Some tips, tricks, and my collection of cups and goblets.
Jonathan, a subscriber asked me to talk about how to apprehend ceramic, beyond appearances, and thus who choose your favorite piece when you visit a crafts market for example. I rather agree with Marie Kondo, who prescribes putting the joy factor as the first criterion to determine if objects deserve a place in our homes. I also believe that surrounding yourself with objects that brings joy helps you feel good at home. Well chosen objects that share our living spaces can help us to feel grounded, they inspire, comfort, and stimulate. What brings joy in an objet will be different for everyone; for a person it could be the design, for another it historical background, and for another it efficiency in fulfilling their functions perfectly. For a collector, rarity and singularity could be a main criterion too. For me, it's a bit of all that, but it's mostly emotion.
Does the object seduce me, touch my soul and stimulate my mind ... When I hold the object, do I feel something that prevents me from backing away empty-handed? I can’t always afford the items that touch me like that but if I didn’t buy it at the time it’ll run into my head afterwards. It is difficult to describe the emotions that an object provides ... It can be triggered by the effect of surprise: a materiality, a technique that I have never seen before ... It can be a sensory experience: the tactility, the comfort of handling, complex colors and textures ... Sometimes it is also the perfect balance between form and function that can make me choose a very classic or rustic mugs when I have a tendency towards all that is eccentric most of the time. Sometimes it is the artistic approach and the artist's statements through their craft, does the object intellectually ignite me, does its presence in my daily life awaken my mind, makes me think…
To answer Jonathan's question, what pushes me to buy a specific object more than an other one is a bit all that I mentioned previously, but there is always the question of money to take into account also. I can't afford all the things that perfectly match my (somewhat chaotic) selection system. On the other hand, even if I have a rather limited financial latitude, it is rarely the price that will influence my choice. I believe that we are conditioned to find things expensive or not expensive according to the average price in the same category: $ 60 may sound expensive for a mug when you can get some at 4 for 30$ in big box stores, but it's not that expensive for a restaurant outing. Maybe the mug can bring me more joy in the long run than going out to a restaurant. When I face an object that seems expensive to me, I always ask myself the question if would I be ready to spend the same amount for something mundane like a trip to the restaurant or the cinema? So I try to ignore my perceptions of what is expensive or not and I ask myself if this object really bring me something deep or is it superfluous? If it does (and if I can afford it that day of course), I’ll take it.
where can you find your next favorite cup?
Les Faiseurs is a great café / pottery school in Little Italy in Montreal that presents 3 different ceramic artists each season in its small gallery space. In the current context of the Covid-19, the café offers its products for take-out only and they have made more room to present ceramics in the unused sitting space. We can now discover a little more than fifteen different artists including myself but also Goye, Dompierre, Cybèle B.P., Nadi, Notakara, Camille Zurini, Pas Mon Style and many others. I highly recommend because it is one of the only places in Montreal where it is possible to have a tactile experience of the pieces since all non essential stores are closed to the public.
Otherwise, favor maker markets when possible! Ceramicists will be able to explain their work, and a better knowledge of the object will make you appreciate it even more. The small neighborhood markets are a great opportunity to discover beginner makers because the registration fees are generally more accessible, and otherwise 1001 pots and bigger annual craft shows are events where several professional ceramists participate every year. If you wish to have a complete set of dishes by a particular ceramicist, you can visit the show every year and after a few times you will have your complete set without having to break the piggy bank by buying everything at once.
In today's sanitary crisis, this is probably the best way to buy ceramic in my opinion
Online shops: There are several platforms to discover an array of artisans gathered under the same roof such as Signé Local, Chic et Basta, Fabrique 1840, Signé des Métiers d’arts and so on. The advantage of these platforms is that they sometimes have favorable shippings costs and that everything is gathered in the same place. You can buy a pepper grinder from a wood craftman and your ceramic cup in one transaction. However, these services have a high cost for artisans and I would recommend buying to them directly when possible.
