Susan McKinnon is from Pictou, Nova Scotia. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2014. She currently lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The use of functional objects provides opportunities for memorable moments, whether it is a vase filled with freshly picked flowers, or a platter used to share a meal. These moments can stem from objects that become part of our daily routine, or items reserved for special occasions. Pots, like the people who use them, become characters stitched into the fabric of our lives.
My work is inspired by historic fashion, fabrics, patchwork and embroidery. I am captivated by the textures, patterns, and colours created through these crafts and their place within certain occasions. I also draw inspiration from ironwork found on fences and windows around houses. I collect and stitch together bits and pieces of these elements into my surface decoration becoming a mash-up of pattern elements typically reserved for domestic space. Some pieces are extravagant and loud, while others are quiet and subdued.
My pieces are first thrown on the potter’s wheel. Next, the pieces are altered using a combination of both slab and wheel thrown parts. When the work begins to stiffen up, I map out the patterns on each piece before delicately carving the patterns into the surface. Each piece is then hand painted with underglaze which is also applied to the recessed areas, while the excess is wiped away. After bisque firing, a wash of black underglaze is applied and wiped away. This step leaves a varied black finish in the low points of each object. Next, the inside of the vessels are glazed, and flashing slip is applied. Lastly, all of the decorated and slipped areas are protected by a coat of wax resist, in preparation for the pot’s final dip in glaze. Finally, the pieces are ready to be loaded into the soda kiln.
The soda firing process deposits a glassy residue on the work causing the surface to vary from matte to glossy. Soda ash is introduced into the atmosphere of the kiln at 1280C forming a sodium vapor inside of the kiln, which travels around the kiln depositing its glassy residue and toasty flashes. I create my forms with the firing process in mind, which allow for interesting surfaces to occur during the firiing process. The placement of each piece determines how much soda will be deposited on the pieces while the flames and the sodium vapor move around the kiln. The pieces that emerge from the kiln are often reminiscent of aging fabric items.
The Fabric of Our Lives (link to PDF)
Originally published in October 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly, pages 48-51. http://www.ceramicsmonthly.org. Copyright, The American Ceramic Society. Reprinted with permission.