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Sharpie

At the beginning of the summer my wonderful high school art teacher Liz Sharp aka “Sharpie” retired.  I was overjoyed to find out there was going to be a celebration for her!  It was so fantastic to see her and many other former teachers as well as my fellow class of 2004 art class friends!

It is a huge testament to what a fantastic teacher she was that so many of my classmates not only came back to celebrate her but how many of us are still involved in the arts.  In fact, there are more people from my high school art class are still involved in the arts than people from my graduating class at Sheridan.  Whether it be working with hot glass like me, silk screening some amazing products (check out Jen at Freshly Printed!), painting, teaching a university course about philosophy in art, working in theatre, or in tv and film, we are still at it.

Sharpie had a wall of pictures hanging in the classroom with students, check us all out as wee pups in 2004:

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and some of us again in 2016!

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So cheers to the woman who instilled in me the value of craftsmanship (we had to define it for every assignment we ever handed in!) pushed us all to be our very best, embraced the happy accidents and reminded us to take a mental health day every once in awhile.

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An Ode to a Suitcase

It probably seems silly to mourn an inanimate object, but here we are.  This suitcase not only served it's original purpose well by schlepping my things for visits to family in California, but also enjoyed a good trip to Pilchuck Glass School for my class with Jen Elek, and to Red Deer for my class with Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen.

After that, it spent years being my reliable transporter of show materials.  Until this summer, it has accompanied to every show (40+) I have ever done since I started doing this in 2008.  So many One of a Kind Shows, Toronto Outdoor Shows, Haliburton shows and so many others!

So rest easy Big Green, you can stop barfing plastic bits out of the hole in your back.  Your $5 thrift store replacement will perform gallantly in your stead.

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Haliburton Arts and Crafts Festival 2016

It's hard to believe that this year was my 7th year participating in this show.  On one hand, because it's crazy that I am been doing this for so long and on the other hand it means I'm getting old!  Maybe that explains why I accidentally set up my display backwards?

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We got some much-needed rain (thankfully after I was finished setting up) which yielded this beautiful view from Head Lake Park.  I wouldn't have seen this beautiful view if I wasn't hunting pokemon.  I had told myself I wasn't going to download the game until after this show, but that definitely didn't last mostly because I couldn't remember the last time one of my friends has asked me if I wanted to go outside and play.

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On Friday morning all the final details fall into place!  I even had time to go for a nice long swim in the lake to cool off before a long hot day.  I live for this lake on super hot days, and never hesitate to jump in when I'm getting a little too hot.  I'm probably known as "the girl in the bathing suit" but I'm okay with that.

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It was another weekend of interesting questions about my glass gummies.

Officially for the record: they are made of glass.  No, you cannot eat them.

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As I said, it was a scorcher of a weekend.  During periods where I wasn't able to sneak away from my booth to take a dip, this "cool towel" was a life saver!  They seem like one of those gimmicky impulse buys, but it worked wonders.

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I always love how these colours just pop when they are out in the sunshine!

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Turns out, not surprisingly, that when you actually remember to pack your jewellery busts, this part of your display looks way better!  Added bonus, when these colourful abstract pendants are displayed on these, fewer people assume they are turtles and try to turn them upside down.

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I rationed my candy well over the weekend, be proud.

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One of the highlights of the weekend was going to Highland Cinemas in Kinmount and seeing Ghostbusters!  Not only was the Ghostbuster reboot amazing (seriously, what is wrong with all the naysayers?) but this was the coolest little theatre I have ever been to.  There was tons of cool memorabilia including, appropriately enough, the Stay Puft Marshmallow man!

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Check out some of the cool old projectors on display!

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And just like that, another show was over.  Thankfully the weather cooled off just in time for tear down, nothing worse than the sun and heat beating down on you while you pack up.   Until next year Haliburton!

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Guelph Art of the Street 2016

Another year, another hilarious year at Art on the Street. This year I had the pleasure of being greeted by a local with a curtsey, I have to say that was an art show first for me.  I think, perhaps, that it is one of my favourite interactions I have ever had in all the years I have been doing this.  Not sure if it beats the woman who called me cuckoo though, I don't think anything will ever beat that.

