Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It was a great month! Thanks to all and farewell until we meet again. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sore cheeks

I woke up this morning with a few more laugh lines and sore cheeks from laughing so hard at the sight of a group of crazies, ages 2 - 72 (including my own mother) racing pedal tractors around a dirt ring road. 

Last night the Medalta crew got together for a last hurray to celebrate a month of some serious ceramic making. The pedal tractor racing was most certainly a highlight of the party, but we also enjoyed some great food, a highly complex water balloon toss game, some balladiering and plenty more songs and stories around a very effectual pretend campfire (smoke machine, fluttering flames and ambiance lighting for authenticity of course). 

Our kids stayed up until the smoke machine was unplugged, putting the party to bed with grins on their faces and some memories in their minds, I am sure of it. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sun's up, heads down

Everyone in the studio has their heads down as we enter the final week of the month long summer residency here at Medalta.  It seems like all the kilns are firing simultaneously with people wanting to make use of any leftover clay in their studios and claim space in last minute bisque firings. 

Robin is not quite as frantic as he has recently decided to stick around these parts for another three weeks. Aaron extended the invitation for him to stay on as part of the next residency group which will revolve around the theme of technology. Each year MIAIR invites a number of artists to explore a specific theme for the month of July, and this year the residency is bringing 8 artists whose practice revolves around technology in terms of both aesthetics and applied technologies that are both historical and contemporary. Robin is stoked to work with the group that is coming for this residency, and even happier about not losing any momentum in the studio just yet. 

As for the rest of us, we've been soaking up the sunshine since it arrived early in the week. Our days have been filled with trips to the spray park and ice cream store. We're loving this shift in weather. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Afloat and still firing

We've been getting a fair few inquiries whether we're all still afloat down here in Medicine Hat. It's true, the rain has been relentless and this weekend saw the worst of it when a couple of creeks overran their banks, less than a km away from the Medalta site here.  Some of the other businesses in this area weren't so lucky, the brick plant IXL was totally flooded out and the Hycroft site across the tracks got a little soggy too. The highway east of the city is still closed between here and the Saskatchewan border and a couple of bridges totally washed out. 

Thankfully the sun has been beating down all day on us today which is a relief for the city residents and the clean up crew that is working hard around these parts. The South Saskatchwan River that runs through town and its tributaries seem to be receding although they haven't dropped the state of emergency yet as they were expecting more rain to fall last night. 

Despite the water coming up as closely as it has, Medalta is still high and dry and the kilns and crew are still firing away. In fact the group loaded up the wood kiln yesterday and lit it up early this morning. They're wearing sunscreen rather than gumboots over there right now. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Family matters

This weekend we drove up to Calgary to celebrate a very special person's birthday. Nana DuPont rarely gets the attention or special treatment she so often showers on the rest of her growing family, so we decided it was her turn and threw her a birthday party to celebrate with her. The event brought four generations together for a great party and somewhat successful photo shoot.....
As each of our families continue to grow and move around the globe, rarer are the opportunities to all get together, so its especially great when it happens. Happy Birthday Nana! Thanks for a great party. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Potter's children

As far as I can remember as a child, I had a very vague idea of what it was my father did for work, how he spent his daytime hours, for what purpose and with whom. It wasn't until much later as a young adult that I learned more about his job and the impact he made on so many in his daily doings. Our children, I believe, however won't quite feel that same disconnect since they live in a world of clay and pottery almost as much as he does. 

Isla in particular is at a wonderful age where her curiosity and social assertiveness make for a delightful trip to the studios. She happily checks in with several of the residents upon arriving, inquiring about their latest pieces and updating them on her activities of the day.  Both kids enjoy the time they get to hang out in daddy's studio, poking and pushing mounds of clay around and playing in the slurry bucket. 
I'm so grateful for everyone's patience and friendly approach to our visits to the studio. One of the residents, Luanne, a real gem even offered to babysit the kids last night so that Robin and I could go out on a rare date night. Roscoe couldn't believe his luck when he later discovered that Luanne makes these awesome sculptures of trucks and tractors! 

And tonight we potlucked again with the group, now a regular Friday event, and everyone seemed as happy to have them hanging around as they were to be included. Spending this month here at Medalta, I believe will leave a wonderful impression on our kids with the people they'll interact with, and the memories they'll have of this group of people working together, sharing stories and experience, and more importantly all the cool stuff that they'll watch appear magically out of lumps of mud!  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't blog about the weather

I'm resisting the urge to blog about the weather. I am Canadian after all and we all know how much we canucks love to talk about the weather. So instead I'm going to write about all the things we've been doing in spite of the weather - hmmmm.

Besides making great use of the aquatic center, public library and thrift stores here in the Hat, our favorite indoor location turns out to be just across the way from our abode! The Medalta museum and interpretive exhibitions are right across the courtyard from the MIAIR residence studios, and actually incorporate the actual 1912 pottery factory, now restored to include a working studio where replica ware is made daily. The museum is full of clay artifacts telling the story of this historic clay district, from the late 19th century brickyards, the industrial pottery giants of the early 1900s, to the modern brick plants and now the contemporary ceramic residencies. 

