Music Library: Lake House Mix

Oct 20, 2015

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Sunlight glitters off of the post glacial lake, filtering through the weathered spruce trees along the rocky shore, and bathes the crisp timber frame and glass architecture. We’re soaking up the beautiful atmosphere of a modern cabin filled with luxurious furniture,  secluded within the rugged landscape of the Canadian Shield.

 

01. Raining Patterns – CFCF

02. Monkey Tree – Mother Mother

03. Uptown Top Ranking – Althea and Donna

04. Do What You Wanna Do – Acid House Kings

05. Sing Me Spanish Techno – The New Pornographers

06. Alfa Beach – Com Truise

07. Sun Daze – Florida Georgia Line

08. Street Trash – Tobacco

09. High Roller – The Crystal Method

10. Hold Out – Washed Out

11. No End – Low

12. Islands in the Stream (with Constantines) – Feist

 

Mud + Stone

Oct 8, 2015

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The day is warm and humid with an overcast glare of cool grey light. Lynne waits to greet me on the steps of her quaint two-story north Winnipeg home. I walk up the crisply detailed wood and steel stairway (which Lynne designed and had custom fabricated) and into the warm oaky glow of the main floor.  As one half of the ceramics duo Mud + Stone, Lynne literally takes her work home with her. The cozy living room space of her house has comfortable furniture and minimal accents, yet also doubles as a pottery showroom with tidy white industrial shelves displaying rows of the elegant and pragmatic pieces that Mud + Stone have gained attention for. Production takes place in the dining room, where a potter’s wheel and tools sit ready, and the electric kiln used to fire all their work is downstairs. The other half of the partnership, Jen, arrives at the house a few minutes later, along with her months old baby Bo, sleeping soundly in a carrier. Lynne brings me strong coffee in wide black Mud + Stone mug as I browse around the space. I’ve been looking forward to visiting this pair of makers since first handling some of the pieces they graciously provided EQ3 for our Fall-Winter 2015/16 catalog shoot. Mud + Stone ceramics fuse a modern industrial design aesthetic with a charming handmade execution. The crisp clean lines and generous form of the coffee mug Lynne brought me are embellished with an ergonomic thumb-dented side and a simple oversized handle. It’s finished in a striking matte black glaze, one of many they’ve developed themselves. A really nice example of design and craft together.

 

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While the pair has only been working professionally as Mud + Stone for about a year and a half, their partnership solidified quickly, and they wasted no time establishing their presence. Besides selling ceramics from their home studio and their Etsy site, they are also stocked in a variety of keen independent shops around Winnipeg, and as far away as Ontario. Their work is used for service at Winnipeg fine dining establishments Deer & Almond and Sydney’s at the forks and has been featured in various culinary magazines, the Globe and Mail, and on the Food Network. Mud + Stone have built a niche for themselves making sleek design-savy objects with a humble approach. Lynne and Jen are responsible for the entire process, including collaborating on everything from concept, to throwing, finishing, and distribution. The results are straight forwardly pragmatic pieces, fused with subtle craftsmanship and ergonomic awareness, void of any sort of preciousness. Soon Lynne is holding little Bo so that Jen can demonstrate her skills on the wheel, deftly turning three nice bowls from lumps while I watch. It’s practical and pastoral at the same- creating craft objects and caring for family in an intimate residential setting. After Jen finishes at the wheel and sets the bowls to dry, we spend some more time drinking coffee and chatting about craft, design and small business.

 

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BB: What is it about ceramics that draws you to the medium?

 

M+S: It’s a magical thing to be able to take a lump of clay and turn it into a completely different form that is an entirely new material (stone).  Additionally the process of being able to see an idea through, start to finish and have a hand in each and every step is extremely rewarding.

 

BB: Do you each bring different skills and strengths to the partnership?

 

M+S: As individuals we have skill sets that compliment one another- Jenn has a background as a silversmith, is amazing with details, brings discipline with the cash, and is a perfectionist when it comes to throwing.  She also is incredible with sales and is way more social which is critical in getting us out of our studios and into stores.  Lynne has a background in design and architecture and she brings that skill set to the wheel. She deals with our graphics, branding, and merchandising. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, to further expand your ideas and to help refine concepts with.  Pottery can be an extremely isolating medium when it’s just you and the wheel. Even through we have our own studios we are in constant communication thought the day, sending each other pics of what we are making and sharing ideas.

 

BB: The bird feeders are great, can you talk about the creation of this series?

 

M+S: Thanks! The feeders actually were one of the first things that we started making as Mud + Stone.  The idea stemmed back a couple of years to when we were students and wanted to learn how to make closed forms. We had seen feeders made out of plastic and figured it’d be fun to make them in ceramic.  It is an ever evolving series, as each one can have a unique form- the possibilities for restyling is limitless and we are working towards a few new styles for fall.

