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.

Profound Sadness at the passing of Dr Sandra Alfoldy

It is with a very heavy heart that I acknowledge the untimely passing of Dr Sandra Alfoldy on February 24, 2019.  Sandra championed Canadian crafts and their history in every class she taught at NSCAD, in every public paper she delivered, and in her books.  She was immensely helpful to me in my research on Vietnam resisters that had moved into the Kootenays.  Sandra grew up there, and her Master’s thesis, Theory and Craft: A Case Study of the Kootenay Christmas Faire for Concordia University in 1997 came from her intimate knowledge of the event.  Her parents, fine crafters, were inspirational to her.  In that document, she states:  “Through years of active involvement in British Columbia’s Kootenay Christmas Faire, held annually since 1974 in Nelson, I became aware of a concern in the craft world that the introduction of theory into studies of craft would disregard practice. This fear was combined with resentment as artisans perceived
a hierarchically-based disdain toward the crafts and their producers. For years this
has led to a self-referential “art-versus-craft” debate which is not only counterproductive, but also leaves the area of craft under-explored in the institutional and academic art world.”  This was early Alfoldy and her research and her belief that craft could be part of a contemporary art world with all of its theories guided her creative research.  She was, at the time of her passing, looking to the Great Exhibition of 1851 and a response from the colonies (Canada).  Her thoughts on this will be missed, and the craft community in Canada will struggle to find such a remarkable advocate as Alfoldy.

Pamela Nagley-Stevenson

Pamela Nagley-Stevenson moved to Canada to study ceramics at the University of Victoria after living in Hawaii.  While she was a high school student at the Punahou Academy in Honolulu, she had the opportunity to study painting, art history and fine crafts.  When she was a grade 11 student, the Honolulu Academy of Arts hosted an exhibition of vessels by renowned Japanese artist, Toshiko Takaezu [She was born to Japanese parents living in Hawaii].  Nagley-Stevenson went to her artist talks and repeatedly visited the exhibition.  It seemed to draw the young student in like a magnet.  She said, “Her work opened my heart in ways that defy words, and set me on the life path to become a studio potter.”   Nagley-Stevenson thrived in Honolulu where students could take intensive summer courses in clay and in 1970, she enrolled full time as a ceramics student at the University of Hawaii.  There she studied with Claude Horan and Patrick Myers-while also taking a minor in Asian art history.

As a student in Hawaii, Nagley-Steven was active in protests against the Vietnam War.  She was part of the Hawaii High Schools Students for Peace and participated in the Peace March Campaigns and demonstrated to support Hawaiian Sovereignty, Native Land Rights, and the beginnings of the local environmental movement.  “Classmates were fleeing the States for Canada to avoid the draft, the Trudeau Government was seen as being enlightened for that time, and coming to Canada suited my values and life goal to live close to the land as an artist working with clay.”  In 1971, Nagley-Stevenson began her studies at the University of Victoria.  “I was eager for the opportunity to go to Canada in those end times of the Vietnam War.”  Unfortunately, on her arrival, the young student realized that the ceramic studios at the University of Victoria had closed.  She worked instead in the printmaking studios and spent two years in painting and sculpture while immersing herself in Islamic art.

She says, “I left school abruptly for love in 1974, to join my future husband at an artist’s coop in Vernon and begin life as a working potter.”  She put 500 lbs of clay, some glaze materials and a cone 8 electric kiln in the van and headed East.  The couple first lived in the rural Coldstream Valley.  Nagley-Stevenson says her early work was influenced by her knowledge of Asian art.  She “married” it with a crunchy granola aesthetic resulting in some functional ware with “whimsical details.”  The couple bought land in the Slocan Valley in 1976.  “Land in the Kootenays was pristine and affordable, with a lovely counter-culture community of mountain-loving back-to-the-land self-employed artists.  She was also able to teach at the Kootenay School of the Arts bringing in much-needed cash when sales were slow.  The couple planted gardens and orchards moving as quickly as they could to a more self-sustaining life, one in harmony with nature.  After the move, the young potter studied at the Banff Centre for the Arts taking workshops with Les Manning, Pete Voulkos, Mick Casson and Wayne Ngan amongst others.  For fifteen years she produced highly decorated landscape pots that helped pay the couple’s mortgage and feed their two children.  Nagley-Stevenson, like so many others, felt limited by what an electric kiln with its oxidation atmosphere could do and over the course of time, she moved to cone 10 porcelain fired in a wood kiln.  Her first kiln was 16 cubic feet (2000) and today she fires a two-chamber 73 cubic foot wood-soda kiln which was built in 2008.  Firing with wood was able to give Nagley-Stevenson a more natural look to the surface of the clay.  Today she sells her work at her own studio in Winlaw, BC (by appointment),  and at the gift shops and public galleries in Nelson and Castlegar as well as at special summer and holiday markets and tours.

Her work has been exhibited in Canada and the United States.