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The weather could not have been more perfect. I was especially excited because I have never done this show where it wasn't scorching hot outside so it was quite a welcome change.  I didn't have to sit in the fountain to avoid heat stroke, I was even wearing my cardigan for most of the day.

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With weather that perfect, how could I not indulge in some small batch local ice cream from Bluewater Creamery? I can highly recommend the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla!

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Obviously, every art show needs a man on stilts in fluorescent yellow doing some juggling.   The entertainment and buskers were great this year, mostly because it didn't include the dude who I have nicknamed "banjo kazooie" for the unfortunate mix of instruments that he played (what I can only assume is music) on.

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One of the coolest parts of this show is that the artists get a swag bag!  Considering that lots of shows want artists to contribute to swag bags to be given away to visitors of the show, I think it's really rad that local Guelph businesses contribute stuff for the artists in the show instead.  Below is some of this year's great swag.  I am more excited than I should probably admit for the book of sticky notes.  Huge thank you to all the businesses that contributed!

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I'm off shortly to head up to Haliburton for the Arts & Crafts Festival.  It looks like it's going to be a beautiful weekend, if a little hot, but at least I have a lake to jump into!

Windsor Art in the Park 2016

First off, I want to get in the habit of writing posts after I do shows again. Since I mostly talk about shows in pictures, Instagram has kind of taken over this task but I shall endeavor to write up even quick posts all the same.

The first show of the sea son is always signaled by me forgetting at least one thing. I was about 15 minutes away from Windsor when I realized I forgot two of my tablecloths and my jewellery busts, oops!

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First step when arriving at the park: get super lost. It's always an adventure when I do a show for the first time. I am never quite sure what to expect and I will invariably have lots of questions such as: what is set up like? Do I have to schlep my things or can I drive right up to my booth? Thankfully setup was a breeze once I figured out where my booth was, I don't always have the best sense of direction.

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Naturally, the show started out with a marching band each day.

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The show was so busy, so much so that I could barely get away from my booth for quick breaks. Even the weather didn't deter people as the locals are familiar with the tradition that it rain during Art in the Park.

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Everything was fun and games until the wind decided to join us on Sunday. Mother Nature couldn't quite figure out what she wanted to do. Sunny? Rainy? Uber Windy? All of the above! This is how I spent much of Sunday afternoon:

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The wind also decided to pick up one of my displays and body slam it into the ground. It's okay wind, I wanted to spend a bunch of money buying new plexi glass anyway. No big deal.

Thank goodness for American friends that hopped over the border who not only brought me Red Vines, but also helped me tear down in the chaotic weather. I honestly don't know what I would have done without their help, though it probably would have involved tears and considerably more swearing.

Also a huge shout out to my amazing hosts in Windsor: Eva and Kris from Tsunami Glassworks. Behold one of the beautiful pieces in their showroom!

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International Shipping

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So, you want to send your work to America?  This post will chronicle my adventure with sending work to a gallery for an exhibition last year and the heroquest involved in receiving my work back.

First: Acceptance into the show! GREAT! Their email responses weren't very timely but I thought whatever it's fine, no big deal. Sending the work was mostly without incident. I had asked them to confirm receipt which they never did, but no news is good news so they must have received it just fine.

I knew they had a facebook page for the gallery so I asked if they were going to post pictures so that artists participating from abroad could see.  Eventually I received a response saying pictures would be up following the opening.  Cool, can't wait to see them.  The end of the show comes, still no pictures.  I follow up again, no answer but the pictures appear shortly after.

I ask about when the work will be shipped back to me, just hoping that it might arrive before the One of a Kind show.  I was fine in terms of stock, but it's always nice to know you have a bit extra.  No answer.  I sent a polite email following up.  This was the first time they explained the process of shipping and how it works, but they also sold a few things during the exhibition so they sent me money! So that was awesome and I could rest easy knowing my work was at least on its way back to me whether it be before during or after OOAK, didn't matter it was coming back.

Fast forward one month, still haven't received my work back.  I know customs and shipping takes awhile (especially during the holidays) but it definitely shouldn't take that long... I email again, and asked for tracking information.  No response.

