Sunday, June 28, 2015


Project: Urns, Scotch cups, Indiegogo items (still)
Mood: Scattered
Media: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell & Mr. Robot

Alternate titles for this blog post;

"I found some change in the bottom of my backpack. I'm rich, I can buy a slurpee!!!"
"I made a new thing"
"I have an awesome new apprentice"
"Crabbie's Raspberry Ginger Beer is the third best thing ever in my mouth"
"Fuck This Shit"

So, Rollercoastering, up, down, speed, slow, spirals, upside-down, then at the end you are excited and you want to puke. Oh yeah, and you spent all your money on it and now you're broke.

That's what the last 2 art markets have been like. Working with my wonderful new apprentice, whom we will talk about down the page a bit, making lots of new work, Then getting rained out at one and no one coming to the other. Total sales, 4 mugs, three beads and a shaving bowl, about $175. Total cost of the markets, about $165, hey, I made $10!!! Really, "Fuck this shit!"

All the things I can't do with $10;

Pay my rent
Pay my bills
Buy food
Pay for more markets

Time to jump on some commissions.

Sigh . . . ok, enough "ranty" on to the good stuff.

I have a new apprentice in my studio this summer, in fact my first formal apprentice, Alisha Marie Adams. I first taught her when I did one of my yearly demos at my old High School, Lord Beaverbrook, here in Calgary. She is now at ACAD working on her BFA, in Ceramics of course, and going into the third year program this Fall. She is helping me catch up on so much stuff and stocking up my regular work and in return I am teaching her a new range of techniques on the wheel, hand-building and design. Go check out her Facebook page at and keep an eye out for her work.

Alisha on our visit to the Banff Centre for the Arts

I recently completed a large piece that I am entering in a local exhibition. Something a little different, mostly in clay color and I actually put some glaze on the outside of a piece for once. Its called "Est Finis Omnium - End of All Things". Follow the link to see the full photo-set on my Facebook page, or just ogle the teasers below.

I have lots of work on the go at the moment, if you see anything on my Facebook or Instagram stream that you like please reach out. Bonus points to anyone who can find me some Crabbie's Raspberry Ginger Beer in Calgary, yes, it's really that good!

Well, I really did find a couple of bucks in my backpack so I'm off to get a slurpee.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pottery Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope

Project: A lot of writing
Mood: Embattled
Media: Pottery Podcasts - Tales of a red Clay Rambler - Brian R. Jonescast - The Potters Cast

A little ranty, a little rambly.

When I started, all those years ago, I had so many plans, the world turns, things change. I never set out to be a ceramics instructor, I just wanted to make things. My work is super specific, meaning no one buys it, at least not enough to really survive. Over the last few of years I have discovered, or should I say embraced, the love of teaching. and the peculiar knack I have for teaching pottery techniques to people that have always had trouble doing it.

I've been aiming for teaching so I was advised to upgrade my diploma to a BFA, two humanities classes, did that.

The world turned, things changed.

Now I need my MFA, because 24 years of experience apparently does not equal 16 months in school for a piece of paper. Sorry, a little bitter still. I have been ruminating on that for a while, mostly because I am stubborn. Also because I have BFA students auditing my night class. They are still learning from me, I'm just not getting paid for it, nor getting the credit for teaching them. Despite that, I am happy to teach them, haven't said no, won't say no to them, they're good kids.

Dammit, I think I'm a teacher. It probably doesn't help that I just taught a class to K-12 teachers on how to teach pottery. :-/

Recently I created a piece of work that I consider one of the best things I have ever created, the Temple of R'lyeh Cookie Jar. I entered it in a couple of shows, didn't get in either show, yes there were many entries to the shows but still. I also recently entered a big Cup show down in the US, which I have been in before, and was also rejected. Depression Mode Activated!!

Fuck that!!!

I'm a fighter, I tend to wallow sometimes but eventually I get up and keep moving forward. Production will continue, things will eventually sell and I will get that MFA. I'm in the Medalta International Spoon Show too, so love those guys! Buy my stuff, or tell your friends to buy my stuff, or tell your enemies to buy my stuff, tell complete strangers on the street to buy my stuff.


