Carol Graham, continued

It is quite amazing what can happen in the span of a month.  Canada is now in the grips of COVID-19, anxious students of all ages are trying to finish their classes online, and, unless we are essential, we are to stay home.  That staying home has really helped in the search for information on Carol Graham (see March 6 blog entry).  News has come from the talented pit firing ceramist, Susan Delatour in Princeton, BC.  Perhaps some of Susan’s information will help job the memories of others so that a full entry for Carol can be made in my book on the contributions of those who came to Canada during the Vietnam era and were potters.

Susan lived with her ex-husband, Steve LePoidevin.  They had a home and studio at Shawinigan Lake in 1980.  That is where she met Carol Graham who lived in Cobble Hill, the next village.  Because of their mutual interest in ceramics, they became friends.  Susan remembers the five-day workshop that Carol organized with Blue Corn that summer:

BLUE CORN (with her daughter, HESHI FLOWER) in a beautiful rural setting Mill Bay, ‘Vancouver Island, July 28th to Aug. 1, 1980, 8 am-4 pm each day. This is a workshop organized privately. Blue Corn, a world-famous Indian Pueblo potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, will guild students in every step to recreating her famous polychrome pottery as well as San Ildephonso’s black pottery–from mixing clay Blue Corn brings from New Mexico–to painting natural earthy pigments with Yucca brushes–to firing (in two separate firings) in an authentic manner with cow and horse dung. Limited enrollment. we have 14 students and can accommodate 4 more. $200 for five full days with lunches provided. Because of limited enrollment and slowness of mail please phone the following for more information, Carol Graham (Mill Bay 743-5182 anytime) or Verona Bridges (Nanai- mo).
Susan remembers Carol’s high fired reduction functional ware because of its beauty.  She also recalls that Carol’s first husband passed away after a battle with cancer sometime in the 1980s.  After that, Carol had her own health issues including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that sadly caused her to stop making ceramics.
Carol, it seems, had to be busy and she turned towards her interest in gardens writing a book with Dorothy Field called Between Gardens when she could no longer work with clay.  Susan Delatour says it began with a series of letters written between Dorothy Field and Carol Graham Chudley (Ron Chudley, second husband, devoted caregiver over a period of three years starting in 1995).  They were musings on gardening as well as practical tips.  Susan notes that the volume also became about living with a debilitating disability.  Carol died in May 1998 before the book could be published in 1999 in honour of their friendship.
If you or someone you know might be able to continue filling in the gaps for Carol Graham, I would be ever so grateful.  And if you happen to have photographs of the workshop with Blue Corn and don’t mind if I use them, please take a good crisp photo with your phone or camera.

 

It’s March 6, 2020, and I am searching for more information on Carol Graham who once taught at Malaspina College on Vancouver Island

My old friend, Tony Clennell, once told me that writing a blog was like having a horse:  you had to feed it every day.  Well, those of you who regularly check back for news will know clearly that my horse must have died.  It has been a while since I sat down to write and there is lots of news.  So news first and research/writing/ceramics next!  This summer is set for two significant events.  The first is my artist residence at the Contemporary Arts Centre in La Borne, France.  I am so excited to be working in their studios and firing their Phoenix Fast Fire Kiln.  Also, I will be meeting the women who will be using the anagama kiln, and there will be a symposium dealing with the challenges of being a woman and wood firing.  All ages will be present.  It is going to be quite fun!  I will also be giving two workshops and getting to use that fabulous soft La Borne clay.  Shortly after, on August 31, I will officially retire from teaching for the School of Art at the University of Manitoba.  No tears.  It has been great fun, but it is time to live – and to be able to take advantage of those ticket sales to beautiful places that have been ignored.  So mark your calendars and have a drink of some kind – juice or adult beverage – in celebration with me!

Now, to get to one of those projects that will fast become the top of my to-do-list shortly again.  For those who have been reading this blog or who know me, I continue to try to find all of those men and women who came to Canada during the Vietnam era who were potters.  In 2016, I received a Chalmers Grant for Craft from the Canada Council to begin this project.  To date, I have 119 individuals who have contributed much to the ceramic landscape in Canada.  Some have won the highest awards our country could offer.  Many taught, and all made ceramics.  But today, I am reaching out for help on one single individual.  Her name is Carol Graham, and Doug and Verona Bridges saw my call for information on Carol and wrote to me.  Doug taught at Malaspina College with Carol and Verona, and Carol travelled to Taos and Santa Fe where they visited Blue Corn and convinced her to come to Nanaimo.  Doug and Verona also have an extensive collection of Carol’s high fire functional domestic ware.  The minute I saw the images, I was drawn back to the 1970s when everyone was using iron-rich clay and muted glazes in their high fire kilns.  Many were also, like Carol, using stamps on their work.  Gosh, that was a great time to be a potter!  One of my favourites in their collection is a dillweed plate meant to hang on the wall.  I can almost feel Carol slowly and steadily pushing the dill into the clay.

The only other information that I have on Carol Graham is that she received her MFA from Puget Sound and in 1983 she lived in Cobble Hill, BC before she died.  If you have any recollection of Carol Graham or own her work, please contact me.  My plan is to finish the book on the women who came to Canada during the Vietnam era and who were potters.