Artists websites: Buying directly from artists' websites is the best thing you can do if you want to support their practice since it is where our fees are the lowest. However, if you don't know the artist, how will you find them? Several possibilities: on Instagram pay attention to the recommendations of your friends and follow certain hashtags such as #faitici #madeincanada #achatlocal #montrealmaker and so on. If you already follow a maker you like, take a look at the hashtags they use and follow them, there is a good chance that other craftsmen are using them as well and you will make great discoveries. You can also see who they follow, There are good chances that you will like some of the stuff that your favorite artists like.
Otherwise, there are Facebook groups centered around local buying where you can ask member for recommandation for specific products. I am on a couple but they are french speaking so I don’t have any to recommend to you but they exist for sure in english too, just make a quick search. :)
Etsy is also an option to consider; you can discover makers by typing keywords in the search bar but I find it rather difficult to go around when you are not sure what you are looking for since there are so many choices and that it goes in all directions… This is not where I would start personally.
cups and goblets that i use the most often in my collection:
Chawan Mie Ceramics.
The word Chawan means "tea bowl" in Japanese and kurinuki means a technique of hand building where the piece is carved from a solid block of clay. This cup is the last acquisition in my collection, it is the one I tend to grab most often these days! I am not a big tea consumer so I use it for my daily coffee. It is the perfect size for the coffee I make every day with my little espresso machine (1 double + 1 single, it's a kind of allonge but instead of adding hot water I make a second espresso without changing the beans.) The photo shows the level of coffee in the bowl: it would be difficult to make more perfect than that! I love everything about this goblet; its capacity, grip, the tactile qualities of the glazes (the white has a satin finish, neither shiny nor mat, almost waxed, and the frothy glaze has a texture similar to pieces of dried coral picked up on a beach, or volcanic rock) I also love its weight, a little heavier than the other pieces in my collection which I find comforting, grounding.
Gobelet Léa et Nicolas
have had this cup for 1 year, I bought it at 1001 pots during the summer of 2019. In this particular piece, the formal preciseness is fascinating. The lines, the angles, the perfectly smooth surface ... The technical aspects are impressive to me. And in contrast to the rigid qualities of the exterior, the interior is painted in a creamy white slip and we perceive the spontaneous and intuitive brushstrokes of the artist, who reminds us that despite the technical perfection at the level of industrial design productions, it's still a handmade piece. I love the red "terracotta" color of this Canadian sandstone which goes perfectly with the bright green of the matcha lattes that I make myself on occasion. This is my designated cup for this particular purpose.
Tasse Vanessa Villarreal
This magical mug with painted reliefs of hands and butterflies was my favorite for a little while. Unfortunately it broke (the side you don't see hehe). Since then I replaced it but I keep it all the same and I will put a little succulent plant in it soon. I like the second one I got just as much but because of it is a larger mug, it’s slightly less practical for me, so it is used less often. I use bigger mugs when I make herbal teas and broths which I consume more occasionally compared to my daily coffees. If you are in the very early stages of building your collection of mugs or you are more of the minimalist type, I would advise you to pay attention to the size: Think about what you consume most often and which format is best for your beverage of choice. I also wanted to raise the attention to the fact that ceramic breaks and it's normal. Ceramics has a reputation for being eternal, but accidents quickly happens and sometimes for fear of breaking your most loved cup, some will take them out only for special occasions ... I say NO to this habit! The value of our objets is the experience that we make of them. The objects as such are replaceable, If you don’t enjoy your purchases often, it is a waste of money in my opinion. So please don't let your favorite mug sleep in the back of a cupboard and use it!
Gobelet Cybèle B.P.
Did you know that I met Cybèle at ceramic school? I was in the cohort just after hers (including Marie-Ève Dompierre and Nadine Desmarais, and Isabelle Simard that you may know as well were also part of it) This cup is the oldest in my collection, Cybèle made it during the time she was still in school. Her production has changed a lot since then, but we still recognize the playfulness of the patterns and the organic texture with the fingerprints. It must have been 4-5 years that I have it and it is still in the fews pieces that I use the most often on a daily basis! The format is perfect for my daily coffee, and I love it’s tactile qualities. The small waves in the surface make it very comfortable to hold in the hand and keep it at comfortable temperature even when the beverages are super hot, the texture has an insulating effect. Besides that it perfectly meets my needs in it’s functionality, I find it so cute with confetti and small dots, and it makes me think of a little magic animal.