I have been listening to a few Ceramic based podcasts recently and that is getting me all fired up as well. I've been thinking about an artist I met briefly last year, Steven L. Gorman, who didn't really start his ceramic sculpting career until after he had taught for 25 years, backward from myself but relevant. In addition, a little over 10 years ago I exchanged a few letters and phone calls with the amazing Paul Soldner when I was trying to arrange a workshop with him up here. He had reminded me that he didn't really consider working in clay until he was in his 30's, and that there was "plenty of time to do stuff", he had a relaxing laugh. He was 83 when I spoke with him but he showed no signs of ever slowing down. I think I need to make a little Paul Soldner/Yoda/Kiln God/Gargoyle/Guardian.

I'm 46, nearly 47, whatever that means, plenty of time.

SOMEONE BUY MY PRETTY POT!! It needs a good home. :-)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cthulhu awakes. . . then goes for coffee.

Project: Everything!!! - New stuff, old stuff, show entries et al.
Mood: Optimistic, full of energy like a man on the edge, until the aliens get me!
Media: The X-Files and The X-Files Files Podcast

Two new limited edition Cthulhu items are fresh out of the kiln this morning. I was going to have a vote-off to see which one I was going to produce BUT so many people have been wanting more Cthulhu mugs that I've decided to make them both!!

The Cthulhu "Cathedral" Beer Stein and the Cthulhu "Hex" Beer Stein will be a limited run of 25 pieces each. Everything is in production now, so if you missed out on my first Cthulhu mug from my Indiegogo campaign last year, this is your chance to get something now. My Steampunk Gear Steins are also still available for order (Plus the new Rusty Gear Stein) and there are 3 Limited Edition Cthulhu Steampunk Cookie Jars available for order.

If you like the Cthulhu imagery you may also like the newest cookie jar I made for a competition entry, "Temple of R'lyeh". It is currently not for sale, as its entered in a competition, but if that changes I will post about it.

*** FAQ MODE ON ***

But why are you only making limited editions?
- I do not describe myself as a production potter. I cannot sit and make the same thing a hundred times a day, I would go nuts.The best I can do is to make the same thing about 10-25 times then I am done with it. The more complex, the less there will be.
- I do actually have regular production work that I make, its sufficiently diverse that I can make it over and over, go here to see!

Will you be making more Cthulhu Mugs?
- I have an idea in my head for one more design, a red clay pint glass beaker style Cthulhu beer label thing. I want to clear everything else on my plate first so this will not be produced until January 2015, then I'll probably put it down for a while.
- I will also be designing some other limited edition non-Cthulhu mugs too.

Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

FAQ - A Short Video - Various Projects - Moby

Project: TrespassersEye
Mood: Sustainable Sad Hulk
Harmontown Podcast

The most Frequently Asked Questions I get about my work fall into three categories; Production, Price and Ghost. Let tackle a few of those Questions.


How long did it take you to make that?
- For my typical faceted mugs/bowls with sprigs and a handle I spend about a combined hour per mug, between throwing it on the wheel, decorating and glazing.
- My faceted tea-pots take about 3 hours each.
- The work that is completely covered in sprigs like my Indiegogo mugs or my Steampunk Gear Mugs, the RusTeaPots, and my larger works are totally variable but the mugs average about 3 hours total.

Below is a short stop motion animation I did with the help of my son Alex showing the construction process of the TrespassersEye Cthulhu Mugs.

Do you carve all of those decorations yourself?
- Yes, I carve original designs and make a mold from that carving. The mold is then used to create sprigs which are applied to the pottery.

Your mugs/bowls/etc. are all cast from a single mold right?
- No, everything I make is traditionally thrown on the potters wheel, then the handles and sprig decorations are added after as seen in the video above.


