Sunday, January 1, 2017


I see that two years ago in Jan 2015 I wished everyone that creative high - the joy of making. Well for 2016 I really needed to wish that for myself. as this past year has been a very slow year creatively speaking. I feel like I am wading though deep mud or snow, with new ideas stuck and I have had to really struggle to get them out.

I will give myself another week to clean up my work space in the basement - it is really cluttered with too many things that need to be thrown out. After that I will start sketching again - it is the best way to generate new ideas - and then hopefully there will be a rebirth of new ideas.

One idea that I plan to pursue is getting impressions from germinating seeds.
Germinating wheat seed impressed in clay
This little tea bag rest (above) embodies a fresh start, a new beginning - it was a serendipidous event! In 2015 I had collected lots of wheat stalks from the Saskatchewan farm where my son and his wife were married. I  made a platter with wheat stalk impressions on it as a wedding present. Several days after impressing the clay I noticed that a seed had fallen from a stalk head and was germinating in a little pool of water by the sink where the tap was leaking. I decided to impress it into clay. Once tile was bisqued it was brushed with gosu slip and wiped off and then glazed with Malcolm Davis shino and a little spray of magnesia mat glaze.
It was amazing the details that showed up - even the very fine roots.

I will have to visit the local farm supply store soon as I think that a platter with rows of different seeds germinating - wheat, oats, peas, corn, etc, would make an interesting piece - and with it symbolizing a rebirth of creativity.  Happy new year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Canoe Culture - A Series of Collaborative Workshops and Exhibitions Part II

The Canoe Culture project encouraged people to think more professionally about their work, as photos, artist statements and bios were required with each entry. It would also challenge members to try new ideas, techniques and styles.

I think that we all felt this was a difficult theme and most of us had a hard time thinking about what to make  (apart from canoes). I spent many months mulling over ideas, looking up historical facts and so for me it ended up being a very enriching experience. Often when I look out over the river, I try to imagine all those huge voyageur canoes battling head winds and waves as they paddle their furs to Montreal.

What the jury focused on was:
1. Works that are stylistically or thematically focused on the Canoe Culture themes of water transportation in northern Ontario and how stops along this ancient waterway shaped the communities of Deep River and North Bay.
2. Works that display technical acumen, and/or observation and original style.
3. Works that are important to the cultural discourse of the region.

 We were all allowed 4 entries and below are my four entries that were accepted.

My work for this exhibit was inspired by the Ottawa River, the fur trade and the design of the "made beaver" - the stretched beaver pelt dried on a wooden frame made by bending and lashing together branches into a circle.

Over 400 years have passed since the first Europeans traveled the Ottawa by canoe to North Bay, driven at first by a search for a route to China and then for furs, especially beaver pelts that were eventually felted into hats for European customers. For 200 years the stretched and dried beaver pelt - the "made beaver" - was the "currency" in trading with first nations inhabitants.

"One Made Beaver" -  Eva Gallagher, Deep River

Made Beaver Currency
         1 MB  =  1 brass kettle
                    = 20 fish hooks
                    = 2 1b of sugar
                    = 8 knives
                    = 20 flints
         2 MB  = 1 gallon brandy
         20 MB = 1 rifle
       Taking into account inflation the price of “one made beaver” in today’s’ dollars would be about $45.

As Deep River is home to Canada's nuclear pioneers, the Ottawa has seen the progression of ideas and knowledge from 10,000 years to the present - from hunter-gatherers that first came here after the retreat of the glaciers to today when scientists work with one of the most important discoveries know to man - nuclear fission.

"La Riviere Creuse - From Beavers of Atoms:" - Eva Gallagher, Deep River
Riviere creuse is French for deep river and it is what this part of the Ottawa River was called by the early travelers.)

