Monday, 29 November 2010

Lizz Aston

1 Macramé Repeat 3 – detail 2009
(Paper Fibre, Free Motion Embroidery, Polyester Thread, Burnout)
Q So who is Lizz Aston?
I’m a fibre based artist, currently in my second year as an artist-in-residence in the textile studio at Harbourfront Centre. I was originally born and raised in the greater Toronto area. Growing up, I had the good fortune of being accepted into an amazing and forward thinking high school for the arts, Cawthra Park S.S.

The time I spent there, immersed in a specialized arts program came to inform the beginning of my life as an artist working within a crafts-based medium. After high school I went on to study fashion, worked as a sheet metal apprentice and developed my skills in a number of other avenues. It wasn’t until I eventually went back to school for Crafts and Design at Sheridan College that I finally realized there was a larger identity at play in the work I had been making all along.

image Crochet 2010 (Paper Fibres, Free-Motion Embroidery, Cotton Thread, Burn-out.)
Q Paper features heavily in your work, what is it that excites you most about this material?
My current body of work employs the use and manipulation of paper surfaces in an attempt to reference a series of ideas inspired by traditional knotting practices. In my work I am interested in exploring the implications that these two material practices carry in combination with one another and the tension or relationship that may exist as a result of this juxtaposition.

Through my work I am interested in exploring the multifaceted relationship we have to paper and its archaic practices, as I work to discover this material through an in depth examination of its inherent transformative, resilient and simultaneously ephemeral qualities. This convergence of ideas along with an innate love of discovery through material process can be seen as the ever present theme that propels my work forward.

Crochet 2010: Paper Fibres (Free-Motion Embroidery, Cotton Thread, Burn-out.)

Q Is there any other medium you would like to work in?
I am currently at the beginning stages of learning to work in metal at the jewellery studio down the hall from me. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting this material on a much more refined scale, working alongside a fellow jewellery-studio resident Alisha Marie Boyd at the Harbourfront Centre.

I am also currently about to begin working on a collaborative group show entitled Studio Remix, in which six craftspeople pair up to teach each other our respective material processes as we work in one another’s studios. The end result will be an exhibition at the Ontario Crafts Council, a prominent Canadian craft gallery in Toronto, in August 2011. For this exhibition I have been paired up with a wonderful ceramics artist by the name of Sylvia Nan Cheng. I’m very excited to begin working in this new material as I feel it will open up a lot of new doors for me in the ways I approach making my work.

 Antiquated Notions 2, 2009 (Paper Fibres, Free-Motion Embroidery, Polyester Thread, Burn-out.)
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
I work primarily out of the studio space at Harbourfront Centre, but tend to carry my work around with me wherever I go. I have also been known to cart my sewing machine along with me to my day shift at the bar I work at, in lieu meeting rapidly approaching exhibition deadlines!

I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such a great community of artists, musicians and makers both at the studio and at my work in Kensington Market. If anything, bringing projects along with me to work adds to the atmosphere of the already oddball Kensington market crowd I have grown up with over the years.

Degraded Muffin Cup Forms, 2010 (Paper, Muffin Cups, Burn-out.)
Q What is your typical working day look like?
Wake up. Drink coffee. Get to the studio. Read 35 emails. Eat a bagel from Tim Horton’s. Write an extensive to do list. Freak out about how much I have to do. Put on some good tunes. Cross off the list one by one. Laugh with my studio mates. Get some research, samples or a project a little further along to completion. Take a break. Look at the list again, before going home and thinking about what’s left to do tomorrow.

Q What is your working style?
Anybody who has ever worked alongside me in the studio would tell you that I am driven by an incredibly compulsive need to work on meticulous, fragile and generally insane, labour intensive projects that would make any normal person go cross-eyed and give up.

I love spinning delicate paper into thread, burning tiny holes into paper surfaces to create a network of lace-like structure. Counting the threads in finely woven piece of linen and binding it back to create larger patterns of negative space, as well as crocheting thousands of tiny structures before starching them into intimate little sculptural forms and so on.

