Medalta!

Thursday June 3rd was the official first day of my residency at Medalta Potteries in Medicine Hat, AB.  It's extremely sunny and hot here, and my molds are very dry and the test tiles I made yesterday are already ready to be bisqued.

Photo credit: Denise Smith

Photo credit: Denise Smith

Aaron Nelson, one of the technicians here, took all of the summer residents for a tour of the old ceramic factory where they made toliets and pottery and other functional objects.  It was fascinating, and extremely inspiring.  After the tour, everyone was so motivated that they got straight to work as soon as they got their clay.

Medalta Potteries

Medalta Potteries

Shards of broken/flawed ceramic pieces... the entire factory is built on mountains of shards.

Shards of broken/flawed ceramic pieces... the entire factory is built on mountains of shards.

More shards!

More shards!

Graffiti on the way to Plainsman

Graffiti on the way to Plainsman

More shards!
Plainsman

Seeing Plainsman was a blast from the past for me because from 2005 to 2008, I worked at the Edmonton branch called Plainsman Pottery.  It's where I first learned about ceramics, and while working there I frequently had to call the main office in Medicine Hat to talk to the accounts receivable lady there named Irene.

Well, I finally got to meet Irene in person, nine years later!  Of course she remembered me (I won the hockey pool that year, as I recall), and we had a good laugh.  We also met Tony Hansen, the author and owner of Digitalfire Corporation, the world leader in chemistry and database software used by ceramic artists (but also engineers and technicians from the ceramic manufacturing world).

After Plainsman, we went to Hycroft, which consisted of Medicine Hat Potteries production plant and also Hycroft China Ltd.

The Factory
These are the old school time cards that employees would use to clock in and clock out after their shift was done.

These are the old school time cards that employees would use to clock in and clock out after their shift was done.

Kiln filled with saggars (which contain bisqued or glazed work that has been stacked inside with stilts)

Kiln filled with saggars (which contain bisqued or glazed work that has been stacked inside with stilts)

This console controls the machinery, and the ticket system tells which batch of clay is going through the kilns

This console controls the machinery, and the ticket system tells which batch of clay is going through the kilns

Molds for toliets

Molds for toliets

This contraption is like a merry go round for pottery - its' like an automated banding wheel for glaze decoration

This contraption is like a merry go round for pottery - its' like an automated banding wheel for glaze decoration

Everywhere there are crates and crates of slightly flawed ware and used molds

Everywhere there are crates and crates of slightly flawed ware and used molds

Aaron was nice enough to let some of take some Medalta historical moulds for our own work -I found a beautiful one piece mold which I think was originally supposed to be a flower vase... it is going to be a large piece but I'd like to cast a few of them assembled together.   This has proven difficult with drying times in this climate, but that's for another blog post.

This recipe for clay is hilarious because of the "exact" measurements AKA "two wheelbarrows of Kaolin".

This recipe for clay is hilarious because of the "exact" measurements AKA "two wheelbarrows of Kaolin".

This machine is pumped with slip, which slowly dries between the sheets of canvas, producing plastic clay "cakes".

This machine is pumped with slip, which slowly dries between the sheets of canvas, producing plastic clay "cakes".

The clay cakes produced by the slip machine.

The clay cakes produced by the slip machine.

This is a press machine for making the saggars that the ware is fired in.

This is a press machine for making the saggars that the ware is fired in.

This is a ball mill used for grinding the materials into very fine particles of clay.

This is a ball mill used for grinding the materials into very fine particles of clay.

This giant press mold makes plates.

This giant press mold makes plates.

The press molds on a conveyer belt waiting to be dried before being removed from the mold.

The press molds on a conveyer belt waiting to be dried before being removed from the mold.


Work in Progress

For the past few months I have been working on slip casting some urchin forms.   In preparation for my exhibition in the fall, I have started producing a new body of work.  The conceptual underpinnings of this work follows a logical trajectory from my previous practice, creating naturally inspired objects.  The current manifestation involves casting consumer objects that are replicas of nature.  In this piece, I found a porcelain urchin at an interior design store and cast that.  So in a sense, these objects are facsimiles of facsimiles of nature.

The steel armature for the piece

The steel armature for the piece

The pods fit on to the steel structure

The pods fit on to the steel structure

The pods are bolted so they fit on the upper part of each rod.

The pods are bolted so they fit on the upper part of each rod.

Black urchin

I bought the insides for the flowers from a fancy kitchen store, they are supposed to be cherry blossom bottle stoppers.  They fit perfectly over the steel rods, and they fit with the idea of using consumer objects that have been manufactured to look like nature.