Locally sourced materials: Clay

Submitted by: Maia Stark, Gallery Assistant
I was lucky enough, this summer, to participate in a university class offered by the U of S which taught soil science and art students alike to grind their own pigments and make paint from natural and local sources. It was an incredible experience for many of us, who had only ever bought paints from a store and had no clue what chemicals and minerals made “ochre yellow” different from “burnt sienna”. We made black pigment out of burnt bone, yellows and reds from soil samples, and greens and blues from types of rocks (such as malachite and azurite). It was a fascinating course, and I couldn't help but wonder about the potential for craftspersons to find their own local clay for pottery and sculpture—as some of the soils we used to make pigment were certainly fine enough to be used for pottery and ceramic work. While I myself am not a ceramic artist or sculptor, one of the other MFA students collected clay while we were up north, and has herself previously sourced local clay for her work. For this post, then, while it is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to share some of the research I've done on using natural sources for artist materials, in particular, clay!

First off, a quick note that digging for clay and soils should be done in such a way that the environment is minimally disturbed. The University of Minnesota Natural Resources Research Institute website has some helpful tips for digging your own “pedon,” or soil pit.

“. . .it is best to use a shovel with a flat, square spade so the sides of the pit can be smooth and relatively undisturbed. Dig a pit at least 1/3 of a meter (~ 1 foot) on each side and at least 35 centimeters (~1 foot) or more deep. Don’t be too destructive; only dig a pit large enough so that you can see the layers of soil relatively easily. Take care so that at least one side of the pit is straight down and smooth, so that the natural layering of the soil visible and not disturbed by the digging. When you are finished, be sure to put the soil back into the pit, or mark it so people will see it and not fall into it!”
Secondly, you want to be sure that you have permission to dig. Even on construction sites, where the earth may already be helpfully torn up, you need to have permission to enter the site. As well, it’s important to know that it is illegal to remove anything organic from national parks!

Clay from Exeter, New Hampshire (Kit Cornell Pottery)
 An excavation in Exeter reveals a cache of local clay (Kit Cornell Pottery)
When you are digging for your clay, you will probably end up with a collection of clay and less fine types of soil mixed in. However, this doesn't mean you have to painstakingly pick out all the good clay when you first take your sample of soil.

Eddie Starnater of the website “Practical Primitive” has a method of extracting good quality clay from samples which are full of less fine soil and sand by using water to separate the materials. Clay is lighter than sand and so by settling the mixtures (letting heavier soils fall to the bottom), one can quite easily obtain a good quantity of pure clay. This process, though not physically laborious, does have to take place over several days (Starnater’s process can be found here).

There are other ways of separating your clay from extraneous matter, and Kit Cornell of Kit Cornell Pottery has a method which is outline on her website, here.
Cornell is an artist from New Hampshire who uses clay that she finds locally. On her website, Cornell notes that naturally sourced clay, as opposed to commercially bought clay, can have wonderful surprises in colouring, as the influence of mineral and chemical deposits will vary the clay’s raw colour from reds and browns to even greens.
For Cornell, using local sources of clay for pottery and local oxides and ash for glazing is an important part of producing handmade products. This has been a very attractive concept to me, as well, after taking the course which taught me to harvest my own pigments. Being able to supply my own materials enhances the concept of the local and handmade (while also being accommodating financially)! For instructions and information about Cornell’s process, check out her page on clay here.

Artist Spotlight: Donna Cutler

Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Gallery Assistant.

Donna Cutler
Donna Cutler is a fine craft artist featured in the SCC Fine Craft Boutique. The artist, who resides just outside of Saskatoon in Beaver Creek, focuses mostly in the medium of free motion embroidery. Although she was originally self-taught, she went on to receive a certificate for Art and Design Level III at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts in Washington State, as well as certificates in hand embroidery and machine embroidery. Cutler says, “I arrived at fiber art through a long process of trying many other art forms. I started out drawing as a child, then as an adult, developed an interest in sewing, rug hooking... I also worked with various forms of hand needlework. Later on, I took a quilting class which was pivotal for me, as it led to art quilting.”

Cutler, who grew up in Winnipeg, specializes in what she calls ‘thread paintings,’ in which she depicts nature in near-photographic detail. She remarks, “I'm very lucky now to live south of the city within easy access to places like the Beaver Creek Conservation Area and Cranberry Flats.” Cutler takes many photographs of everyday nature settings to recreate using thread and embroidery techniques. She also utilizes photographs her husband Adrian takes, as well as ones supplied to her by good friend Judy Wood.

