Life

Stu Stu Studio

December 14, 2022

Any time someone invites me to see their studio I jump at the chance. I love to see people’s creative spaces; the way they work, their process, the behind the scenes. It always feels like such a privilege to be invited in, like someone’s sharing a part of themselves that few people get to see. Earlier this year, I spent a morning in Amy Rogers‘ sun-filled studio near the AGO. I left feeling energized. Her creative space –– ribbon, feathers and fabric galore –– is as colourful and exuberant as her ceramic jewellery. In the summer, I popped into photographer and ceramicist, Katherine Holland‘s studio and felt the best kind of envy –– the admiring kind –– for the serene space she’s created for herself. It is so well organized, with equal respect extended to both her disciplines. And this morning, after a chance meeting at our local convenience shop, I spent an hour with painter, Victor Helfand in his eclectic Annex Victorian. The top floor is dedicated to his practice, and it’s a wonderful mess of acrylic paints, glue guns, tree bark and other found objects. Again, I left feeling inspired, and dreaming of the studio I’ll one day have. Everyone needs a room of one’s one, and while the most significant one is the one we create within ourselves, a studio with a window and space to make a mess is high on my wishlist.

light me up

December 12, 2022

Aussie designer, Jordan Fleming has created a series of floor lamps that meld function with flight of fancy. Constructed from metal, plaster and pigment, each one has its own zany personality. Collectively, they look like a chorus group for some brilliantly eccentric animated film. I imagine them launching into song when no one’s around. “I’m interested in exploring ways to remove the static element of an object, injecting life into it beyond a pretty facade,” says Fleming. They light up a room, with or without electricity. “I’m definitely much freer in my practice over the past few years, trying not to over edit the origins of the idea or fixate too much on the function of the object.”

porous

December 12, 2022

When I’m overwhelmed my brain feels like a waterlogged sponge. We all know what it’s like to wipe down a counter with a sponge that needs to be wrung out. It can’t absorb spills and water seeps everywhere. What’s good about sponges though is that they have an amazing ability to withstand compression and bending. We all have our own ways of “wringing out the sponge.” It’s rare to achieve that perfect state-of-mind where we’re strong and springy and confidently in control of what we do and don’t absorb. I’m learning to savour those moments, knowing that they are transient. Just as transient as the overwhelmed ones.

heart of mine

December 7, 2022

Surreal, magical, otherworldly, Azumi Sakata’s brooches are modern heirlooms, to be treasured alongside your grandmother’s wedding ring. Her moths, skulls and human hearts are all handmade in Japan using the finest gold threads, velvets and beads. “I think that in the past, many women had few creative outlets other than embroidery or cooking,” writes Sakata. “I think that the repetitive stitching motion of embroidery was therapeutic, and the choice of colours and techniques allowed them to express themselves. Like these women, I want to use embroidery to strengthen my own heart.”

all creatures great and small

December 6, 2022

As far as traditions go, chopping down a tree and planting it between the chesterfield and the tele for a month is pretty bizarre. But no one can dispute the delight a tree festooned with lights brings to a home and those who live in it. Last week, I walked to the corner to buy a few things and came home with a Christmas tree in one hand and eggs and a toothbrush in the other. It’s less than three feet tall, and with over a hundred baubles on it (plus lights, pompoms and silver streamers) it looks like an over-dressed shrub. It’s sitting on a pedestal in our living room like some relic from the past (or from another planet) and every time I look over at it, it brings me joy. I’ll admit a (rather large) slice of that joy comes from the fact that the tree was so easy to put up and decorate, and given all the sickness and stress lately, that’s something to tra la la about. No tears, no tangled lights. It was all done in less than an hour. The children are less enthralled with their eccentric little sapling. It’s ok. It’ll grow on them.

cooked cream

December 2, 2022

With two out of three children home all week with yet another virus, my brain is blancmange. Milk, rice flour, gelatin, corn starch, sugar, mix it all together, and yep, that’s my brain. As a child, I remember a very wobbly blancmange, pink as ballet slippers, arriving at the dinner table and doing my best to muster enthusiasm for it. I think that may have been the one and only time I have ever eaten blancmange. Creamy puddings aren’t my thing, and the thought of gelatin makes my tummy turn,. But if forced (like, with a machete) I may consider Panna Cotta. Everything sounds better in Italian. Even cooked cream.

story on a plate

December 1, 2022

“People say my work makes them smile and that’s good enough for me,” says Lancashire artist, Ben Fosker. His work is modern spin on the English slipware tradition, using a variety of techniques from sliptrail to sgraffito. His illustrations –– think fish with legs and bumble bees the size of trees –– reference a make-believe world that only a very vivid imagination could whip up. I love this big blue bird under a hot red sun. His plates are so full of brio and charm.

flower fairies

November 30, 2022

Samantha Kerdine’s ceramics fill me with delight. I’m as excited about these candlesticks as my eight-year-old is about her new fairy lights. Childlike glee. I think you’ve got to be pretty connected with your inner kid to make work as playful and free as this. I love Kerdine’s wonky vases, and her plates are charming, too. Her illustrations remind me of Luma’s, which is the ultimate compliment.

at my table

November 24, 2022

It’s in the mundanity of the everyday that artist, Jane Dunn Borresen finds beauty. Her still lives –- the morning papers, buttered toast and a half drunk cup of tea –– are a celebration of little things that bring big pleasure. Set against a backdrop of richly patterned textiles, her paintings capture the beautiful, topsy-turvyness of life. There is a childlike sincerity to her style that I find fresh and appealing.

great wall of china

November 23, 2022

Molly Hatch creates stunning installations of handmade plates adorned with designs that reference periods and paintings from the history of art. From 15th century Dutch still life paintings to the lithographs of William Saville-Kent, Hatch looks to fine art and textiles and ceramics for inspiration. Her progress series, made during the Covid 19 Pandemic, is inspired by 18th Century Indian weaving while her beautiful mille fleur series pays homage to a series of tapestries made in the South Netherlands in the early 15th Century. The plates are illustrated with the whole piece in mind, and yet each one stands alone.

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