This summer, potter Emma Smith is working on her biggest project yet. “I'm going to build a wood kiln,” says Smith. “We have a neighbour that's willing to put it on their property because it's huge and it takes a lot of space.” The artist frequently fires her work in a 60 cubic foot kiln, about 6-feet wide by 10-feet long with a large chimney.

Smith's first experience with a wood kiln was at Sheridan College where she studied ceramics. After Sheridan, she sought out other ceramic artists and joined them on firings. “I really love the process. In an electric kiln, you click start and it does its thing and 12 hours later you unload it,” says Emma. “In wood firing, it's a much more intimate experience.”

Emma spends up to 40 hours at firings to create her pottery ranging from cups to teapots, dishes, vases and serving pieces. Wood kilns are time-intensive and require someone to add wood every five minutes. “The process is much more hands-on which I really like,” says Smith. “You feel a lot more involved.”

Due to chemical reactions in the kiln, Smith can't predict what her finished products look like, so they are unique works of art.

Smith's solo exhibition runs from June 10 to July 26 at Port Dover's Gallery 23 at 23 Market Street West. Her work is also on display at The Guelph Potter's Market, June 11 and 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Royal City Park, 119 Gordon Street.

Emma keeps her pieces simple. When she makes a vase, it showcases flowers for their natural beauty. She illustrates pots with memories of her life or places she's been. “I translate those into two-dimensional images through maps, blueprints or actual building drawings,” she explains. Smith hopes that if she draws a fence, for example, it will remind someone of a special place or time, a nostalgic moment. 

When I decide I'd really like a nice water jug and it's something I feel is worth making, that's usually where my inspiration comes from. Pottery that will be used and shows off food well,” says Smith. “I really love food and cooking, so I make pots that don't really steal the show; they are support for the food.”

Emma enjoys commissioned projects because it personalizes her pottery. She created a set of diamond shaped plates used to serve devilled eggs at Hamilton's Two Black Sheep. Currently she is designing a dinnerware set for friends for her online wedding registry. Her custom work allows for client

“I've drawn cottages, homes, maps of special places on commissioned pieces to make it their own,” she says. “Some people ask me to make a piece with an image and for a long time I was putting my own house on pots,” she says. “People love the idea of an object that reflects a time or place in their lives, so I've had people draw their cottage, their home or a specific map of a place that's important to them.”

In December, Emma and her husband opened Black and Smith Country General in Jerseyville, where they live above the shop. They sell locally sourced products like foods, preserves and handmade housewares, tea towels, handbags, toys, pottery, locally roasted coffee, tea, and there's a small café. The store is Emma's dream, come true. On an exchange trip, Smith lived with a family in a small Thailand village. “They owned a convenience store and lived upstairs. I hadn't known there could be such happiness in a really simple life,” she says.  “It was a profound

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