Why is your work so expensive?
- Its not actually expensive when compared to other artists or when you consider the time put into each piece. I've been producing work since before I graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1990, I started making pottery when I was 16, that was 30 years ago. If you've been doing something for 30 years, and are really good at it, wouldn't you want to be paid a proper price for your work.

I can buy a mug for $5 at Walmart, why would I spend $30 on one of your mugs?
- Yes, people have actually said this to me many times.

- *heavy sarcasm alert* Yeah . . . sure . . . those two mugs are exactly alike, I shall only charge $5 a mug from now on. *sarcasm over* (no, my mugs are still $30)
- Walmart, and other similar stores ,sell mostly machine made, impersonal, utilitarian, disposable items by the thousands. I make one of a kind, personal, unique and opulent pieces that people love and take care of.
-My mugs are also twice the size, bad-ass, and if you attend a business meeting with one of my mugs, you win the meeting!


Hey, did you ever . . .?

- Don't even start, Hollywood is not reality, you should know that by now. Except Community. ;-)

Enough FAQ's for now, I'll post more in the future.

I'm also working on a few experimental items in between the Indiegogo TrespassersEye project and regular stock. Some ceramic spoons, new Tea-pots, a portable fire pit and many other things. Head over to my Instagram feed in the right column or my Facebook feed to see some images of work in progress and finished product.

Also a quick shout-out to Moby, yes, that Moby. While I was putting together my little mug animation I was looking around for some copyright free cool music to put in the background and found out that Moby has made a large amount of his music available for free to use for non-profit use. Just head on over to to check it out. An awesome thing for him to do!

Monday, May 5, 2014

A year in the life - To survive is not enough

Project: Survival
Mood: Dour as fuck
Media: Dredd & Pollock

Last year I ran an Indiegogo campaign to save my eyesight, as the needed surgery was not covered by Alberta Health, even though my eye-sight was un-correctable by any lens and I was effectively going blind.

The campaign was a success and I had the surgery.

Then Calgary flooded, my regular income disappeared as a result and the IGG funds that were supposed to help me partway through the 12 month recuperation, and pay for shipping of the IGG items, are gone in three months for rent and food. I'm then forced to move, see my previous post "90 Days on the Roller Coaster" for more info on that. Tore a tendon in my shoulder in November, couldn't work for almost 3 months, killed my Xmas production and sales season. I'd go into more detail of my last year, which has been pretty fucked up, but that would be TMI. Death, injury, destruction, the usual soul crushing things. I'm still upright and moving forward despite complications, healthy today.

Before I go any further . . . 

To everyone who contributed to my Indigogo campaign, a huge thank you.

To those who contributed and/or sent words of encouragement, double thanks.

Not everything has been distributed yet, and quite a few things, mostly mugs and cookie jars are still in process. All the smaller beads have been sent, and half the Cthulhu pendants and bottles are waiting to be mailed. Some quick math for you, I need to mail out around 25 mugs and 30 Cthulhu pendants at and average cost of $25 each, that's going to cost me about $1500 when they are all done. Not a small sum, when you are also trying to work to pay your rent and find time to make stuff. Taking on a third job this spring/summer, I guess I'll sleep when I'm dead, as they say.

Please don't worry, they are all still coming, the mere matter of survival is just delaying things. The last year has been a constant scrape and struggle to just survive, I hide this pretty well form those who ask, I don't like to show weakness. A character flaw. 

The local items around Calgary will be hand delivered of course, the rest of the mugs will be getting out there later this month. All the cookie jars will be hand delivered. Shipping insurance WILL NOT cover broken pottery so I'm going to hand deliver all the Cookie jars this August. They are just too expensive to ship, about $150 each, I'm not risking that.

Right here I really want to say a few nasty things to the couple of people that angrily emailed me looking for their stuff, but I won't. You are justified in asking, but not justified in saying horrible things to me. I'm still waiting on two perks from other campaign's I pledged to at the same time as mine, shit happens! That's all I'm really going to say, except for one thing directed at Indiegogo. 