 

BB: You mention on your website the importance of producing long lasting functional objects. Are you ever tempted to make ceramic sculpture that has no practical function? Why pursue functionality?

 

M+S: We are both pretty minimalist, generally speaking, and don’t have much in the way of stuff that has no purpose in our homes.  So we tend to prefer functional pottery. When you are making something that you know will outlast you (and generations to come), it makes it that much more important for it to be useful and not end up as a throw away object.   We can’t say that we will never make things without clear purpose, but we really  love the aspect of creating objects that are meant to be used and abused everyday, not those that collect dust and people are afraid to touch.

 

BB: You also make it clear that you cannot compete with the price of products made overseas, and you invite people into you studio to check out your process. Do you feel like you often have to educate people about the inherent value and time you’ve invested, or defend your prices?

 

M+S: The average piece of pottery is handled by the person making it between 15-25 times.  Quite often people will see pottery being thrown (the movie ghost is referenced by nearly everyone as the only pottery process they know which is funny) and think that it’s finished. It’s more about sharing the process than defending our prices. We hope that our products will stand out as being worth what we are asking and have had less and less of an issue with this since the initial loaf of bread for a mug trade.

 

BB: Do you have contemporary and/or historic influences?

 

M+S: It’s hard to pinpoint specific influences. Lynne’s background in design means a draw to industrial/furniture designers ( Eileen Gray and Eames have always been faves). Lately it seems that what’s informing our work is the exploration of materials ( metal, wood, leather etc) as they relate to ceramics. We are playing with how they can be used to create new functional ceramic works. Current contemporary faves are @raffeallaceramics and @sarahpikepottery and we seem to have a similar aesthetic and vibe to a quite few Australian ceramists which has been fun to discover. We tend to look outside of the ceramic world for inspiration.

 

BB: What is the ceramic community like in Winnipeg?

 

M+S: There is definitely a strong ceramic community in the city. We see a lot of potters encouraging and supporting each other in their work.

 

BB: Your pieces are used at local fine dining restaurants. How does food and drink influence your practice?

 

M+S: Collaborating with some top shelf chefs has been such an amazing creative challenge for us. Making restaurant ware adds another layer onto the design challenge. It’s one thing to make a beautiful plate, it’s a different task entirely to make a plate that looks as good with food on it as it does when the dish had been eaten.  We meet with the chefs to determine some of the dishes they are working on for the plate or bowl and then work backwards from there.  We know how they intend to use it and are always blown away by how what we do can inform how the plate is used. There is somewhat of a cycle- their work informs our ceramics and then our work informs their plating.   It’s so amazing and keeps us fresh and creatively challenged.  We are also always thinking of the end user- lip feel, how the item sounds when you cut on it, how a mug rests in your hand when you hold it a variety of ways.  We have had feedback from servers that people will clear the plate then pick it up and look at it.  It’s delightful to know that we have done our job in creating something durable, functional and beautiful.

 

BB: Thanks for everything Mud + Stone, we are so pleased to have your work in our Fall-Winter 2015/16 catalog!

Kenneth Lavallee

Jun 2, 2015

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I first became aware of Winnipeg artist Kenneth Lavallee through seeing his prints displayed at Parlour Coffee on Main street a few years ago. Featuring a pair of half-human half-owl figures that seemed to dance or commiserate with one another, the work was executed in a folksy yet elegant style that drew me in. Since then, I’ve become more familiar with Lavallee’s ouvre, admiring the sweet draftsmanship of his line and the richly harmonic colour palette that he bathes his paintings, murals, prints and graphic design work in. Though he always seems relaxed and at ease, he’s been busy with commissions since having a solo exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery in April of 2014. As of late, he has captured the imagination of Winnipeggers with his proposal to enrobe an entire run down building on north Main Street in a bold star blanket-like mural. I visited Lavallee at his studio in Winnipeg’s Exchange District recently, and had a chance to talk with him about his approach to art and catch a glimpse of his new work in progress.

 

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BB: What makes you a good painter?

 

KL: I don’t know if I am a good painter, but I have ideas as an artist that are best done through painting. Like this latest Main Street idea, I’ve always been dreaming and envisioning things that could be, you know, I want my city to shine and look good. I don’t know if I could trust someone else to do it, so I’ve just got to figure things out and do it trial by fire. I think that’s what I’ve been doing the last little while as an artist.

 

BB: How do know when a painting is working then? How do you judge it?

