An Instagram Story: Raku Pottery

Our summer Raku Pottery class kicked off this month and we thought it might be fun to show you what goes into a typical raku firing!

Raku pottery differs from regular pottery in that it introduces different variables (unique glazes, temperature, timing, etc.) combined with a harsh cooling and oxidation process to produce unpredictable yet dazzling results.

Pieces are glaze fired in our outdoor propane kiln to ensure we have lots of well-ventilated space to work with.

When the kiln reaches the desired temperature, we carefully remove the ceramic pieces with tongs and prepare to transfer them.

Our studio techs lower the piping hot pieces into a metal can lined with combustible materials such as newspaper or sawdust. Once the lid is closed, the fire burns without oxygen creating a reduction atmosphere. The reduction atmosphere is what causes some raku glazes to crackle and other glazes with metallic compounds to deepen and change colour.

Once the pieces are out of the can, our studio tech douses them with water to cool them down quickly and uniformly.

Steel wool is then used to scrub off the excess carbon revealing the different effects of fire and smoke!

A finished raku piece.

The unglazed lip of the vessel turns matte black due to its intake of carbon in the oxidation process. In contrast, the glazed areas produce soft metallic gradients of colour that give this vessel a character that is truly one of a kind!

For a full listing of our community courses for the spring/summer session, please visit us online at http://www.livingartscentre.ca/index.php/programs-and-educations/courses-and-workshops.html

The summer session of community courses starts on July 10 and the fall/winter session goes on sale July 1!

Day Five: Carolyne Topdjian

Carolyne Topdjian (BFA, MA, PhD) is an artist-educator whose art practice and interests explore the experience of both real and unreal bodies and identity politics. She has published on the photographs of Claude Cahun in the peer-reviewed journal, Resources in Feminist Research, and recently earned a PhD at York University for her research on aesthetic theory and the representation of the female body in contemporary art and visual culture.

Prior to joining the Arts Programming department at the Living Arts Centre, Topdjian worked at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, National Ballet of Canada, and Ottawa Art Gallery.  She also taught for several years in the Departments of Humanities and Social Sciences atYork University.

Topdjian is currently writing a novel and working on a new series of paintings that addresses the idealization of bodies and popular romance—a selection of which she exhibited at the Gladstone Hotel in February 2012.

Image credit:
Carolyne Topdjian
Contraction, Contradiction
Acrylic on canvas

Day Four: Cole Swanson

Cole Swanson is an artist and the Curator & Residency Program Coordinator at the Living Arts Centre,Mississauga. His painting practice is an investigation of indigenous techniques, regional histories, and cultural notoriety.

In 2007, he was declared a national fellowship winner through the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute for his study on miniature paintings in Jaipur, India. Swanson has exhibited his works in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, U.S., China, Taiwan, India, and Italy. He has also appeared on several exhibition juries and discussion panels in partnership with the Art Gallery of Mississauga, South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC), Sheridan Technical Institute, HumberCollege, Pearson International Airport, the University of  Toronto, and the University of Guelph. Recent publications include A Homespun Web (Living Arts Centre, Mississauga), Viktor Mitic: Rain Dance (Fourfront Editions, Toronto), and Rachael Wong: Flat Depth (Stride Gallery,Calgary). He is a candidate for the University of Toronto’s Masters of Art, Art History program; his research focus is on cross-cultural appropriation in the age of globalization.

Image credit:
Cole Swanson
Zipper Jump
Opaque watercolour on wasli paper

Day Three: Megan Press

Megan Press is a sculpture and installation artist whose practice deals with ideas of collecting, curating, and owning explored through assemblage and its various manifestations. She received her BFA with distinction from the University of Western Ontario in 2009, and completed her MFA at the University of Victoria, BC in 2011. Most recently, she was selected for the 2011 Windsor/Detroit Biennial at the Art Gallery of Windsor and exhibited in “Not for Sale” at the Forest City Gallery in London, ON. Other exhibitions include “I Can Do Better…” at the art LAB (London, ON); “Well it’s My Nipple Now”, a collaborative project at the Wright Lithography Building (London, ON); “Raw” at Deluge Contemporary Art (Victoria, BC); “Interim” at Xchanges Gallery (Victoria, BC); and “Grappling the Monster… and Shouting Pictures” at the University of Victoria. Press has taught an introductory course in Sculpture and Material Methods at the University of Victoria and has participated in the Government of Ontario’s Summer Experience Program at The Art Gallery of Hamilton. Currently, she works at the Living Arts Centre in the Arts Programming department as the Administrative and Program Assistant

Image credit:
Megan Press
Installation View: Grappling the Monster…and Shouting Pictures
Mixed Media

Day Two: C. Harben

C. Harben is an artist and educator who received her BFA from NSCAD University. She works primarily with textiles, sculpture, and photography to create site-specific works that investigate the ecology of the individual and social bodies in space. She has designed youth programs for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Oakville Galleries, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Living Arts Centre. Recently, her work has been published in No More Potlucks and exhibited at The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine and the Anna Leonowens Gallery in Halifax. Harben has also participated in a large-scale performance project by artist Annie Sprinkle, presented by SAW Gallery. She is the co-editor of Do You Read Me?, an anthology of zines and artworks by youth in Oakville and Toronto.