"Portage" - Eva Gallagher, Deep River
(Didn't have back drop wide enough for picture.)
On the shores of the Ottawa one can find chewed off beaver sticks and stones, all beautifully weathered and I have incorporated them into another piece as a tribute to the voyageurs who risked their lives running the treacherous, rocky rapids to bring their beaver pelts to Montreal.
"Voyageur's Tribute" - Eva Gallagher, Deep River.
Stoneware with beaver-chewed stick, stone and leather cording.
This project really encouraged further collaboration between our two guilds and hopefully there will be more joint exhibits and workshops in the coming years.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Canoe Culture - A Series of Collaborative Workshops and Exhibitions Part I

As 2016 winds down I realize that if I want to record the significant pottery events that happened this year I really do not have much time left - so here goes!

What happens when the oldest potters’ guild in Canada meets with the newest? The Canoe Culture collaborative project! In 2014 the Deep River Potters Guild (1954) was contacted by North Bay artist Dermot Wilson, who shared with us the great news that they had just formed a potters’ guild in North Bay! And would we be interested in collaborating on a series of workshops and exhibits?

Dermot successfully applied for an Ontario Arts Council grant to help pay for the project and the Canoe Culture project was born. Its theme is based on the historic Ottawa River to North Bay paddle path used for thousands of years by North America's First Nation inhabitants and then by the voyageurs and settlers who followed in their wake.

The project brought together ceramic artists from our two communities in near-northern Ontario. How does the water route and history shape our vision of our sense of place? What do we see and feel when we look out over the river, when we go to the beach, or go out in our boats?

Opening exhibition in Deep River Library April 2016
The project included a series of hands-on pottery workshops. In the spring of 2015, North Bay potter Keith Campbell, gave a workshop in Deep River and Eva Gallagher, Ligita Gulens and Marg Killey reciprocated in the fall in North Bay, exchanging ideas, techniques and enthusiasm.

The project culminated with two month-long exhibitions of ceramic works created especially for this project The exhibits were juried by Pat Stamp, a North Bay potter, Cathy Walsh, a Deep River artist and retired Mackenzie High School art teacher and Dermot Wilson. The 16 artist show opened in North Bay in mid November 2015 at the Whitewater Gallery and in April in the Program Room of the Deep River Public Library.

The potter works ranged from canoes, the fur trade, a paddle, clay fish impressions to more absrtact ideas such as stretched beaver pelts and crows (representing the Jesuit missionaries). Unfortunately I do not have many pictures of the exhibits, but below are a few that I did mange to take of some of the other artist's works.

"Montreal Ghost Canoe" - Glenda Mikawa, North Bay

"Artifact -  Sir Samuel de Champlain Paddle" - Keith Campbell, North Bay 
"Voyageur" - Betty Ackroyd, North Bay

"Birch Bark Canoe" - Peter Brewster, Deep River

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Colors of Deep and the Sisters of the Traveling Mug

I have a friend who recently bought one of my mugs. She told me that she carries her mug with her everywhere she goes, so I asked if she would write a guest post about this for my blog. She writes:

"I am a Deep River gal, born and bred, and I love this land. I love the granite outcroppings and the abundant fresh water in the glorious Ottawa River, lakes, streams and wetlands. I love the tall pines and the mixed deciduous/coniferous forest and I have a deep understanding of the complexities of this ecosystem - what lives here and why, from the bedrock to the tips of the tallest tree. I spend time outside every day, just soaking up the beauty of this habitat, this land, and feeling profoundly grateful that I live here. This is home, in all its extreme seasonal changes, and I feel connected to this land; it is part of me. When I travel, I carry pieces of the land with me, like talismen, to remind me of where I come from and to call me home.

There are several pocket rocks that have traveled thousands of miles with me and in recent years, I have also carried a mug from home. There is such comfort in starting each day, even in a far away land, with a cup of tea in a familiar and beloved mug.
Thanks Anne for the photo of my (now yours) "traveling mug" reflecting the colors of the Ottawa River

I have a favourite mug, crafted by Eva Gallagher, which captures a sense of the river, the Laurentian Lowlands and the trees and it has become my "traveling mug". The mug has accompanied me on trips to Bolivia (La Paz, Rurrenbacque jungle, El Choro mountain trek), Costa Rica (Playa Guiones), Nicaragua (Ometepe Island), North Carolina, St Joe's Island, and Pukaskwa Park on Lake Superior, Prince Edward Island (all over), New Brunswick (Douglas), and countless shorter trips around Ontario by plane, train, car, canoe and kayak. It fits securely in the cup holder of my car and happily holds a Tim Horton's medium.