The kids and I often make the trek across the street to make up part of the audience to watch a pot or two be slipcast, dance amongst the old storage jars and early 20th century factory machinery, and cruise through the exhibits telling the historic past of the area. I love the history and the stories, they love the train and the underground tunnel. Then we usually traipse past the three beehive kilns sandwiched between the ceramic past and present worlds,  to check out what everyone is up to in their studios. 

No complaining about the weather here, there is plenty to do and see. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Uncle Jimmy

Another great aspect of hanging in the Hat this month is we get to spend some time with our pal, Jim Etzkorn. Robin first met Jim over a decade ago when at an early point in his career, he went looking for some more direct and practical training as a potter, so he mailed Jim a letter asking him whether he was interested in taking on an apprentice. Jim couldn't have turned out to be a better match,  and thus began a long and valued mentorship and friendship. 

Robin and Jim have stayed in touch all these years, but it's been nearly a decade since they've worked in the same studios together. Robin is stoked to work alongside Jim again, grateful to have learned all he did from Jim during his early years with clay. It's been great hanging out with the family too, as he's terrific with the kids and we've been out on the bike trails together with him on these warm and long summer evenings that have finally arrived. 

Jim recently moved to Medicine Hat to continue his long and devoted career in ceramics amongst a great and growing clay community. Jim has been a studio potter and educator for the past thirty years. He's also participated in numerous residencies at the Banff Center, the Archie Bray, Tokoname, Japan and now also a resident artist here at Medalta. Jim makes some really beautiful functional and decorative pottery and currently has a show up here in Medicine Hat at the Cultural Centre, "Simple Pleasures" up until June 27th. 

Here is a look at some of his recent pots. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Artists Talking

We're already well into week two of the residency here at Medalta. There's plenty of work to show for it with bisque ware covering tables, the glaze room buzzing and a salt firing already unloaded. Robin is loading the soda kiln tomorrow and has plans for a wood firing to follow shortly after. 

The group of residents have been hard at work, but there's been plenty of time for socializing and getting to know one another as well. A couple of evenings during this month have been set aside for the artists to give slide presentations of their work and studio practises. Robin gave his slide presentation last night to the group, plus some that came out from the community to hear his talk. The talks add yet another great element to the MIAIR program,  a chance to create dialogue and learn about others experiences in clay, some shared and some perhaps never considered. 

In their words, " At its core, the MIAIR residency program is about bringing artists together in an environment that promotes creativity through community. The residency concept creates an opportunity for ceramists - who, for the most part, work individually - to re-enter a community atmosphere and take part in a rejuvenating dialogue, while working with like-minded artists."
I know Robin feels really honored to have been asked to come as the featured artist, and is really excited to be part of a ceramic residency that is sure to become both nationally and internationally renown. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Home sweet home

Thought you might like to check out our digs here in the Hat. There is our handsome little bungalow sandwiched between an industrial greenhouse and some kind of feed or grain elevator, the only residence on Medalta Ave. With plenty of established trees growing up around the house, you'd guess this place has been around awhile. Well the interior decor certainly gives away the era this place had it's heyday...

Welcome to my kitchen!
It's all about the 70's baby. So retro, so cool. Except for maybe the kitchen carpeting - not so cool. But we're not complaining. We've got the best digs in the city, being a stone's throw away from the studios. We're literally directly across the street. And the mustard coloured appliances take me right back to my childhood. 

Seeing that I like to spend a fair bit of time in the kitchen, I thought tonight after the kids went to bed I'd whip up some cookies to stock the cookie jar. I figured it was due time, a week without any sweets in the house and already too much money spent on trips to the ice cream store -  a jar full of homemade cookies might curb that particular spending spree (and craving). 

My intent was genuine, but the process turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. Ingredients were not the problem since I'd been to the grocery store this morning with all required items included on the list. What I had forgotten was that this house comes equipped with the bare essentials - a few plates, bowls, mugs, minimal cooking pots and utensils and a scattering of cutlery. It doesn't come with measuring cups and/or spoons, electric mixers, mixing bowls and or cookie pans. So this is how the process went...

First, cream butter and sugar with my hands until light and fluffy in saucepan.
Second, measure out approximate amounts of dry ingredients with my cupped hands and sift with fork in a deep frying pan. 
Third, mix two together with hands and add varying amounts of dry and wet ingredients until batter begins to resemble cookie dough. 
Fourth, grease up disposable roasting pan and form cookies into balls. 
Five, preheat oven (that has indiscernible dials) and wait 
Take a shower
Wait some more. 
Check oven dials since oven seems hotter on the outside than on the inside. 
Decide to put cookies in anyways. 
Spend next two hours baking cookies (that usually take 10 minutes to cook at 350) now require 25 minutes for each batch. 
Gorge on half baked cookies. 