6 Wavering Paper Formation, 2010 (Paper Doilies, Beeswax, Burn-out.)
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I am primarily focussed on creating work that is intended for galleries and exhibitions. I tend to use exhibition deadlines as an avenue for which to research and explore new ideas and directions in my work. I also have a website which I am currently in the process of updating, as well as a blog which I began in the summer.
Q What is your greatest achievement to date?
All of the decisions that have lead me to exactly where I’m at in my life right now. Being afraid to take risks, living with the fear and just doing it anyways...

Paper Bark Grouping
Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
As makers, we are constantly engaged in an ongoing dialogue that exists in the creation of meaningful objects; challenging the application of traditionally learned skills, to expand upon a greater definition of art and design.

Contemporary craft continues to evolve as it has become a celebrated practice that is of-the-moment and vital. This marks a turning point for a community of makers, whose work charts out and advocates a larger discourse in the ever evolving landscape of contemporary art and design.

Crocheted Sekishu Fibre Hatpin/Brooch
Q What music are you listening to at the moment?
I listen to a lot of 1960’s, punk, psychedelic, garage rock and shoe gaze. As well as medieval, folk, jug and blues. There’s also a really amazing local music scene here in Toronto with a diverse range of bands such as the Hoa Hoa’s, the Saffron Sect, Flowers of Hell, Planet Creature and the Constantine's. As well as bands like the Born Ruffians, Sports: the band and the Meligrove band....Wow, I guess you can tell I’m plugging all my friends? But really, it’s worth a serious listen.

Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Self-discipline, the support of family and friends and a deep passion for what you do are essential to living an inspired and successful life as a craftsperson.

  9Sekishu Paper Fibre/Yarns

Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
To name a few: Jeannie Thib, Jean Shin, Tara Bursey, Shary Boyle, Arounna Khounnaraj, Eva Hesse, Doug Guildford, and Catherine Heard, as well as the larger community of crafts people and artists that I have been acquainted with here in Toronto over the past couple of years.

Q What do you do to relax?
Meeting up with friends in Kensington Market for a pint, listening to good music, cooking and sharing good food with the people around me, is an essential part of my day to day life. I am especially looking forward to a fun and wholesome winter full of Mixed CD Swapping on Sundays, impromptu dinner parties and home-made Soup Trades.

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition - July 2010.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kate Malone

A Starburst Tall Lady Gourd, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, Height 56cm (22") Diameter 34cm (13 3/8")

When did you first discover a passion for working in clay?
At school at the age of 12 or 13. The big comprehensive government school had a ceramics department, thank heavens.


A Pair of Fun Atomic Candlesticks, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, Height 29cm (11 3/8")  Diameter 21cm (8 1/4")

Q What other materials have you or would you like to work in?
I have had a few pieces converted to Bronze, and I have blown and cast glass and would like to paint more seriously.

Bronze Drinking Fountain, Castle Park, Bristol.

Q Your work is well known for being large scale – what is the biggest piece you have ever made?
In one piece it was 1m20cm all and 1m wide and 1m deep.. but the largest public piece in many sections was 16m x 5m tall. I am just about to start a project 56 m long and average 3m tall.

Ceramic installation for the Children's Library at the Royal Jubilee Library, Brighton. Made over a period of a year and a half 2003-2004 and comprises 91 wall pieces that are hung on the back wall of the children's library space. The wall is 16 meters by 8 meters.
Q Each of your pieces seems to have a personality – does this develop in the design stage or during the making process?
It develops on both, I have an idea, and make sure one piece follows the original, but then having started others at the same time, I let them develop in the process.


Secret Garden, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, Height 67cm (26 3/8") Diameter 56cm (22")

Q You have become very famous in the world of Ceramics – what are the keys things that brought you this success?
Luck, hard work, determination, perseverance, tunnel vision, addiction to clay, a fabulous partner who is there in support in so many ways, a fabulous art dealer with generosity and vision and style, being aware good photography is paramount to show people what you can do, talking and connecting where ever possible and working and aiming to share the progress of the field of ceramics with as generous a spirit as is possible, this attitude, tends to have the same response… not that I do it for that reason.