Image credit:
Cait Harben
photograph, site installation, hand-cut paper figures

Day One: Joel Alexander

Joel Alexander is a mixed-media artist with a strong background in glass sculpture. After working within Sheridan College’s Glass Program from 1997–2000, Alexander has participated in exhibitions across the continent including showcases at Scarone Hartley Gallery (Tampa Bay), Galerie Elena Lee (Montreal), University of Brooklyn (New York), and Lafrenier & Pai Gallery (Ottawa).

In 2003, Alexander was awarded Best Glass Award at the 42nd Annual Toronto Outdoor Exhibition. As an instructor, he has taught glassblowing techniques at Sheridan College, Haliburton School of the Arts, and Geisterblitz Studio inToronto. He has extensive studio-related technical experience and has been a central figure in the development and construction of the Glass studios at the Fireworks Studio, Kingston and at the Living Arts Centre, Mississauga.

Image credit:
Joel Alexander
Blown and sculpted glass, mixed media 2009

Decent Exposure: Introducing the Jury

With the upcoming submission deadline for our emerging artist exhibition Decent Exposure fast approaching – Friday, June 1st – we’d like to introduce you to the talented jury members that will be short-listing artists. Each juror is a member of the Living Arts Centre team and through their broad experiences brings a unique perspective to the process of judging. We’ll introduce you to a new member of the jury each day prior to the closing of submissions.

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES: An Interview with Mandy Hanafi, Ballroom Dance Instructor at the Living Arts Centre

LAC: Can you tell us a bit more about which Community Courses you teach at the Living Arts Centre? How long have you been teaching them?

Mandy Hanafi: I have been teaching the ballroom and Latin dance classes at the Living Arts Center for [nearly] ten years now. We have a basic beginner ballroom class, which consists of the waltz, tango, foxtrot and quickstep, and a beginner Latin dance class which includes the cha cha , jive, rumba and samba. I also teach a level one and level two salsa/mambo and merengue class every Sunday night. This spring, we will be starting a new line dance class in which I will teach the most popular and fun beginner to intermediate line dances.

LAC: Who do you find typically takes your classes? Is it only couples? The newly engaged looking to get ready for their big wedding day?

M.H: We have every type of person signing up—some as young as [teens], some well into their seventies and eighties. There are lots of couples coming to prepare for their wedding dance, and lots of couples who have children at home but would like an interesting evening out together doing something fun. Ballroom dancing is a sport that two people do together, so yes, most students come as couples, but, especially in the salsa class, there are a lot of things to learn individually so I would never discourage singles to come and try. As well, in our new line dance class it is all danced individually [with no partnering].

LAC: What can a student expect when they show up for one of your classes at the LAC?

M.H: They can expect to have a lot of fun! We learn a lot—four dances in ten weeks—but I repeat the basic information every week, which makes it easier to learn and to retain the information. Then we move on to a new step or pattern each class. I don’t try to overwhelm [students] with too many patterns, or too much technique . . . I try to make it a happy learning environment with lots of opportunities for the students to ask questions and review what we have done.

LAC: Is their a skill or two that every student ends up building after taking a course like Latin Dance?

M.H: Dancing is such a wonderful way to express ourselves, and most people in our society have opportunities to go out and dance at some point; either a Christmas party, or a wedding, or on a cruise , or even just around the backyard pool. I try to teach the most basic techniques and steps that will get people up and moving as quickly as possible. Being able to accomplish each dance well gives us such a wonderful feeling of confidence, and I usually see that happening about the third or forth week into the lessons. When we feel confident, we walk taller, and project ourselves so much better, and that is one of the best reasons to learn to dance. It really builds a person’s confidence and self esteem.

LAC: What’s your favourite style of ballroom dance, and why?

M.H: LOL; no favourites! They are all great. The ballroom [technique] is classic and elegant and brings out the graceful side of us. The Latin [technique] is fun and flirty and high energy, and the salsa is easy going, energetic and less technical so we can just let loose and enjoy it without worrying so much about how we look. All dancing is a beautiful opportunity to let our spirits loose and feel good about ourselves. The music inspires, and the dance lets us be part of it.

LAC: If you had to give a word of advice to those just starting out in ballroom dance, what would it be?

M.H: Approach it with on open mind and heart, and do not get discouraged. The first week, maybe two, is a bit tough because we are just getting to understand the basics of movement, but after that, it is all just pure fun. The challenge of learning is good for us!

LAC: Thank you Mandy!