Autumn Birches by Donna Cutler
Cutler’s work is unique from other fibre artists’ because of her extreme attention to detail, which creates incredibly realistic looking textures. This style is not one that is easily replicated. She also dyes all her own fabrics and spends most of her summers dying fabrics at her home.
Bend in the Creek by Donna Cutler
On top of her unique fine craft work, Cutler also teaches and does commissions. To read more about this, check out her blog here. Cutler will be a Feature Artist at Anna Hergert’s Open Studio Workshop June 27th and 28th, 2014 and will be selling her work at at Art at Solar Gardens (previously Art at Agar's) in September. Cutler’s beautiful work is also for sale in the SCC Fine Craft Boutique. Please come visit and check it out!

Oceanic Experience Wellness Artist Program

Submitted by: Kimberly Murgu, SCC Festival and Curatorial Assistant

What is Oceanic Experience Wellness?

OEW is a sensory deprivation float tank facility that is located at 828 10th St. E. Saskatoon, SK. They opened their doors in the fall of 2012, and have been providing a space for deep creativity, healing and reflection ever since. They do this by providing you with sustained periods of weightlessness. Giving your mind, as well as your joints, muscles, and bones a rest.
Essentially, you enter a tank, and your body rests on a solution of water and 800 lbs of Epsom salts. The water is heated to 93.5*F, which is the same temperature as your skin. This causes your perception of the water begin to dissolve over a period of time. You are free from all the distractions of the outside world, as no sound, light or touch sensations can reach you.
What are the Benefits of floating?

When you no longer have to struggle against gravity, your body can easily enter a state of healing and rest. Many people find significant relief from chronic pain. With this greater potential to heal, your joints decompress, your spine lengthens, and blood flow is increased. Sufferers of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia have been known to have experienced dramatic relief from just one visit in the float tank.
We weren't designed for the fast paced environment we are exposed to every day. We are all in need of quick and easy ways to calm down our nervous systems, and the float tank provides this.
When you free your body from gravity and outside stressors, you can discover deeper levels of your own creativity and intelligence. Artists have found this to be a perfect place for inspiration.
What is the Visual Artists Program?
Float-inspired art by Shinichi Moriyama

The program is open to artists of all kinds, and provides you the opportunity to exchange your creativity, time and skill for the unique experience of the float tank.
If you are serious about your work, Oceanic Wellness will provide you with two free floats in exchange for a piece of artwork inspired by your experiences in the tank.
The first float will be 90 minutes in length, and you will have 24 hours to start your artwork. Your second float must be within two weeks of your first, and you can stay in the tank for as long as you wish. You then have 30 days to have your finished piece in to Oceanic Wellness.
How to apply
 Float-inspired art by Jared Morgan

Go onto the Oceanic website. Download the contract, and send some examples of your work with your application.
If selected, you are entered into the database, and every month, 10 artists are chosen from this list.
How to prepare for a float
Float-inspired art by Tia Davis
Don’t drink coffee for several hours beforehand
Don’t shave or wax, as the salt water can irritate your skin
Eat a light meal about an hour to 90 minutes ahead of time.
If needed, bring a hair brush, and your contact lens container.
Everything else is provided.

For more information, check out the OEW website, Facebook page, give them a call or even just stop by.
828 10th St. East, Saskatoon, Sk.
1 306 361 6446
Open 24 hrs a day

The Craft Factor - The Development of Craft Sales

Volume 9, number 2, Spring 1984

The SCC's annual summertime market is coming up later this month. On June 28th, the WaterFront Craft Art Market will be held in Kiwanis Park North (Spadina Cres. & 22nd St) from 10am-7pm. As we gear up for this exciting event, let's take a look back 30 years at the first SCC market to be held in Saskatoon.

In the spring of 1984, the SCC hosted Spring Winds, and for the Spring issue of The Craft Factor 1984, interviewer Michelle Heinemann spoke with market coordinator Sandra Ledingham about the new show.

Many of the reasons for holding a market remain true today, as do many of Sandra's tips for successful booth design.

Read the full article here

Join us for WaterFront on June 28th! Check out the Facebook page or the SCC website for more info.