I bought the mug at the Valley Artisans Coop a few years ago because it met my criteria - sit comfortably in my hand with good balance and with a pleasing colour palette. I prefer a slim profile in a mug since I hold it by the body instead of the handle. 

One day, in the fall of 2015, after dropping my son at school, I was driving along the waterfront near Centennial Rock, sipping tea from said mug, and was literally stopped dead in my tracks. The sunlight on the hills across the river, the colour palette of that breathtaking scenery was exactly what I held in my hand, on my mug. I pulled into the Centennial Rock parking area and got out, held the cup up in front of me and took a picture (or 10). Eva had captured the spirit of the river perfectly in the form and colour of the mug. Beautiful!

Last week, I was in the Potter's Guild, looking out the lovely new windows towards the river and was struck anew of how well this mug captures the essence of Deep River.  The Ottawa River is the heart of this community, it defines the landscape, it pulls me home and with this mug, I carry a piece of that wherever I go.  

Every day I am struck by the beauty that surrounds me in Deep River and I pause to appreciate the details of the perfection: frost designs on puddles and leaves, dew drops on spiderwebs, fog in the marina, rainbows, sundogs, sparkling snow sculptures. I am grateful for artistic skill which can capture the beauty in a functional and fabulous form.

Today, I leave for Sumatra so the adventures continue. Mug in hand, off I go...

Anne Davies March 28 2016

Inspiring words Anne - and have a wonderful trip!  Deep River is indeed a special place to live. Anne had ordered more of the same mugs to give to her sisters and friends so that they too can have a piece of Deep River and they have all become "Sisters of the Traveling Mug"! I decided to donate the proceeds from this commission for our new windows at the Guild - so we can all see that same million dollar view of the Ottawa River as we make and glaze our pots.
Three of the sisters of the "Travelling Mug"
One of the "Traveling Sisters" in Sumatra with Anne

The descending swirl in the cup design was inspired by courses that I took from Steven Hill and Nick Joerling. I then embellished them - I stamp on a few vertical lines with the end of a wooden stick and add stamped swirls.

For glazing - first Watercolour Green is brushed on and rubbed off, staying only in the impressions. Then the bottom is dipped in a glaze that comes from cleaning out the spray booth - so will not be able to duplicate once I run out!  I then brush on some Dan Hill Lithium Blue Slip, near the top and Strontium Crystal Magic near the middle. Then I spray with Hannah Blue Ash, Van Gilder Blue Ash near the top, a Magnesium Mat in the middle, and a very light  spray of Aerni Ash (no colorants) on top half, an extremely runny ash glaze, just to ensure lots of movement. It is fired in reduction - gas kiln to cone 10.

The last batch I found was not quite as pale yellow in the middle as the one Anne bought .It had more more grayish-white than  yellow, but then over all the swirl lines were better. It takes a lot of practice to get things right!

It's been a while since I have blogged but I am determined to give it another go to write more regularly - it really does motivate me to think about what I am creating and why. So another thank you to Anne - for giving me a reason to get back to blogging!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Last year I attended an estate sale in my town. It belonged to an early member of the Deep River Potters Guild who was a member in the 60's and early 70's. I bought several of his early pieces to give ti our Guild for the "Former Members Gallery". They were bright orange and yellow.- a testament to when lead glazes were popular. However what attracted me was his collection of pottery books - including "Ceramics Design" by John B. Kenny published in 1963. Although dated in terms of design, it is nevertheless inspiring with lots of great ideas.

In the forward about what is design he writes - ." a ceramist, design means more than that (arrangement of detail) - much more. It means order out of chaos; form out of shapeless mass...... It is something for which he must search, and when he finds it, his work is satisfying and good. His quest is never ended - he must go on searching as long as he lives and works."  Great words to live by!

