Techno-ology: Failing is ok

In ceramics I fail, all the time. Glazes go wrong, firings go wrong, forms go wrong. But each failure gives way to a bit of learning. Why did that fail?

About a month ago I set out to make work for this competition:

The competition suited me perfectly because of my ongoing interest in sepia portraits and some of the work I’d done in the past with transfers like these plates posted up a couple of weeks ago. I mused over what to make for such a long time and found the perfect candidate for my work Hubert A. Lalonde. The Stories of the Second World War Project has created a vast data base of veteran profiles, old pictures and stories brimming with insight into Canada’s various wars and Canadian mentality. Hubert used food as a way to tell his story. His tales of hardship and joy were all expressed alongside food rituals. So I had the perfect idea to make thee place settings relating to his story, including transfers featuring him. Just like this:

All went well until the final glaze firing when I was missing a glaze ingredient and so substituted one that I knew would still make for an effective clear glaze. And it sure did. The only hitch was that whatever was in the substitute disintegrated the iron oxide in my transfers, leaving me with a creamy white plate. This lead to my wanting more and more to test clears for this anomaly. Iron oxide is a potent thing and it is always shocking when this happens. Why? Why!? I have tested many a clear glaze in the past but now know I want to break it down and figure out what the dissipating agent is. So failure yes, but not completely.

It was a shame really, as I had really felt connected to LaLonde here is the brief Artist Statement and explination of the work for submission:

“I am in love with every aspect and process involved in creating functional and beautiful clay items. It is very important to me that people use pottery. I believe that hand crafted objects heighten our quality of life and the experiences we have involving them- social eating traditions and stigmas centralized around food effect us all. I was interested to see how greatly Hubert A. Lalonde, was especially  effected by food during his service overseas in the Algonquin Regiment. In his profile Hubert displays Canadian idealism and hope through compassionately sharing food with others, drinking in jovial camaraderie for celebration and even expresses humor in dreary circumstance by recounting is need to replace his mess mug with a tin can.
Storytelling is a large part of my ceramic process. I enjoy the duality of plain usefulness and historical complexity that pottery intrinsically possesses and allows me to express. I find it a challenge to work within the parameters set out by years and years of ceramic tradition, a mug is a mug after all, but adding another dimension to the function is what gives me satisfaction.  I feel akin to Lalonde. He undoubtably had dark experiences during the war but is able to now talk with grace and compassion in its regards. I find the pictures on his profile when paired with his words compelling. It is easy to see his vivacious outlook through these snapshots.  I have used pictures from Lalonde’s profile that aline with his story in regards to food: mess hall mugs, toast, bottles and incorporated them into a place setting. I have taken quotes from his story and placed them onto vessels, hoping they then can hold his sentiments and relay them to the viewer. I hope that this work is as telling, intriguing and charming as Lalonde’s story is.”

Listen to LaLonde tell you his story at here.


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