I send another email, this time with a stern tone (or as I sometimes like to call it the "strongly worded email") demanding to know the status of this shipment and telling them my concern in potentially being out hundred of dollars worth of product that at this point I am assuming is tragically lost somewhere in the mail since I had assumed they had shipped it back to me like they told me they had a month prior.
The response I got was the second time they explained to me how the postal system works.  They also went on about how busy they were (join the club) and the time constraints in running a small business (preaching to the choir).  You would think someone who lectured this much might have actually sent the package when they said they were going to?  You would be wrong.  At this point over a month after they initially promised me it had been sent it, they still had it.  Meanwhile I had an Etsy order come in that day while I was at my day job and I made plans to pack it up and ship it out the same day!  Am I a business super star or what?

Pro tip! When you are this mad and you want to respond and get really angry, do the opposite.  My go-to is to write in the "I'm not mad... I'm just disappointed" tone.  In my email I expressed my disappointment and told them that they should be held accountable for telling me they would do something and then just not bothering to do it.  Not surprisingly, there was no response.

Fast forward one week: I get a delivery attempt notification which was delivered by our regular mail carrier not by someone attempting to deliver a package allegedly two days beforehand (but that's a whole other rant about Canada Post) he tells me that I owe $140.53 in customs charges on it.  It took me forever to even figure out what it would have been, did I order something I forgot about? Then the lightbulb went off...
On the advice of a super helpful and patient friend I called Canada Post who told me that I need to talk to the Canadian Border Services Agency.  So I called them, and they told me I needed to talk to Canada Post.
I called the gallery (instead of emailing, because we all know how quickly they would get back to me that way) I left a message asking about how they filled out their paperwork because there was obviously an error somewhere.   My super patient and helpful friend pointed out the problem: The paperwork on the package returning says "return to sender" what it should have said was "return to manufacturer"  I sent a quick email to the gallery pointing this out and so that other artists that deal with them can be spared this trouble in the future.  Are we at all shocked that they never replied to me?

Since it didn't seem like either of the agencies involved (Canada Post and CBSA) could do anything about it while the package was sitting waiting at the post office I went and picked it up.  At the post office I paid the ridiculous amount of money to get my own work back and then I had to file an appeal claim with CBSA.  I sent a copy of the original packing slip that I sent down with the work, a certificate or origin, a commercial invoice, and the paperwork that the gallery sent back with the mistake they made highlighted.
Fast forward again to the beginning of February and I get a random cheque from the government.  I thought "great, another HST rebate or something!" it wasn't until I saw the note on the back saying "Casual Refund" from CBSA that I realized what it was!

So the situation was finally resolved close to three months after it started.  Here are the lessons I have learned:

  •  If a business is bad with communication and email, don't deal with them.  Period.  It's almost never worth the trouble
  •  If you are sending work to another country, especially if it's for an exhibition where it will be returned to you make sure you have a commercial invoice prepared and be clear that the work is returning to the manufacturer and not "return to sender"
  • Friends are awesome (and super helpful and patient) and make beautiful work that you should check out here at Tsunami Glassworks

Commissions!

I'm finally getting a chance to get this post together!  Last year I got to work on so many fun commissions leading up to Christmas and I wanted to share them all in one post because I have never been so busy working on custom items.

A number of years ago I worked for a local glassblower named Paull Rodrigue and he has his own signature style. This work is beautiful (you should check it out on his website or visit his studio in Dundas!) but I was even more impressed with the custom work he did because it showed off just how skilled and talented he is with the material. This is something I have always strived towards in my own work and I was so happy to stretch my creative legs and work on all these fun custom projects.

It started with and Etsy order for some peachy worms.  It's sometimes fun to make an existing product in another colour.  For me, I have to alter my process slightly when I do this, especially with worms, because of the different ways that different colours of glass heat and flow.

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Then a coworker wanted matching earrings and a necklace for his girlfriend? No problem!

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Then a friend asked: can you make my mom's fat cats? Of course I can!