Hey Indiegogo, thanks for blocking that email from the nice folks at Lasik MD who offered to do the surgery for FREE. Lasik MD eventually found me, no thanks to Indiegogo, but I had the surgery done somewhere else already. You could've helped Indigogo, saved me the cost of the surgery, and made it a more survivable year, but if I ever need to crowd-source again I'll be using Kickstarter.

That is enough negativity from me. Lets get this done, so I can move on to the next project.


Any other queries may be directed to my updated email HERE.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Public Art Program in the City of Calgary, Elections, Budgets, Firehalls and Memory

Project: Indiegogo catch-up
Mood: Positive
Media: 1000 Miles Apart Ceramic Conference (all the presentations and demonstrations are going through my head still - Sean O'Connell - Ryan McKerley - Steven Gorman - Michael Flaherty)

I don't usually comment on local politics during an election but I have been seeing a lot of mis-information going about lately concerning the City of Calgary Public Art Program and the "waste of money" being blamed on the current municipal government. 

Basically the City Council has nothing to to with public art, its the Recreation department that administers the program, which was created two mayors ago (Al Duerr) and updated by the last mayor (Dave Bronconnier). Personally, I have not been happy with many of their choices of art, nor with the fact that many of the artists chosen are from outside of Calgary, and Canada sometimes. Blaming Mayor Nenshi and the current Council for this is wrong. Also raving about the "crazy money being spent" is similarly wrong. 

Any upgrade or construction of a government facility, with a budget over $1 million, has to set aside 1% for a public art component, meaning yes, they spent $150,000 on that giant sculpture/painting/thing that took lots of people months to build (probably at a very low wage and high material cost) but they also spent $14,850,000 upgrading/building the facility. Creating artwork is a JOB too!!!

Everyone thinks that the artist just got $150,000 and they are cheating everyone, if you really think that, just un-friend me now. Average material cost on a $150k project runs about 30-40%, another 40-50% paying for labour costs (yes, the artist really built that 30 ft sculpture all by themselves and the engineer/architect worked for free *sarcasm*), add 15% for space/equipment rental to build said 30 ft sculpture (can't build it in the garage or the basement with a hammer and a drill), leaving 5% (maybe) for the artist (if nothing went wrong - something always goes wrong). I know artists that have gone over-budget and out of pocket to complete public art at their expense rather than present a bad piece of work to the public. 

As some of the firehalls in town are being renovated too, they will be getting some public art as well, I've seen some of the concept images for them and I seriously hope they come out a lot nicer than they look. Speaking as both an artist and a former firefighter, I'm not impressed, then again its my own artistic sensibilities reacting. BUT when I hear that people are raging that firefighters need equipment, not art, I must strongly object. Today there is budget for equipment, personnel and facilities, there wasn't back when I did the job, 9-11 took care of that. Before 9-11 firefighters got very little from the city, one alderman even proposed that firefighters starting picking up residential garbage between fire calls rather than "sitting around doing nothing". Many fire departments were considered a money drain and budgets were cut ruthlessly, with no concern for the safety of the firefighters.

What firefighters really need are for you to get out of the way when you hear sirens, help when asked and stay put when told to do so. They are trying to save people and property, its their job, if you aren't helping, then you are in the way. 

I remember many a time, after a bad call just sitting, eyes closed picturing anything than what I just had to go through, art would help, when I got back home I usually went straight to my studio and made something. Just as many times I went home and just hung out with my son, life is precious.

Art is a creative act, looking at art is a positive process. I would've rather been losing myself in a sculpture or painting after a fire call than picturing that last hour cleaning up at a car crash, thinking of the destruction of that building fire or forest fire, the body removals, scrubbing someones blood stains from my turnout coat, picturing that family that I knew before the fire and after we found the bodies. I deal with those memories and hundreds more, I try to overlay the bad with the good . . . I try. My years as a firefighter are in the past, but the memories are ever present, good and bad.