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CarolGraham garlic and spice containers

New Work at C2 Gallery in Winnipeg

I am really happy to announce to all those people who collect my work or who have supported me throughout the years that pieces are now available at the Manitoba Craft Council C2 Gallery Shop on Cumberland Street in Winnipeg.

The current work is the result of several years of research. I was never interested in colour despite the fact that I created rutile blue vessels for my clients years ago.  But, on my second trip to Copenhagen in 2018, all of that changed.  There I saw the oranges, greens, and blues so prevalent in flower vases made by many Danish potters. Still, “There was a lot about the work that was not me, and I needed to find my voice.” That same year I received funding to research and test the use of colour on clay vessels fired in wood kilns. At about the same time, I was commissioned to write a chapter for a book on Environmental Humanism. At the intersection of the two, there was a desire to lessen my carbon footprint.  I began to experiment with single-fired earthenware ceramics.

In the spring of 2019, the sparks of this new defining aesthetic were lit while I was an Interdisciplinary Artist at Hospitalfield House in Arbroath, Scotland. The theme of my project was transience.  Photographs of the sea at Lunan Bay, the gardens, walls, and hardware of Hospitalfield House were taken every day for a month at three specific times. The unfired vessels that were created were intent on capturing the changing colour and the patinas of decay.  The objects were placed at the edge of the sea and in the trees of the gardens so that they could deteriorate naturally over time.  Right now, three similar pieces are in the exhibition, The Constant Happiness is Curiosity at the School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba until 6 September.

 

I purchased books on colour theory and began to look at how colours existed side by side in nature. Instead of using glaze, I began to experiment with ceramic stains. The colours and their application did not have the life that I wanted.  This period was followed by the addition of multiple colours to the surface, often using tape to create a hard edge like the paintings of the 1950s.

I had gotten to a point where I was trying so hard, and nothing was coming out the way I wanted. It was very frustrating. And then, one morning, I began to remove the colour and, I was like, hey! Sometimes, I begin work on a series of vases and everything just clicks. At other times it is not so easy.  The surface has to be loose. If I overthink it, it is dead. The latest is called Miami Dreamsicle, a medley of pinks, oranges, and a touch of turquoise or Wedgwood Blue. This series is highly reminiscent of suminagashi or floating ink, a Japanese marbling technique.

detail, Dreamsicle series

 

I have recently moved my studio to my home.  This relocation eases the way for me to manipulate the eight or more layers of colour on the work spontaneously. The current objects differ greatly from my previous work because I am now rejecting function and instead, embracing the clay’s surface as a canvas.

I am very grateful to Tammy Sutherland and her staff at the C2 Gallery for this opportunity and invite all of you to stop in and see the new pieces.

 

 

Columbia Basin Culture Tour

If you live near the Columbia Basin or you are travelling to British Columbia, and you will be there for August 10 and 11, you really need to check out the 70 artists that are in the 11th annual culture tour.  Studios are open daily from 10-5, and there are maps, brochures, and postcards at the galleries, craft shops, information bureaus, and studios of the artists.  I have written about many of these creative people before, but it is time to wake everyone up again to get out and see what is new.  For specific information, you can find maps, information on each of the artists, event activities at http://www.cbculturetour.com. It is all free to charge.  Take a road trip and support the local artists in the Columbia Basin of British Columbia.

Standing in Gunda Stewart’s studio in Canyon, I looked down and saw a postcard and started laughing.  Good thing Gunda was out grinding a lid or she would have thought I had lost my mind.  The problem was I couldn’t stop.  Gunda gave me a smile, and I showed her what was causing all of the chaos:  a photo of a sheep under a hairdryer with those bristle rollers, red high heels with her utters spilling over the edge of the chair.  Gunda was quick to point out that that particular artist had managed to get an image of three different works on the three different types of publicity.  Within an hour, we were standing in Andrea Rovey’s studio in Creston, and that is where I came face to face with GlamChops!

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Andrea has this seditious sense of humour.  She made a sculpture in celebration of the Pink pussyhats, women marching against Trump in 2017.  It was her way of dealing with this outrageous situation.  Scattered about are award-winning sculptures, chicks dancing on cars, rabbits, beavers with the brightest red lipstick.  I should have paid more attention because this was a fantastic studio with one heck of an incredible artist.  Andrea studied at Red Deer College with Trudy Golley and also went to Penland- but the humour is all her.  Notice:  Glam Chops is reading a book on ‘Teets’.  Underneath each of these is something that relates to women.  Stop in and check out her work….there is much more on offer.

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The Kootenays are so green this year and hopefully with the rain maybe it will be a wildfire free year. Gunda fired her wood kiln, and her shelves are ready for the tour.  She loads everything up and takes it to Cameron Stewart’s studio up in Passmore.  You can catch her at the market in Creston on the weekends or in her studio when the ‘open’ sign is up.  The wood-fired functional ware of her, Cameron, Pamela Nagley-Stevenson, and Robin Dupont is exceptional and unique to each maker.  Check out their studios on the tour.  I hear the last wood firing for Nagley-Stevenson had quite surprising results.

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If you are not going to be in British Columbia, then check out what is happening with your local artisans and artists.  In Manitoba, the Winnipeg Folk Festival will have its annual handmade village and around all of the provinces are weekend markets where you can buy local.  And if you want to become more ecological, then consider something well made that will make a person happy for a long time that was created by someone local.

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.

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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.

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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.