Chawan Isabelle Huot
This cup made by Isabelle Huot is very special because the surface colors are 100% created by the hazard of fire. YES YES! it's crazy, I know. Apart from the glaze splatter that you see in a satin creamy color glaze, the shades of pink, yellow, and darker dots appear on the surface of the bare ceramic surface (porcelain in this particular one) by the effects of flames touching the piece in the wood firing (we called that flashing) and the small dots come from particles of molten matter suspended in the air of the kiln which falls on the piece. I find this effects of chemistry ratter magical ! I love everything about this cup: the surface is the "star of the show" but I also like its shape, it’s capacity, it’s weight, and the very pleasant hold thanks to the foot that raises the piece so you can grip by the bottom.
Gobelet Ashley Bevington
I’ve been a really big fan of Ashley’s work for a really long time. Because of the exchange rate and the higher delivery costs to import, I rarely buy pottery from the United States but I faltered for this double face poodle cup (it has a happy side and a sad side) With the delivery and the exchange rate it came to about $100 but I have no regrets! I love this cup with love and he reminds me of my dog Morille, a black-blue curly princess. If you are considering adopting a poodle, I guarantee it will change you forever. You will start to find all the poodle things adorable and if you have collector tendencies like me you’ll want hem all. Before having my dog I found extravagant poople cuts very silly and stupid and now I think it’s really cute and when I cross an other poodle on the street I look back and awe , much like the owners of westfalias! (lol but it’s true). In short, this purchase was a splurge, but it gives me joy if not euphoria, and that is priceless.
Gobelet Nadi artiste céramiste
This red sandstone goblet has a magnificent glaze that recalls the foam of the waves on the sand and is applied in a way to create the silhouette of mountains. I do not know if you knew the attachment that I personally have with mountain landscapes, but if not now you do! (and you may also recognize them in my pieces.) Mountains calms me, they inspires me, and gives me a feeling of anchoring. And when the sea and the mountains meet, what could be more beautiful honestly? I can get lost in the landscape on the surface of this cup and transport myself in my travel memories... The generous roundness of the perfectly polished bottom marries the palm of the hand in a very comforting sensory experience. Nadine Desmarais is an excellent thrower and her pieces are very thin and delicate, which means that this is not my goblet of choice for everyday my coffee because it do not isolate the heat of the liquid very well, but it is perfect for delicate green and white teas that are brewed at low temperatures.
Tasse Simard Céramique
I am very very fond of Isabelle's work and I have several pieces in my collection. I tend to take this one less often than the other because my daily coffee comes to the edge of the rim and risks overflowing but I find it magnificent and I have one similar to this one (available on her shop) but lilac colored that I use for herbal teas. Isabelle's pieces are recognizable at first glance by their spontaneous, intuitive and colorful decors, composed of brush strokes, pencil lines and spatters. Her compositions of free hand geometric shapes recall the abstract drawings of children… I love the uninhibited and free qualities of the gesture, her drawings have a "feel good" quality that makes me cheerful. The textures of the clay pinched with the fingertips and the textile imprints give a very interesting tactile experience, a quality that I particularly appreciate as you know by now. I particularly like that Isabelle's cups are decorated on all surfaces too. Each sip of coffee reveals some of the patterns inside the piece.
So there you go, I hope I was able to give you some tips that will serve you and that it makes you want to start or to continue to build your own collection of ceramics. If you made fun discoveries recently, tell me! I would like to know, it may give me ideas for my own collection! And share the love of ceramic around you when you have the opportunity! The pleasure that comes from the ritual of making coffee every day in a cup that you love is happiness that I wish everyone! You deserve it!