TVFD 1995 Training Session with  BDFD

To sum up, Artists need to eat too (pay bills/rent, feed their kids) and Firefighters need art. Please educate yourselves and others, its worth it. I am a professional artist and a proponent of local arts, if you have any problems with, or praise for, the Calgary Public Art Program please direct them HERE and leave it out of the electoral process, vote with your brain.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

90 days on the Roller Coaster

Project: Playing Catch-up (after eye surgery, plus moving my house and two businesses)
Mood: Optimistic (despite the surgery, having to suddenly move, 80% drop in customer sales due to the Calgary floods and the wheel falling off my truck)
Media: Podcast-A-Palooza (while organizing the house and businesses) - The Nerdist, Hollywood Babble-On, Girl on Guy, WTF & Geek Shall Inherit

This is my life over the last three months, the screwed up thing is that more than this happened, this is just the surface.

June 1st-ish - My Indiegogo campaign for my eye surgery has been so successful that I have been in my studio producing as fast as I can for days on end. My eyesight is deteriorating quicker because of the extra workload. I have 85 mugs to make, 5 cookie jars and almost 300 pendants. I can finish 1 mug a day, maybe a few pendants

June 7th - A week before the surgery, my eyes shut down. The blinding migraines keep me out of the studio. A "For Sale" sign appears on my front lawn, my landlord decides to sell the house rather than fix the washing machine which has not worked for 8 months. I've been here six years, I don't want to leave. A stream of prospective house buyers begins filing through.

June 13th - Laser eye surgery is weird, uncomfortable, but tolerable, until the laser starts burning the cornea. The smell reminds me of being in a burning building about 15 years ago when I was on the Turner Valley Fire Department, burning human is a smell that you don't forget. As I'm freaking out on the inside I remain perfectly still and quiet. The laser portion is done, now the cross-linking ensues, 15 quiet minutes of riboflavin drops and ultraviolet light. 30 minutes later my son picks me up, drives me home. Everything is dark and blurry.

3 types of eye drops 4 times a day - more blurring as the healing process begins - cornea scabbing, fun.

June 21st - Calgary floods, at certain points my neighborhood is surrounded by water and cut-off from the rest of the city. We are lucky and safe, the fallout comes later. The world is still a dark and blurry place, can't work in the studio, can't drive, at least no more migraines. My son drives me about, cooks meals, takes care of me . . . he's my hero.

June 26th - My landlord sells the house, I'm given 90 days to move my home, ceramic studio and my side business with my son. I start house-hunting with all the 1000's permanently displaced by the flood. Houses normally renting in the $1500 range are going for $2500. My eyes are well enough to do a little work in the studio.

July 1st - I start working again in my studio, there is a Market Collective show in three weeks and since the flood we have had no sales at all from the ceramic studio and only a couple of sales in my side business. I go back and forth day to day between working on regular studio stock and Indiegogo items.

July 10th - My production speed is up by a factor of three, no more blinding headaches and I don't even have my new glasses yet. My son has to remind me that its past 10 pm a few nights in a row, I enjoy working again. Unfortunately regular sales are down by about 90%. The portion of the  Indiegogo budget to supplement rent and bill payment that was supposed to last 3 months is nearly gone. We weren't directly affected by the flood but my customers certainly were.

July 19-21st - Market Collective weekend, lots of lookers, no buyers. My booth costs me $260, I only have $180 in sales, not the usual turnout by a long-shot. Three days sitting at the MC have been a pleasant break, but its a loss weekend. Still no luck looking for a place to live.

July 29th - I get to see my old optometrist, Dr. Torano, the best in town. She gives me a new prescription, I can read. My old prescription is workable (for the first time in 5 years) but funds are dwindling, sales are still down 90%. I can ship out all the current Indigogo perks or get new glasses. I ship out the perks. I also find a place to move in to, the catch is it has to be August 15th. I give notice to my old landlord and bring up the laundry list about about the outstanding issues, she owes me money for no washing machine for 10 months and a five month period when the water heater was leaking. Ever got a $200 water bill? I have, it sucks, especially when you get it after 2 weeks of no hot water because your landlord is a cheapskate.