So I suppose the oven is not entirely working as it once did in it's prime. Oh well, we may just have to stick to the ol' ice cream shoppe, either that or finally lose that last 10 lbs. 

Now, just have to figure out how I'm going to roast that chicken I bought. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tuckered out

That's what a busy weekend will do to you, tucker you out! And busy it was, but most enjoyable! Saturday afternoon we put our bike and trailer to good use and headed towards downtown Medicine Hat for the city's Spectrum Sunshine festival. There was plenty for the kids  - pony rides, petting zoo, ride on pedal tractors, music and all the right fair food! Medalta had their own booth set up, with throwing demonstrations and event/and site information. Robin took his turn at the wheel even for a couple hours in the afternoon. We stuck around for quite awhile, climbed all over the CP Train and a tank engine, listening to rock cover bands and eating cotton candy. The kids 'surprisingly' put up a fight when bedtime rolled around and we had to call it a night. But we coerced them with plans for the next day to look forward to. 

Sunday's events were even more enjoyable, when we took to the bikes and trailer again and rode the river trails all the way over to a brunch invite at Aaron Nelson's home. Aaron is the Art Director at Medalta and he and his family moved to Medicine Hat just over a year ago to take the position as Art Director with MIAIR (Medalta International Artists in Residence Program). Aaron and Liz put out an incredible spread of waffles, fruit and maple laced whipped cream. I could have stayed all day drinking coffee and hanging out in their living room watching the kids play together (they have a toddler as well) - that is my kind of Sunday. Many thanks to them for the delicious brunch - check out that stellar stack of waffles! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

The smell of a bbq

Nothing brings people together like a backyard bbq, and in tonight's case, a kilnyard bbq. We kicked off the end of the first week of the summer residency here at Medalta with a potluck, and the smell of the grill lured everyone out of their studio spaces. Robin and Candace cooked up some homemade burgers and the rest of the group pitched in with scrumptious salads and desserts. There was even wine and beer. Robin and I kept looking over our shoulders wondering when the liquor police would arrive, I suppose we've been in Utah too long. 

Tonight was a great opportunity to dine and visit with the other residents, especially for me since the kids had the run of the fenced in courtyard - equipped with ride on mowers and forklifts - they were as happy as could be. 

The bbq led right into the opening of the resident's work at the gallery onsite. I managed a quick tour through the space to check out the work before we made a quick exit and home for the bedtime routine. Tomorrow we're off to a festival.   

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If you're happy and you know it...

Who else is clapping out there? I'm not trying to jinx myself by posting about a sudden change in my children, but wow they seem happy these days. 

We've been spending our time thus far exploring the Medalta site, on the bike trails in search of playgrounds and cruising the grocery aisles of Superstore to fill our bare cupboards. With no tv in the little house we have, and only themselves for playmates, I was a bit nervous as to how they'd adjust after several weeks of moving around and being overstimulated. 

But since we arrived in the Hat they've been like two little kittens, playing and purring and full of sunshiny smiles. I have a couple of guesses as to why this is, one being that that I've been able to get them BOTH to nap each day since we arrived, second that they are just as excited as we are about this new adventure, but most importantly I think their sudden change in demeanor is because they once again have my undivided attention. 

Let's hope the clapping continues. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Living history

Yesterday was orientation day at Medalta for the 14 summer resident artists, this morning the clay arrived from Plainsman across the street and by this afternoon pots were already beginning to pop up on ware racks. 

It's just beginning to sink in, where we DuPonts have landed for the month. The Medalta Historic Clay District was once home to some of Canada's most important clay factories and at the turn of the last century the city of Medicine Hat was considered the largest manufacturing centre in the west thanks to the production of pottery! With geology in its favour, the clay products industry here benefitted from an abundant supply of clay, not to mention the abundant source of natural gas in the area used to fire the kilns. The history of this place has been preserved with the Medalta Potteries National Historic site through a living, working museum, and now through the Medalta International Artists in Residence program, of which Robin is the featured artist, it is a place for contemporary ceramics to flourish. 

We were all invited to a welcome potluck last night where I had the chance to meet most of the summer participants. This summer residency is the largest one that Medalta offers, and as I toured the studios this afternoon with the Artistic Director Aaron Nelson, even I, the non-potter,  was filled with excitement about the brand new 12, 000 sq ft studio space. Even more thrilling for me though was a spin through the new interpretive exhibit space. Medalta seems like a marriage of both Robin and my keenest interests - clay world meets museum world! It's just so cool that we're here.

And now that the kids have a had a couple days to get acquainted with their new surroundings, they seem pretty happy, perhaps feeding off the vibe Robin and I are giving off. I am equally as excited for them to explore the site and make regular appearances in the studios this month. The residents are a good cross section of folks from all over, a diverse group with many diverse experiences in the field of ceramics and most importantly seemingly content to have a couple of kids hanging around.