 

KL: I’ve had these canvases for a month now, they’re all primed up. This is my favorite part of the creative process, this blank slate, picturing all these different possibilities. But then, there comes a point where just you have to put the brush to it, you know, time to go. Once I start making marks it feels good, and something happens. Making decisions and having to just go with it, and trust yourself. But the thing is, I’ve found that if I stop and take a break from it, maybe come back to it a week later, some of the magic can be gone. You’ve got to keep on it sometimes. I’ve had some past work that just kind of dragged on, became like a chore almost. The spark was gone. But, then sometimes if you sit on it and leave for a while, a month or two months, that spark can come back! I’m looking at some of these ones over here and I’m not over them yet, but I’m not ready to go back. There’s still something there.

 

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BB: Do you like working on multiple pieces at the same time?

 

KL: Yes! That’s the best part about a studio. That’s all I wanted. Before this I just worked in my bedroom, on one piece at a time start to finish. It’s hard to develop that way I think, just one thing at a time. To have the space and lay everything out, and see so much at once is good. I want to build up a body of work rather than working with commissions and one-offs. It’s much more exciting and fun to work on things where you don’t know where they’re going, and work on a bunch of things at once.

 

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BB: Is it important for you to show in galleries; is it part of your strategy?

 

KL: The Kelowna thing (his solo exhibition “Man and Nature” at the Kelowna Art Gallery in 2014, curated by Jenny Western), that was cool, super important for sure. But I haven’t had too much luck with galleries. That was a big break. Every other gallery I’ve shown at has been a friend’s vacant warehouse, just some walls. And just friends would come over, not really clientele. But, I want to have another show this summer, and I think I’ll just do it here, just clear it out you know? I have a gallery here! It’s nice to get those legit gallery fees though! I’ll have my retrospective at the WAG, but just keep hustling on Selkirk and Main street.

 

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The Bush, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.8 cm) Featured in the Lavallee’s exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery in 2014.

 

BB: You’ve done murals and paintings on buildings. Is there some relationship between painting and architecture that you’re interested in?

 

KL: Downtown Winnipeg is funny, you know, it’s been compared to a mouth with a bunch of teeth missing, right? All these things we’ve torn down and we’re left with these giant, beautiful blank canvases that are just begging for something! Who wants to stare at a giant wall of just dirty bricks? They get the most beautiful sunlight and we could add so much! I’m just trying to work around Winnipeg, fill in the cracks. I’ll walk around for three hours some days like, I want that wall, and that wall, and that wall… I have plans for sure. But, I don’t want to paint on historical heritage buildings. It started with Deer & Almond, with a crumby cinderblock wall. I was like, let me just throw some paint up there! Even that was tough though, with the owner, who thought it was good as is.

 

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Solar System (2013) Outdoor mural commissioned by deer + almond restaurant for Nuit Blanche 2013.

 

BB: People are hesitant?

 

KL: So hesitant! In the exchange anyway, they want to preserve it for the film industry. But, you can’t live in the past, a hundred years ago, forever. There comes a point where you have to move on, life is for the living! A hundred years ago they used to paint on the walls, now we’re just watching it crumble. Why can’t we just keep painting on the walls and have it for another hundred years?

 

BB: Hard edge and colour seem to be major aspects of your style, is that accurate? What other elements inform your work?

 

KL: Hard edge and colour are pretty accurate. I think right after high school my goal for post secondary was to study graphic design. I’ve always loved good design, good clean design. I think my favorite book is that Book of American Trademarks. It’s a bunch of super clean logos, so beautiful you know, black and white. I’ve always had a huge interest in well-designed things. I learned Photoshop at a young age, I designed my own websites…

 

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BB: So a big part of painting for you is the design?

 

KL: Oh for sure, and murals, designing a cityscape. I got called out a lot in art school for my paintings. During crits not much would be said, or that the paintings just looked like graphic design. They’d dismiss it as just graphic design, or something lesser. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know.

 

BB: What are the challenges of working as a full time painter? It’s a pretty romantic job but what are the…

 

KL: The realities? Uh, having no money ever! Sacrificing all fun, going out, eating out, even paying rent. Not everyone could do it I don’t think. And it’s like, what am I doing? There is a lot of doubt when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, but when you’re at your lowest good gigs come, or something sells. So, it’s a rocky road, but I know I’m going to a good place. You’ve got to do your time. I’ve got this beautiful view of all these old buildings, this nice roof top where I can sketch in the sun at the foot of the TD building where everyone’s in suits, and board meetings. I like that! That is super romantic. I’m a millionaire for how happy and content I am with my days, I’m my own boss. I get to explore my brain and my skill and people respond well so it’s nice.