August 3rd - My family emigrated to Canada from the UK 40 years ago today, they are spread about now, don't see them much, good in a couple of cases, bad in others. My son is close, that is what I care about. He and I take our other business, the toy-shop, to the Calgary Horror-Con, his wonderful girlfriend helps us out again. We make enough to cover the damage deposit for the new place.

August 5th - Time to start packing up the studio for the move, I push out a couple of special order mugs as I'm packing. One for my friend Jeff's 50th birthday, he is as a brother to me, he and his wife are family. The second for my friend Brian out east who wanted a special mug  for the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola. He only asked for it a few years back but between my bad eyes and the nervousness of making something for a public figure that I am a huge fan of I was a little hesitant to make it.

August 6th - Although we don't actually take possession of the new place until the 15th they are letting me move stuff in now. A household, ceramic studio and a toy-shop, we have a lot to do. The new place was occupied by smokers for the last 25 years, they have been renovating for a while, my new next door neighbor is doing the renovation. Aarron is an awesome contractor if anyone needs one. Re-painting with smell blocking paint after scrubbing the walls, pulling out the carpet and a new hardwood floor. I drop off rent cheques at my new landlords house, meet his wife and talk about family, he gives me a bottle of wine he made. After six years I've never met my old landlord, don't know where she lives, I only deal with the property manager.

August 7th - Packing and moving continue, my old landlord serves me with papers claiming I didn't pay rent rather than deal with my request (spoilers - I paid the rent, she is just a bad keeper of records).

August 8-9th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 10th - My friends birthday, I take the afternoon/evening off, first break since the surgery. Old friends, new friends, a good time is had, he loves his mug.

August 11-14th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 15th - We take possession of the new place and spend the day moving the bedrooms and the kitchen and bathroom basics over. Sales are still down, despite that I have a restful sleep, the first in months. (foreshadowing)

August 16th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 17th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum, with friends and a U-Haul. U-Haul sucks by the way. but at the end of the day most of the furniture is moved and most everything else is packed, except the rest of the studio. There is beer, advil and pizza. I love my friends.

August 18-21st - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 22nd - Court day #1 - giving evidence against a dangerous driver who nearly drove through my bedroom last Xmas. Apparently he paid the fine, they told the police officers and lawyers, no one told me. Afternoon wasted and $20 for parking downtown. At least I got to hang with a friend for a little bit after. Later I borrow my new neighbors ladder to check out the attic at my old place, there was a leak from the roof in the living-room and I want to see the actual damage before court tomorrow. I make a much more disturbing discovery, the chimney has become disconnected in the attic and fumes from the furnace have been venting into the house for the last 10 months at least. No wonder I have been sleeping better, no carbon monoxide fumes in the new place.

Disconnected Chimney
stack started leaning over a year ago

August 23rd - Court day #2 - proving I paid my rent and being informed by the judge that if I have issues with the landlord I have to take her to court. Yay! More court. *ugh*

August 24-25th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 26th - Brian gives Mike the mug, he likes it. He posts pics of it on his FB page. I am freaking out, in a good way. lol

August 27th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 28-29th - Going back and forth between the old and new places looking for all the evidence against my old landlord, most of which is packed in boxes. Which box? Yeah, its like that.

August 30th - Court documents filed. Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 31st - Packing, moving, cleaning. This time with friends again, love my friends. last of the studio, kilns, clay, etc.

September 1st - Two loads left and a little cleaning to do . . . the right front wheel assembly gives way on my truck when my son goes to pick up dinner. *sigh* I call the property manager and get a 24hr extension on the move-out.  We get a van from my son's girlfriend's mom to finish the move.

September 2nd - Move complete. Physical collapse.

September 3rd - Comatose for a bit. Unpacking begins, I find my cereal bowl, I can eat breakfast, no one has to die. More coma.

September 4th - Move out inspection on the old place complete, book is closed, except for the upcoming court date. Start updating the blog. Looking at the studio to start unpacking, lots of work to do, Indiegogo perks to finish. Sales are still down.

My new studio is in there somewhere, Michaelangelo time!!