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Look at how cute Abbey is getting acquainted with her tiny likeness in glass:

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Then I had an amazing client, the kind we all dream about. Someone who appreciates your work and your style and gives you the kind of creative freedom we all hope to have (but often don't get) with custom work. Obviously, there were lots of conversations that transpired about colour preferences along with the style and function of the pieces but other than that I had complete freedom!

So I made another butterfly set in this juicy purple

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I had so much fun making this elephant:

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She needed some teacher's gifts so I made these cute apples.  I ended up having so much fun making them that I made a bunch more for the One of a Kind show as well where they were also a hit.

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Same thing with the minions, I had this limited edition of 10 for the show and people loved them.

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Lastly, she couldn't get all this other jewellery without treating herself as well!

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My Process

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This is where the magic happens here on a Nortel Red Max torch at @Orange Glow Glass Co made right here in Canada!

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The glass that I use comes in a wide array of beautiful colours.  Typically they are in rods about the thickness of a pen or a pencil.  For a lot of my work I need to draw them down into smaller rods known as stringer, this allows me to achieve greater detail in my beads.  Also pictured are my 5 go to tools: my striker for lighting the torch, my mashers, my brass stump shaper, my tweezers (which are the best for gummy worm tails) and my absolute favourite: my little spatula which is wonderful for small details!

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Hyperlapse videos are my favourite way to show the process and also apparently all the funny faces I make when I’m working.  Click HERE to check out my Youtube video of a pink gummy bear being made at turbo speed! As you can see I don’t use any mold in my work.  It’s important to me that every piece is one of a kind and I like the subtle differences in each piece.

The fun doesn’t stop once the beads are away in the kiln though.  After I get them out there are still many steps to be completed until they are finished.  After a nice soak in some warm water the first step is to remove the beads from the mandrels.  Is it a surprise to anyone that I soak my beads in an old marshmallow fluff container? Some of the beads slide right off, others are stubborn and need some coaxing.

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This next step is a pain, but a necessary evil for a flameworker: dremelling. This removes the bead release from the hole of your bead.  Bead release is a clay body that you dip your mandrels in before starting work at the torch; it’s what allows you to remove your bead from the mandrel afterwards – because otherwise hot glass sticks to hot metal and you will never get it off!  These diamond bits for the dremel make quick work of it though. What’s the best way to get through this stage?  Throw on some high energy tunes so you can have a little dance party between beads!

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Ever wonder how my glass candy gets that matte finish?  This might be the most important step of all: acid etching.  Safety is a priority at this stage so I make sure I have my respirator, safety glasses and my nitrile gloves.   The acid bath that I use can be reused over and over until it finally loses its potency.  This little bottle is relatively new so it can get the job done in 20-30 minutes.  Every 10 minutes or so I come and shake things up a little bit just to make sure that all areas on the beads will be etched.

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After a quick soak in a neutralizing bath made up of water and baking soda, these guys get a good scrub with some dish soap.  Once they are clean and dry you can see the beautiful velvety finish that the acid gives them.

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The smaller gummy bears are destined to be little dangly earrings.  I only use sterling silver for my earrings.  As someone with metal sensitivities, I know how frustrating it is to fall in love with a pair of earrings and then find out I can’t wear them.  Plus I want to be able to wear my own jewellery!

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In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I love candy.  I never go too far without some inspiration around

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The final step in the process: packaging.  All the packaging is designed by me – because I have to put my photoshop skills to good use somewhere!  Also included is the important warning not to eat my glass work, it might look real but please don’t eat it!

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Etsy Made in Canada 2015

I cannot believe it's been more than a month since the Etsy Made in Canada show!  I figure it's about time that I post some pictures from that fun show.  There were so many talented vendors there, I was blown away by the quality of work everyone brought so a big bravo to the jury who curated such an amazing group of artists.

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I had to redesign my display a little bit - partly looking ahead to OOAK, and partly just to adjust to only having a 6 foot table - and I'm so happy with how it turned out.  

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For the most part, it was so busy I didn't get much of a chance to walk around (only a quick job through early in the day) But despite that I still had a chance to catch up with friends and make some new ones as well!

Oh and it wouldn't be a show in Toronto without being stuck in traffic on the Gardiner on the way home.

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