July 02 – August 04 2018
My father past away from cancer right after I left Medalta, so that experience was lost in the grieving process for awhile. My adventure at Medalta was a month long mentorship with Christopher Reid Flock in July 2018. My incredible experience at Medalta set the tone for my ceramic work for the next few years. Inspiring me to continue educating myself on atmospheric firing techniques and apply for grad school. Learning from the other artists as you watch them work in person is very different than instagram right? Our group was asking lots of questions and we were helping each other through feedback.
The group planned our time firing the soda kiln so we could get multiple firings. The work that I had came out of the soda kiln transformed from a bisque cup into a spiritual vessel of influence. It was crazy how much spraying soda in the kiln at a certain time in the firing process, transforms some pieces and ruins others.
I was shocked at how fast the clay dried in the prairie dry heat. My mother’s family was from the Regina, Saskatchewan area, so it was cool learning more about where my grandmother grew up in Canada. I was connecting with part of my cultural heritage and it was magical. Unfortunately, we were supposed to be the first group of artists staying in the BMO Artist Lodge. Construction had fallen behind schedule from the holiday week in July and we are sorry but you need to find your own housing. That part was a shit show for me. I stayed in a hotel across town and then eventually rented a place at the college for a decent rate. I did sleep in my car a few nights and I was cranky about it.
I’m reflecting back on my month long mentorship residency with Christopher Reid Flock. Located at the SHAW International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics part of the Medalta International Artists in Residence (MIAIR) Program located within the Historic Clay District, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
My family wanted me to fly back to Vermont but I had my car and a carload full of tools and ceramic work in Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was determined to drive back
Tony Hansen and Tim the vice president took care of all my belongings and shipped them to Montreal for me. I also ordered a truck load of clay.
I went back to Vermont and spent time with family. My father was waiting for me to come home so he could say goodbye.
and bought a Bailey propane gas kiln so I could continue learning about atmospheric firing. After spending the summer learning about high fire clay bodies such as Plainsman’s P700 a beautiful porcelain clay body. It’s consistency is soft enough to use right out of the box. Unlike Polar Ice which is finicky and needs a few steps before you can start making with it. Both clay bodies have translucent qualities. The P700 glows slightly blue after a reduction firing with natural gas. Polar Ice is a mid fire cone 6 clay body, which can be fired to high fire temperatures in a gas/wood fired kiln. It has more of a white/yellow glow to its translucent fired form.
Back on Vancouver Island I missed a few opportunities to fire my ceramic work in a wood firing Anagama kiln. My exposure had been limited to pit firing, raku firing, and electric/oxidation firing. My home studio had two electric kilns. After buying several used kilns, and receiving a grant from the Nanaimo Art Council. I was able to afford my first used kiln with a digital controller. This technology made me not fear the firing process so much. I think a certain amount of fear is healthy when using a kiln, that has a month’s worth of your work in it.
Learning to use a kiln sitter, which is a semi-manual safety mechanism that flips the power off once the pyrometric cone bends enough. Indicating that the kiln has reached the appropriate temperature. my kiln had a lot of use from other people I mentored or needed kiln space in the community. Let’s just say when potters get impatient and fire clay that isn’t dry it becomes like a grenade in a kiln (sometimes). A student of mine learned a valuable lesson, when work gets rushed and impatience wins… you jeopardize not only your own work but anyone else’s work in the kiln. The lid had some S cracks from a bad screw/bracket design and that explosion ruined the kilns efficiency.
I replaced most of the kiln parts like fuses and it still wouldn’t work. This was a huge problem for me because I fired all my work in my home studio, as I was still finishing art school. Eventually I was able to definitely test/prove that it was in fact the cracks in the lid that prevented the kiln from reaching temp. Trial and error learning takes time. Not only was I in Art school but my only income came from selling my work in a couple art galleries and a local coffee shop.
Donna from Vancouver Island Pottery Supply introduced me to the President of Plainsman Clays. I pitched him an idea of allowing me to help them build a social media presence. Initially he said no, because he needed to get permission from the board. I offered to do it for free or until they had time to evaluate my proposal and assign a value to it. It took a few months but eventually the board understood that this service was important to the customers and could be a tool for the future. After months of working with Plainsman Clays, I was able to afford a new Cone Art Kiln.
My first MFA installation at Vermont College of Fine Arts had a segment of collaborations with three of the artists at Medalta. Erin Berry, Steven Osterlund, and Alexander Borghesan. That speaks to the cohesion that Mentor Christopher Reid Flock had achieved with us. He encouraged us to PUSH through our discomfort, fears, and inadequacies.
I had the pleasure of touring the new BMO Artist Lodge. I cooked dinner for all of us, and then we watched a movie together in the new lodge. It was really an honor to cook my family’s fresh marinara sauce just cherry tomatoes, basil, and garlic. I prepared Caprese salad a classic dish from Capri, Italy made with fresh mozzarella, Basil, and tomatoes. My father Antonino Di Ruocco was a world famous chef from Capri, Italy. This was my way to show my dad that he was in my thoughts.