Monumental Forest Fern, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, Height 80cm (31 1/2") 65cm (25 5/8") Depth 60cm (23 5/8")

Q Organic forms feature heavily in your work, what else inspires your work?
People, places, travel, history, friends, TV, magazines, life.
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
Andrew Logan, Zandra Rhodes, Axel Salto...

Monumental Fennel, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, Height 85cm (33 1/2") Width 60cm (23 5/8") Depth 57cm (22 1/2")

Q You have just finished a solo show at Robilant & Voena  Gallery, London, what is next?
See my web site for the details about the Robilant Voena show… now the run of international shows with my international art dealer, Adrian Sassoon, (see his web site for the dates and details), but as well as some 5 joint shows for him next year I have a huge public commission and two large pot commissions for clients in the USA… I also have plans to try to work with industry and to paint more and to make a DVD teaching film for sale from my web site…

2010 Solo Show at Robilant & Voena Gallery London

Q You are very generous in sharing techniques, glaze recipes and your working processes – what is the thinking behind this philosophy?
To further the field, openness encourages a drive to forward and progress, I want people to be a success and this makes the whole world of ceramics a more exciting place to work and learn….

Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
Anything goes now, same as art, it all comes in circles, but ever faster turning and reinventing… but the paramount thing for me is that the standard of excellence advances, with new technology and adapting to change….

A Tutti Frutti Baby Bad, 2008
Pebble-glazed earthenware. Height 12 cm. (4 3/4")  Diameter 14 cm. (5 1/2")

Q What is your greatest achievement to date?
Being a mother and in a partnership with my daughters dad for 27 years…. And being very happy… but that’s not my achievement, it is their patience…


Sliced Heart Pillows, 2002
Pebble-glazed earthenware and Crystalline-glazed stoneware, clay press moulded. Studio edition, repeated in different glazes. Diameter 11 3/8" (29cm)

Q What is your typical working day look like?
Live and work in the same building, Awake at 7, Up around 8, daughter to school, then clear house a little and start work around 10, chase my tail and try to wake up… breakfast at 10 … good lunch with assistants at around 2pm, get into gear,,,, daughter home form school fusion of homework and cooking and continuing to work, family to bed around 10 I often work on into the night.. now it is 2am, working on tax accounts, the worst part of the year,,, as im late to bed, ill probably sleep to 8 am – just able to wake to say bye to my daughter to go to school, ,,,then the process starts again…


Medium Sliced Triple Pea Pod, 2000
Pebble-glazed earthenware, clay press moulded
Q What is your working style?
Chaotic and cyclical…. Periods of making, then glazing, then clearing up!

Q How do you sell and promote your work?
Exclusively in collaboration with Sassoon and his office of staff…also recently did some u tube weekly diaries, they were great fun to do and i hope to do more... have a look at the YouTube kate malone ceramics, and find the 8 video diaries, and one by the Robilant & Voena Gallery... 

An Acorn Box, 2010
Crystalline-glazed stoneware, limited edition 11 of 30, Height 23cm (9") Diameter 16cm (6 1/4")

Q What 3 words of advice would you give to aspiring makers?
self-motivate, listen to mistakes, persist..…

Q What music are you listening to at the moment?
Jacques Brel and Anthony and the Johnsons. 

Q What do you do to relax?
Make pots, cook, cycle, travel, party, tai chi and tv… swim when I can, do the ironing!