 

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BB: How is your style evolving? What connects your new body of work?

 

KL: I can for sure see the journey. Ever since the Kelowna show, I’ve had to think about why or what I make art about and what am I doing. And I’ve realized that a lot of it has to do with just where I am, my environment. So I’m still painting these plants in my bedroom, or the flowers at Natalie’s place, just things I see. It’s all still a journal of my life right now, snapshots. It’s all I know.

 

Music Library: MELT

Mar 20, 2015

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PLAYLIST 03.24.2015

 

A playlist to ease us into spring thaw, as our icy landscape liquefies in the sun’s heat.

 

MELT

01. Subliminal Message – Happy Birthday Happy Birthday

02. She Heightened Everything – Pernice Brothers The World Won’t End

03. Beautiful – Alva Star Alligators in the Lobby

04. Change The Sheets – Kathleen Edwards Voyageur

05. Breaking The Ice – Mojave 3 Puzzles Like You

06. Daisy Glaze – Big Star #1 Record/Radio City

07. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala Lonerism

08. Fire On The Mountain – Grateful Dead The Very Best Of Grateful Dead

09. Soft N Ez – Japancakes The Sleepy Strange

10. Claire – Rheostatics Introducing Happiness

11. Kill The Fun – Haley Bonar Last War

12. Start Again – Teenage Fanclub Songs From Northern Britain

13. Little Sparrows – The Handsome Family Honey Moon

14. Brighter! – Cass McCombs Big Wheel And Others

15. The New You – Jenny Lewis The Voyager

Winter Sauna

Dec 30, 2014

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While I grew up on the Canadian prairie, my family always celebrated the Scandinavian connection we had through my grandfather. His parents were immigrants from Scandinavia, and as their great-grandson I can’t speak any Scandinavian languages, but more and more I identify with their culture.  I feel as if my Scandinavian heritage has predisposed me towards saunas. I have always liked them. Whenever I am breathing in the hot fragrant air of a sauna, the combination of wood, fire, smoke and steam elicits a cerebral response in me and I can tell that this experience is imprinted somewhere way back in my psyche.

 

Residing in Winnipeg, a city which reaches winter temperatures that easily classify it as one of the coldest urban centres in the world, I’m a little envious of other Nordic countries like Finland where saunas are part of the everyday culture. What a powerful way to nullify the cold and embrace winter’s elements. As a designer, I’m attracted to the structures and spaces that make up the Finnish sauna experience too. Rough-hewn timber architecture, wood burning stoves, red hot stones, and rustic wooden furniture all create a primal yet sophisticated atmosphere. A cosmic, centuries-old spa treatment that always feels fresh and invigorating.

 

Winter sauna

 

Lately I’ve fantasized about the saunas my ancestors may have used. I imagine walking out through the snow towards my own savusauna early one frigid winter morning. The icy wind howls through my bathrobe, but I don’t mind because I know it’s only a few more steps away to the warmth of the sauna. Hot air welcomes me as soon as I step inside the timber cabin where the temperature is almost ninety degrees Celsius.  A large stack of rocks held above the woodstove is heated to glowing hot and a ladle of water from the bucket instantly sends a plume of steam rising from the rocks towards the ceiling. A few more ladles and the room is completely filled and cloudy. Sitting back on the wooden bench I inhale hot humid air and bathe in the steam.

 

Savusauna

 

After resting a while, I gently swat my back and legs using boughs of birch, a strange seeming gesture but I can feel built up tension in my muscles easing. The birch vahti also gives off a refreshing woody fragrance that adds another dimension to the bouquet of natural aromas in the cabin. The heat is almost overwhelming.  Moisture covers me, and my head and lungs seem steam saturated. I rise off the bench, and feeling slightly light headed, I steady myself for the bracing cold of the lake water dip that comes next.

 

Vihta

 

Uimareita varten tehty avanto jäällä.

Avanto

 

I hastily exit the savusauna and make a direct path towards the dark mouth of the avanto, a hole cut through the ice. Without hesitating, I plunge feet first into the super-chilled lake water and a collision of burning and tingling sensations electrify my body. I wait, bobbing in the dark water for a few moments to savour the dual sensations of warm inner core and icy skin surface. Bursting back up through the water’s surface I waste little time in grabbing my robe and towel while scrambling through the blowing snow back to my family’s farmhouse.

 

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Piirakka

 

Sitting by the crackling fireplace, I sip on chilled low-proof kalja and savour pork sausages and piirakk with crispy rye crusts. Through design and architecture systems which humans perfected centuries ago, the sauna’s confluence of fire, steam, heat and ice somehow transports me to a different mind space. Winter is lovely.

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