Harlan House

It was many decades ago that I met Harlan House.  Within the decade, I was fortunate enough to have spent some time with him and Maureen at their home in Lonsdale.  Harlan has always been there when a question needed to be answered.  So this weekend is kind of bittersweet.  It would have been the weekend that Harlan would have had his annual open house exhibition and sale.  It is the day that I have received my copy of his book, My Work, My Way.  Fifty Years in the Studio.  

Harlan once told me that one of the things he admired about Bert Borch, one of his instructors at ACAD, was that he wrote his glaze recipes on the board.  Anyone could use them; they would never be the same.  Nothing was a secret!  Harlan has already posted his book online for anyone to download.  If you haven’t found it, check it out.  Just Google Harlan House.  It is full of all of the recipes that he used over the years with images of his work from the very beginning in Calgary.  My fondness is for Harlan’s sense of humour.  It comes out in his work as do a myriad of influences that he discusses throughout the text.

In a world of excess, some have a desire for sustainability.  Harlan was way ahead of the game.  If you were to tour his studio, you would be able to see the old Electrolux vacuum cleaner that he used to spray glaze on his ware.  He maximised the use of stainless steel milk containers (being disposed of by a local dairy farmer) to mix up his slip, and his kiln was, the last time I was there, the original from forty years ago.  Harlan believed in treating everything around him with gentleness and love.  That gas kiln was fired for five days, slowly.  It lasted.  There is something to learn there!  I am pretty confident that one of the two Shimpo wheels in his studio was at least forty years old.  Harlan and Maureen lived in the slow lane, enjoying their family, their garden, and the life that Harlan’s creations gave them.

IMG_5019

Harlan is famous for his beautiful celadon porcelain and his ‘Iris’ pots.  He once gave a workshop at Pinecroft Studios (arranged by his good friend, Tony Clennell).  There he demonstrated how he applied the slip which, itself, resembled marshmallow cream.  Tools were, I suspect, rarely purchased.  Instead, ordinary objects found a home by his wheel.  This included a stainless steel bicycle spoke (note that stainless steel should not rust and hurt the beautiful white clay) that was used for a lot of things including levelling the edges of the wide rim platters when they decided to curl upwards.

Always ready to move on to something new once he has mastered a form, Harlan not only used the smoothy shiny Chinese glazes but worked on a series that resembled barnacles, the Morgan.

The one below is the GW Bush aircraft carrier single flower boat with one dim candle on board!  I told you he had a seriously funny sense of humour especially when it comes to ignorant politicians.

img_5021.jpg

For anyone considering ceramics, you should take a page out of Harlan House’s playbook – be patient.  Porcelain taught him to be patient.  He once advised me to tell my students that if they wanted to work with porcelain, they needed to learn how to trim, and they needed to like trimming.  He would also add that recycling the clay that was left from the trimming is a must.  I cannot think of any better advice to give to everyone working with clay, regardless of the type.

Many people – collectors, friends, curators, gallery owners, and locals – will miss Maureen’s cookies this weekend.  Harlan hasn’t quit working.  He just isn’t keeping a regular schedule.  Check out his website, read his book, look at his work – it is delightful.

‘The Bob Show’ needs you. Are you a former student of Bob Archambeau? Do you know someone who was?

2018 marks 50 years that Robert (Bob) Archambeau has been with the School of Art.  On November 28, a small exhibition of his work in celebration of his teaching and mentorship will open at the School of Art Gallery.

How can you help?  If you are a former student of Bob’s or you know someone who was, please contact me.  I am looking for stories, rememberings, and reflections on Bob as a teacher, mentor, and artist.  These will appear in the catalogue and on the walls of the gallery.

I am also looking for historic work and photographs.  Again, if you have photographs or work you could loan, please get in contact.  The School of Art Gallery is a class A gallery and the work is insured!

e-mail:  maryannsteggles@icloud.com    OR   maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

Thanks!

Canadian Ceramics Community is saddened by the loss of Jack Sures on May 12

Jack Sures had a strong connection with Manitoba.  Born in Brandon in 1934, he started studying painting and printmaking at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art in 1954, when it was located downtown.  After transferring to the  University of Michigan and travelling to Europe and the Middle East, the young artist returned to Winnipeg to set up Jack Sures’s Studio on Portage Avenue in 1962.  The late Charlie Scott said that ‘Sures ushered in the modern era of pottery making in the City’.  This was, as far as Scott knew, the first independent ceramics studio in the City.  It attracted other talents such as Tam Irving, Anne Marie Schmidt-Eisler (later to study with Harlan House under Albert Borch in Alberta), Muriel Guest, Jason Krpan and Gerry Tillapaugh.  In 1965, the University of Regina attracted the talented artist and passionate teacher to lead up their ceramics programme.  Sures retired from teaching in 1989.

Timothy Long in the exhibition catalogue for Fine Form, Saskatchewan Ceramics stated: ‘In the post-war period, pottery gained substantially in status, moving from a cottage industry to a subject of academic study. Leading the way in Saskatchewan was Jack Sures (Regina), who established the ceramics program at the University of Regina in 1965. Sures advocated that ceramics be considered an art form on par with painting and sculpture.’