Editors Note: Kate Malone’s Work is also housed in these following Public Collections:

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
British Council Teapot Collection
British Council Touring Collections
Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds
Crafts Council, London
Arts Council, London
The British Council, Manchester and Bahamas collections
Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester
The Cleveland Arts Trust
Paisley Museum & Art Gallery, Paisley
Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
Gallery Oldham, Oldham, Greater Manchester
Stoke-On-Trent Museum, Stoke-On-Trent
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich
York City Art Gallery, York
Geffrye Museum, London
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
McManus Galleries & Museum, Dundee
Contemporary Art Society, London
Harley Foundation Collection, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Musée National de Céramique, Sèvres, France
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho, USA
J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Montreal, Canada

Monday, 15 November 2010

Charan Sachar

Dancing Diva Wall Sculpture in Green
Dancing Diva (This wall sculpture is a part of a series inspired by the songs and dances seen in Bollywood movies)
Q So who is Charan Sachar?
Charan Sachar is the potter behind Creative with Clay. I have lived in India for a significant part of my life where my mother ran a boutique designing clothes for brides and bridesmaids. The colors, fabrics, embroidery and designs I came across then have a strong impact on my work now.My work also reflects my love for Bollywood movies and my fascination with life in India. I strive to give life to clay, decorating it with Indian influences keeping functionality and uniqueness in mind.

Pottery has given me the much needed respite from the monotony of everyday life. Working with clay and giving it form feels as satisfying as organizing and bringing peace to all the chaos that is there around you. My goal is to continue to work with this medium to create art work which is cherished for life.

Bollywood Inspired Tumbler in Ice Blue and Deep Blue by Charan Sachar
Bollywood Inspired Hand-built Tumblers (stoneware with slip decoration)
Q India features heavily in your designs – are there any other cultural influences in your work?
For having lived in India for a significant part of my life, majority of my influences do come from India. However I was born and brought up in Kuwait for first 16 years of my life. We were raised in a very Indian atmosphere, but the middle east influences do creep into my work. I enjoyed writing Arabic as it was so fluid and just like drawing. The intricate patterns seen in mosaic work also makes an impact on my work. Interestingly, I have noticed that same patterns which I thought are Indian, are very similar to Chinese and African too and mean different things. The same texture is the rising sun in one culture or fish scales in another. Textures and patterns in general do impact my work greatly and I keep my eyes open to everything.

Q You work in clay but is there any other medium you work in or would like to work?
I have worked in several mediums, like painting, pin thread, crafting from recycled material, cooking etc. I knew I always wanted to work with clay and had always been trying to get there. Every now and then I go get attracted to cooking, calligraphy and wood carving. With all the things I would like to do with clay, I don’t know when I will try to accomplish something else.

Big Sassy Funky Salt Pepper Shakers Dancing
Big Sassy Funky Salt Pepper Shakers Dancing (porcelain, hand-built with slip trail decoration)
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
I have a studio at home where I create my work. When we purchased our home, my first priority was to have a studio space. We did have to convert a family room on the bottom floor of our house to my studio. I love the space and planned it with potential of growth. With almost 6 years in, it has worked work really well and I am now hunting for more space. I should be good for a few more years and then may be expand into my garage, if my wife lets me. LOL!

Q What is your typical working day look like?
I work full time as an engineer and my studio time revolves around every single free minute I can get. So I really can’t stick to a fixed everyday schedule. Having said that, I am very disciplined about what I need to get done on a monthly/weekly and daily basis. I keep a calendar for that. Usually after work, I take a break and get into the studio in the evening. My pre planning helps in determining what I will be doing in the studio that day. After I complete my work, I leave the studio in clean enough state so I don’t waste time cleaning when I work next. I would rather clean when tired at end of day, than clean when I am excited to make pots.
Tealight Candle Holder In Soft Green Blue by Charan Sachar
Tea Light Candle Holders (wheel thrown, stoneware with slip decoration)
Q What is your working style?
With clay, it is all about timing. And with my decoration technique, timing is everything. The pots need to be at the perfect stage for alterations and attaching handles. With my slip decoration, if the clay is too wet, it is hard to get clean patterns. Too dry and the slip decoration pops out. To overcome this, I need to be really organized and need to divide my process in stages.

