use for inspiration. There will be much in the way of materials and tools, so they can experiment with many textures and techniques. After they’re done with their masterpieces, I’ll take the tiles to the studio for drying, bisquing, and glazing for a nominal fee. We’re usually in need of refreshment after working. One of the best parts of the event is our visit with each other afterward. We concentrate so hard on whichever project we’re working on, we don’t chat much till afterward. Which is fine, because creativity is the focus. The group is a way for women to explore their creativity in a group setting. We have built a little community and are committed to the process. Each month we look forward to treats with our friends, too! I made homemade ginger bread and will serve it warm with lemon sauce. Seasoned popcorn for munchies. Apple for crunch. Simple but good. Washed down with lattes, black or herbal tea. Things are a little different this year. Usually, we’d meet outside, but it’s a very wet July, so it’s indoors this go round. We work well together and soon the rhythm we’ve established will wash away the workaday world. Soon we’ll be sitting around the kitchen table working with clay. Life is good.

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The Ten Golden Rules of Ceramics

It’s funny how things you’ve heard time and again still make sense and are worth being reminded about. This was written for youngsters, but I read it and thought, hey, everyone could use a reminder like this every once in a while…. — Jan


The Ten Golden Rules of Ceramics

  1. Clay must be thoroughly covered up with a plastic bag to keep it from drying out.  This applies to works in progress and moist clay.
  2. Clay dust can be harmful if you are exposed to it for long periods of time, so keep your area clean, clay scraps off the floor and clean with water and a sponge.
  3. Clay can be no thicker then your thumb.
  4. In order for clay to stick together it MUST be scored and slipped together while the clay is moist or leather hard.
  5. Wedge clay to remove air bubbles, achieve uniform consistency, and to line up the particles of clay.
  6. Trapped air can cause clay to explode.  So hollow out sculptural forms and put needle holes from the bottom so air can escape.
  7. Don’t glaze the bottom of a piece.
  8. Always wash the piece before glazing.
  9. Always handle your project with two hands at all times.  In other words BE CAREFUL it’s your hard work. Never lift pots by the rim.

— Joe Cox (Incredible Art Department)

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“A Potter’s Blessing,” by Sylvia Hardy

“A Potter’s Blessing” was written by Sylvia Hardy for the Port Moody Art Centre’s Clay Studio. Last Sunday, while we were working in the Open Studio during ArtWalk, Sylvia graciously gave me permission to post it. I’m so happy to share it with you and to let you know you’ll be seeing some of Sylvia’s clay work in the future.

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We must believe in and protect our artistic vision

Our artistic vision is our guiding light. It illuminates the terrain around us and our inner life. We must come to trust ourselves and our artistic vision. At the same time, it is best to surround ourselves with people who believe in us or who support us or who remain neutral. This last part is especially important and has to do with ourselves, too, not just others.


If I do not understand another’s artistic vision or if I am aware of or come to recognize that I question it, I immediately place myself in a willed state of neutrality. I do not want to affect the other person with feelings of ambivalence or anything negative, so I will remain neutral. Sometimes this state isn’t easy to achieve, but I do it by repeating a very simple but extremely powerful mantra that I learned from a person beloved to me, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, otherwise known as Gurudeva. He was not/is not my guru. I have no guru. But I learned much from him and one of the things I learned is this deceivingly simple mantra, the effect of which places anyone who says it in a super-conscious state instantly. The mantra is “Who am I ? Not this body.” When said, it is a means of zapping me out of any form of judgment and putting me on a different plane, one without judgment. It is an easy way to become neutral fast.

Toxic People

Likewise, we must protect ourselves from others who are judgmental or negative and who do not maintain neutrality around us. This is especially important when we have an idea for a new project. If we, without thinking, start chattering about our idea before it is distilled and part of our being, we affect it negatively and might even quash it. The idea quite literally changes, evaporates, or is something that is no longer married to us. However, if we keep the idea to ourselves and let it gestate, the time will come when it is ready to see the light of day. This is not ‘keeping secrets.’ Keeping our idea to ourselves until it and we are ready is a way of protecting ourselves and our artistic vision. At this point, we can speak or write about it to others. Still, it is best to be selective about who we tell. If we tell someone who maintains neutrality, we won’t be affected. If we tell someone who is supportive, our idea is graced, we feel warm and affirmed. However, if we are criticized or if we receive a message that is indirectly negative, clothed in supportive words and non-verbal behavior, we must be guided by our intuition and immediately stop talking to this person about our intended project. In fact, after we do, it’s not a bad idea to take back any power we may have inadvertently given that person, too, by simply stating that we are doing it and visualizing pulling power from the other back into ourselves. For me, I would pull it back to my solar plexus chakra, the chakra of personal power. Likewise, if we do find ourselves in the midst of another who is acting negative or judgmental about our artistic vision, don’t judge them; remain neutral. It can be done with practice. And do not take what the other person is saying personally. It isn’t about you; it’s about them and you do not need to invite that kind of garbage into yourself. View it impersonally and remain neutral. So, our ideas must be incubated around people who believe in us and we must believe in ourselves. Our belief in ourselves is more important, though, and we must culture an internal locus of control. If we constantly look to others for approval, we are operating from an external locus of control and this does not help our artistic vision.

Good Support System

A good support system is invaluable. My first thought is of my beloved friend, Russ, who died in the mid-1990s. He believed in me very strongly and he knew me very well. We attended the same college and had several things in common: photography, journalism, art, poetry. We co-edited a fine literary magazine, worked for the student newspaper and in professional theatre as light-sound technicians and stage hands. At the time, he was coming to terms with his homosexuality in a world that was unkind. We were fast friends and I will never ever forget his unswerving support. Russ quite literally felt that I could do anything. This belief in another was an amazing thing to behold. He also had a strong sense of his own artistic vision, was an excellent photographer and a very a gifted poet. He was able to be as supportive as he was because he was not ego-involved. He was not jealous, nor did he feel competitive, two qualities that spell a lack of support mixed with toxicity. We must recognize readily and stay away from this toxic mix. And culture being around supportive people. Such people are not sycophants. They are people who can constructively criticize as well as support. They are authentic, not phony. Make firm boundaries for yourself. As Fritz Perls said, “I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations.”

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