Sures used all of his talents when he created works of sculpture, ceramic murals, vessels and tiles.  He gathered up the influences of his studies abroad to add to his personal expression onto the surface of the clay and its form.  Sures exhibited his work internationally and for his talents was recognized by his being awarded the Order of Canada (Companion) in 1991, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2003, the Commemorative Medal of the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada for his significant achievement in the Arts, as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.  More recently he was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Excellence (2018).

For Sures clay was the most expressive artistic medium.  Throughout his life, he remained fascinated with the way that the medium could reinvent itself.  For this sculptor and vessel maker, throwing at the wheel was soothing for his soul.  Sures often said that the richness of one’s life and spirit is reflected in their work and in turn, transferred to the viewer.  Sures will be sadly missed.

Fired Up! Victoria, BC May 25-27

More than three decades ago, the late Robin Hopper and his partner,  Judi Dyelle, envisioned an event that would showcase the best of British Columbia ceramics on one site for an event packed weekend.  During these 32 years, twenty-three ceramists have displayed and sold their work at the Metchosin Community Hall.  It is, in fact, the longest-running ceramic exhibition group in Canada.

The theme for 2018 is ‘Coastal Vessels:  Romancing the Sea’.  The exhibition and sale are open from 6-9 on May 25 and 10-5 on May 26 and 27th.  If you are out in Victoria, check out the great talent that has been juried into this exhibition and sale.

Robert Archambeau Retrospective in Celebration of his 50 years​ or silver anniversary with the School of Art and the University of Manitoba will open in mid-November at the School of Art Gallery

The precise date is still to TBD but it will be around November 15 running until mid-January.  This is an amazing chance to look back at the work of one of Canada’s legendary ceramic artists and someone who has given so much to the School of Art and its students.  ‘Bob’ has been a fabulous mentor to those working in ceramics.

If you or anyone you know has ceramic work of Bob’s and would loan it to the School of Art Gallery for the exhibition, please get in touch with me as I will be curating the show.  The contact information is maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

Stay tuned for more details.

Photo:  Bob working in the ceramic studio, School of Art, 2016

Give it Up for Joo Young Han, one of the Manitoba Arts Council’s Major Award winners. Well done!

Joo Young (Grace) Han is one of those extremely talented young women, a rising star in Canadian ceramics.  Raised in South Korea, Han graduated with her BFA from Dankook University where she studied traditional Korean ceramics.  There she watched the master potter, Joon Hoon Park, while making hundreds of Korean tea bowls, sambal, a day.  For seven years, Han worked to perfect her ceramic skills including the making of the large jars for fermented vegetables, the Onngi.  In 2011, Han moved to the Canadian prairies.  The image above is a still from an upcoming CBC special on Han.  In 2016, Han graduated with an MFA from the School of Art, University of Manitoba.  There, for two years, she worked tirelessly in her studio asking herself many, many questions.  Am I Korean?  Am I Canadian?  Where is my voice?  Her thesis exhibition focused on those binaries as does the photo above.

The Manitoba Arts Council recognized Han’s artistic excellence by awarding her their major grant of $30,000 this past week.  It is rare for a ceramic artist to achieve such recognition so early in their career.  MAC  not the only one, however!  Han will be part of the Banff’s Centre’s Clay Revival Residency from June 3-July 7 and she will also have a solo exhibition at Medalta.  Well done, Grace.

For a more detailed discussion of Han’s struggle with her identity and the male world of Korean ceramics, see my article in the current issue of New Ceramics, ‘Joo Young Han.  One Path, Two Identities, pp 13-15 (2/18).

Carol and Richard Selfridge

Richard Selfridge arrived in Canada in 1969 to pursue a PhD in Political Science.  A native of Seattle Washington, he first studied at Washington State University leaving the United States just before completing his PhD dissertation in Political Philosophy.  Selfridge taught at the University of Alberta for four years.  He became a Canadian citizen in 1974.

Richard Selfridge never intended to become a potter.  But life has a way of throwing curve balls at each of us.  “Happy Accidents” was what Paul Soldner used to call them. In between his studies, Richard met Carol and his interest in ceramics began.   In 1973 he took his first pottery lessons with David Green, one of the individuals behind the formation and an instructor for the Edmonton Potters Guild.  These early classes were followed by specialized

studies at the Banff Center with Wayne Ngan, Walter Keeler, Tom Coleman and Janice Tchalenko, amongst others.  A year later Richard built his first electric kiln with a single chamber downdraft gas kiln quickly following in 1975.  He was hooked on clay!  Carol and Richard are both interested in clay, its form and its functionality.  At the same time, they are passionate about experimenting with different firing temperatures and glaze effects.  The couple built a two chamber cross draft gas and wood-fired salt chamber kiln in 1980 while continuing to fire their majolica in the electric kiln.  In 2001, they built a wood-fired coffin kiln.  Since 1974 their work has been a joyful collaboration.

The duo taught at the Student’s Union at the University of Alberta in the 1970s, later teaching for the Extension Division of the University of Alberta. Carol was a high school art teacher in Vancouver and Edmonton from 1969-74.   Her interest in the figure and drawing have been furthered by workshops at Red Deer College, The Banff Center, and the University of Alberta.  In addition to more than 250 international exhibitions, Richard and Carol have also taught workshops across Canada and internationally while still finding time to host two annual studio sales per year since 1974.  The pair received major grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council. They are nothing short of prolific in their output and the generosity with which they share their knowledge of firing effects and glazing.  Their work was part of the prestigious Claridge Collection.