First is working with wet clay, i.e. throwing on the wheel, extruding or slab work depending on what I am making. Next day is trimming, adding handles, hand-building/altering the extruding work and the day after is the slip decoration or carving, which is the most time consuming. So once I have touched the wet clay, I need to keep on my toes to make sure the pots are at the right stage for every process. This is followed by the bisque firing and then the glaze firing.

Sassy Teapot with cups standing with attitude

Sassy Teapot with cups standing with attitude (stoneware with slip decoration)

Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I sell my work at art shows and in galleries across the US (You can see my show schedule and the galleries that carry my work at I also sell online at Majority of my promotional work happens through facebook (, my blog ( and through forums. All of these have their pros and cons. I do enjoy the interaction with my customers at all times.

Q What is your greatest achievement to date?
I don’t think I have reached any great achievement yet but I have been very happy on achieving some of my goals. In the last few years, I have been doing art shows which I only dreamed of doing. I had been visiting these shows ever since I got started in clay and thought some day I will apply to these shows and will sell my work here. I feel very fortunate to get into these shows on my first application and getting a great response. This has mostly been possible with support and encouragement of friends, family and my customers.

Icecream Bowl or Soup bowl or cereal bowl in Honey Gold and red
Bowls - (wheel thrown with slip trail decoration)
Q What music are you listening to at the moment?
I am a big Bollywood fan. I will listen to everything and anything Bollywood.  Lately I have been enjoying songs of Once upon a time in Mumbai, Action Replayy, Aisha, Raajneeti... The list goes on.

Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Focus, Determination, Discipline and enjoy every moment with this gift you have

Big Large Cannister Cookie Jar with Oil Bottle RESERVED for jessandchristy
Large Cookie Jar - (stoneware with impressed decoration and glaze)
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
This list is going to be long and it would be very hard for me to list everyone here. Also I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. So I am going to let this question go!

Q What do you do to relax?
Good question. I wish I had an answer to this since I hardly get time to relax. I do watch a Bollywood movie. A good 3 hours forces me to sit in one place and not work. That is the only way I will not work. But thinking about it, I am still taking in inspiration for my upcoming work while watching the movie. So it is not totally relaxed time.

Oval Lidded treasure trinket box in Blue and Black
Oval Lidded Trinket Box

To view video demonstrations of Charan’s Slip trail techniques and decoration process please click here:

Monday, 8 November 2010

Shuyu Lu

Antenna head, hand embroidery, cotton & soild fleece Antenna Head (hand embroidery, cotton and solid fleece)
Q So who is Shuyu Lu?
I was born and raised in China and I am currently a textile artist-in-residence at the Harbourfront Centre Studio in Toronto. I came to Canada to pursue an art education at the OCAD University and graduated in 2009 and received a BD (Bachelor Degree) in Fibre.
Q Where in the world are you based?
I am living in downtown Toronto now, a very dynamic multiple cultural atmosphere city.

Birdie cushion, screen printed on cotton Birdie Cushion (Screen Print on Cotton)
Q How did you decide to become a maker?
It took me for awhile to figure out that I want to participate in the craft field, and eventually consider myself as a craft maker. Here is the long story: I was studying advertising in the first year in university and I realized that I am not into the program at all; I am not an advertising person style. When I was struggling at that time, I saw the MAAD (Material art & design) program thesis student doing the fundraising sale in the lobby one day; they made things like the little crochet creatures, purses, dyed scarves, ring, coffee mugs, etc. I spent quite a long time there, picking up everything and look at them, that gave me delight!
To make some beautiful things by your hand and sell them, people happy because they like it; as well as the makers happy because they know people like it. Things become simple and back to the original way, is it the most wonderful thing? I bought a crochet birdie ornament from the sale and I think that might be the reason that finally made me decided to change my program! Indeed, if you don’t like something but you are still doing it, it will be a torture and pointless. I have no regret that I’m doing craft now, it is the best thing I’d like to do as my career.

