Who am I?
I’m Sue McLeod. A ceramic artist, a candle maker, a ceramics studio technician and a digital marketing student. I have been making pottery out of my home studio in Victoria, BC since 2010. Hmmmm… who am I…?
What am I up to?
I currently work full time as the Ceramics Studio Technician at Cedar Hill Rec Centre. I love my new position and the opportunity to be around people who are as taken with the ceramics process as I am. This job has brought great positive change to my life and has given me the opportunity to step back from my business activities and properly assess my relationship with ceramics and the direction of my career without the pressure of sales.
I have recently started a Digital Marketing Certificate program at Camosun College and I will be taking a break from making pottery while I explore the world of blogging and social media. I have many new (ceramics related) project ideas and can’t wait to learn how to share them with the world.
Where did I study ceramics?
I graduated with honours and a diploma from the Clay Program at Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, BC in 2010. I also served as the clay studio technician at my college for my entire 2nd year. I recently completed an online Glaze Chemistry course through Alfred University that has sent me down the deep rabbit hole that is “understanding glaze chemistry”. I have been experimenting with glaze recipes since my 2nd year at KSA and I’m continuing to expand my knowledge of how glaze chemistry works by testing various recipes, trying to achieve certain effects and fixing glaze problems. I’m learning more and more each day and I’m grateful to have a job that tests my theories and knowledge of the ceramics process.
Over the past 5 years, since graduating from KSA I moved back to Victoria and have juggled various work schedules, working side jobs a couple days/week in order to have a small but steady income stream while I figured out how to run a craft business.
During that time, I have participated in various juried craft markets, including:
Circle Craft Christmas Market – Vancouver, BC – 2013 & 2014
Filberg Festival – Comox, BC – 2013 & 2014
Out of Hand Artisan Christmas Fair – Victoria, BC – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale – Toronto, Ontario – 2010
I was also juried into a couple of fine art shows like:
My pottery can currently be found in 1 physical location only and that’s:
Little Cricket Gift Gallery in Maple Ridge, Vancouver, BC
What am I most proud of?
I love to make whimsically elegant teapots that are full of character and personality. I see the teapot form as a 3 dimensional canvas for the ultimate creativity challenge. Sometimes I’ll sketch out a vision before I get started and other times I just go to town making various shapes and then selecting the parts that fit best together. One of my teapots, “O La Fuente” was published in Lark Crafts “500 Teapots – Volume 2,” juried by Jim Lawton. Page 257. This is a huge honour as the Lark Books 500 Series were a source of so much inspiration while I was in school. This very teapot was a product of flipping through the first 500 Teapots book multiple times, combined with a few craft history lessons, a little bit of Alice in Wonderland and an ounce of revenge… more on that when we get to know each other 😉
What? She makes candles too?
I started my artisan career as a soy candle maker in 2004. I used to make scented soy candles in recycled glass jars and wine glasses. I have now combined my candle making craft with my ceramic art to produce handmade, unique porcelain vessels that are then filled with unscented soy wax. I glaze the porcelain pieces in a cracked textured “lichen glaze” and the natural translucency of the porcelain allows the light of the burning candle to pass through, creating glowing patterns of light and shadows. I offer my local candle customers a soy wax refill service so the porcelain vessel may be enjoyed over and over. One very loyal customer actually flew across the country with her empty candle and I refilled it for her while she enjoyed her westcoast vacation. The other option to continue to enjoy your porcelain candle once the wax burns down is to use it to burn soy tealights. This way the flame sits low in the empty vessel, allowing it to fill with light, casting the brightest glow.
What have I learned?
Over the past 5 years, I have learned…
- that I work very well with structure and accountability.
- that running a craft business is hard and I’m not always the best at being my own structure and accountability boss.
- that making pots just to sell them wasn’t exactly fulfilling my love of the craft.
- that sales aren’t really my thing. Sales used to be my thing when I didn’t make the thing I was selling. But selling my art is a slightly awkward experience for me.
- that compliments make me shy
- that small talk feels phony and inauthentic. The weather… People love to talk about the weather because that’s what we all have in common.
- that I’d rather be sharing my knowledge and helping others become better at their craft than selling my art.
- that I still want to make pottery, but more for the learning experience (and the living experience) than for producing a product to earn a living from.
- that I’m a lifetime learner. If I feel I have mastered something, I’ll move on to the next thing. The journey beats the goal everytime. That’s the beauty of ceramics. I will never know everything, which is why I will likely be doing it forever.
I’m going to build (currently am building) an online resource to share what I’m learning with the rest of the ceramics world. A strong focus will be on ceramic glaze chemistry because that is where most of the fascinating mysteries lie and I am on a mission to demystify them. Stay tuned and watch as it all unfolds. Do you struggle with your glazes? I would love to hear from you. Email me and let me know what sorts of issues you’re having. If it’s something I can figure out, I’ll write a blog post about it!