However the best part of the book for me was the chapter titled "Draw!" Very few pottery books go into any detail on how to go about practicing your drawing for pottery - he devotes 9 pages to it and outlines various exercises that one can do to practice drawing.
1.Keep a sketch book and use it frequently.
2. If you are not used to drawing he suggests you start by making quick sketches of things you see - don't worry about being accurate.
3. Look at an object for a few minutes and then draw it with your eyes closed
4. Make a drawing of a familiar object without looking at it.
5. Warm-up exercise - stretch out your arms and draw in the air - write your name and write it backwards.
6. Make memory drawings of people doing things - playing an instrument, kicking a ball etc.
7. Do large quick drawing on a blackboard - bold sweeping continuous lines. Seeing white lines on a black lets you see drawings as negatives and you get a different perspective.
8.Try drawing with different things - pen, pencil, bushes.
9. Try using newspaper for brushwork - practice with brushstrokes to show expression, images with just one continuous brush stroke.
To help with ceramic form and decoration -
1. Draw outlines of various ceramic forms - symmetrical, asymmetrical.
2. Draw your form - circle for a plate and draw various vertical and horizontal lines, wavy and straight, thick and thin .
3. On square plates try out patterns of rectangles, overlapping different colours, some with designs within them.
4. Try out stencils with dabbing on colour with a sponge. Overlap different sponges.
5. Use dots, wandering lines.
6. Use a "design finder" - cut out a 3" square hole in a piece of paper and and move it over your designs to find the best  section.
And his final advice - take good care of your sketch book - it will provide a rich source of inspiration for years to come. I still have my sketch books from the 60's and 70's and it's really interesting to see what how my interests and styles have changed.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

For 2015 - Wishing Everyone that Creative High - The Joy of Making

I often think about what the attraction is to pottery for many people - apart from the wish to make pots magically on the wheel. I belong to the Deep River Potters' Guild which has a fully equipped ceramic studio. These past few years have been particularly rewarding as we have had several really keen new members who have introduced the rest of us to lots of new styles and work and who are not afraid to take on new challenges in terms of the kind of work that they make. Many of them have mentioned that there are so many different aspects to clay - something for everyone - that you can never get bored. They mention how it allows them to be creative and that the creative process often gives them a "high" and how they can get lost in the process. I know the feeling well!

How do you get into that creative high? John Cleese has given several talks on the topic:                               ( )
Several of his tips really resonate with me. First you need to have uninterrupted time and lots of it - at least an hour and a half because it takes about 1/2 an hour to get really into it and then you need time for those unconscious ideas to percolate. Secondly you should delay making decisions about a project until the last minute. We feel a bit stressed if we have not made a decision but by delaying it as much as possible it gives our unconscious minds even more time to come up with more creative ideas. So leave unfinished work around - you will eventually come up with a more brilliant plan on how to finish it.  However once you have come up with a decision, then you need to focus and get the project done.

That need for uninterrupted time is something that has started to worry me. I have just finished reading a book - "A Deadly Wandering - A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention" by Matt Richtel. It is the true story of a teenager who killed two people while texting and driving.  The story is interspersed with chapters on past and present research on what technology is doing to our brains and especially to young children whose brains have not fully developed. To be creative we need uninterrupted time - and when I look around everyone is texting/talking/checking emails -so it is getting harder and harder to do! The book explains how each interruption brings a squirt of dopamine in the brain - so these interruptions can become addictive. Then when you need to focus to get your project done - the interruptions again affect your brain's ability - the part that works with the focus and reasoning part - as the research mentioned in the book indicates.

Another tip from John is to work in a group. I find that I love to look at other people's work as I not only learn from it but can also be inspired by it whether it is a beginner or expert!. Although I work mostly at home I do all my glazing and firings at the Guild. All our firings end up as communal so we get lots of members work in each firing - whether it is in the electric or gas kilns. So kiln openings can get rather exciting as we exchange comments and discuss the results! Lots of opinions and that is what gets the creative juices flowing and what makes belonging to the Guild so rewarding.

So here is to finding time, lots of uninterrupted time and making  lots of great new work in 2015!