My childhood, my China,2009, screen printing and hand embroidery on muslin My Childhood, My China - 2009 (screen print and hand embroidery on muslin)

Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
I work in the studio mostly. I am the current textile artist in residence at the Toronto Harbourfront centre. The craft department there provide a studio each for the textile, glass, ceramic and jewellery, for the emerging artists and designers. The studios also create a strong craft community and good working atmosphere there. It is a great transition place for those who just graduated from school and start the independent craft career like me.
I work at home too since I need to spend lot of time for hand embroidery. I know it’s not a good habit but it’s enjoyable—pick a good movie and start embroidery.

Welcome to the village2, 2010, hand embroidery on toile fabric Welcome to the Village No2 – 2010 (hand embroidery on toile fabric)
Q What made you choose the materials that you work with?
In the second year of MAAD( Material art and design) program in OCAD university, students have to take all fibre, ceramic and metal intro courses. That allows us to have a chance to experience the different materials of these categories and then choose the one that most suitable (or comfortable) for each student to focus. My works express my feeling about differences in culture, as well as nostalgia for my own Chinese heritage. My works are mainly focused on screen-printing and embroidery and they help me to visualize the concept freely, easily and directly.
Q What are you working on at the moment?
I finished school last year and I had a few series of work so far. They are all made from a narrative perspective expressing my feelings about cultural impact. In my new work, I will continue to develop this concept. I’d like to bring the old and the traditional into contemporary pieces, meanwhile showing where the Western & Eastern elements melt together – their melting point.

New treasure, 2009, screen printing on cotton and silk organza, hand embroidery New Treasure - 2009 (screen print on cotton and silk organza, hand embroidery)
Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
Craft is everywhere in the 21st Century. Craft shows in the furniture pieces; craft shows in the fashion, craft shows in the industry products, craft shows in the art galleries, craft shows in the luxury culture, etc. The term “craft” has the different meaning than the old time - craft is not just represent the traditional skill and have to only come with the functional things; but also, craft acting as a medium to reflect our social value. It’s blurring the boundaries between art, design and craft today. Like me and my studio fellows, we make craft-art pieces and meanwhile we make craft-design items. However, we have to admit that it is really a niche market for craft; it’s very unique but small. It always needs people and the society’s appreciation and support. Craft melding into the different disciplines is the way to survive.
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I mostly participate the sale shows and juried exhibitions to get exposure at this early stage. I also sell some of my functional items (toy dolls and cushions) in Distill  and Bounty. They are two of the biggest stores in Toronto that provide a selling opportunity to Canadian artists.

So far, so close, 2010, screen printing and hand embroidery on silk organza So Far, So Close – 2010 (screen print and hand embroidery on silk organza)

Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Passion, love life & appreciation.
Q What inspires you?
My Chinese background, childhood, nostalgia, the impact of the different cultures, urban life, my working environment…
Q 3 things that you hate?
Maybe I say something that I don’t like? Hate, Beet, No time to sleep

So far, so close-Yellow, 2010, screen printing and hand embroidery on silk organza So Far, So Close [yellow] – 2010 (screen print and hand embroidery on silk organza

Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
It will be a long list for this question!

The most inspired one is Zhang Xiaogang – the Chinese contemporary artist. He was born in 1958 and was influenced by a period of Cultural Revolution during his youth. His surrealist paintings are a perfect reflection of the period. It conjures the depressive atmosphere of the time. Dorie Millerson’s needlepoint is also a favourite. Most of her work is tiny and deals with memory, nostalgia, defining home and identity. The lace work brings her memories and moments of attachment to life with their delicate shapes.

Also here are the other artists I like: Ron Mueck, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Julie Moon, Lyn Carter, David R. Harper, Ai Weiwei.

Q What do you do to relax?
Take a walk in my neighbourhood and shopping at the vintage stores.

Welcome to the village, 2010, hand embroidery on toile fabric Welcome to the Village – 2010 (hand embroidery on toile fabric)