Elise Siegel

Elise Siegel came to Canada in 1972.  She is remembered fondly by her former instructors including Sally Michener and Tam Irving at the Vancouver School of Art and her friends.  Siegel had transferred from the University of Chicago where she had studied ceramics with Ruth Duckworth.  While Siegel was openly opposed to the Vietnam War, she says that it was not the defining reason she came to Canada.  She became a Canadian citizen during her ten-year stay.

After graduating Siegel set up studios along with a group of friends at the corner of Maple Avenue and 4th Avenue in Vancouver.  The group built a communal two-chamber gas kiln in the parking lot.  The front chamber was a four-burner downdraft LPG kiln while the second chamber, which operated as a chimney behind the first chamber was also the bisque kiln (used the run-off heat from the front chamber).  It is amazing what you could do in the 1970s!  And how wonderful for this group of young people that they pushed the limits of their understanding of kiln building right in the heart of Vancouver.  Along with Suzu Matsuda and Larry Cohen, Siegel formed a collective and an open store/exhibition space at the site which they called Kitsilano Pottery.  The cooperative adventure lasted for several years with each sharing responsibilities.  During this same time, Siegel was also busy making functional tableware for a number of Greek restaurants within Vancouver.  Siegel was also part of the Outreach Faculty of the Vancouver School of Art.  She travelled to outlying northern communities to present ceramics workshops to adults.

Siegel slowly moved from vessels to sculpture.  For a while, she continued to use clay as the main medium for her work but she branched out experimenting with other materials that were not specifically tied to ceramic traditions.  She returned to clay in the late 1990s.  She says, “If there is a thread that still connects my current work to the pots I was making after art school, it would be an intense awareness of the tactile responsiveness and immediacy of clay as a material”.

Today, Siegel has her studio in New York City.  She taught both undergraduate and graduate ceramics at the Pratt Institute between 2008-11 and has taught at Greenwich House Pottery since 1985.

Article I wrote on three Vietnam Era Ceramists appears in Toplerflatt in English!

My good friend Gunter Haltmeyer is charged with the digital layout of the German Potter’s Association journal, Toplerflatt.  He does one fantastic job, and I am always so grateful that the members welcome news of what is happening in Canada.  

The fall/winter edition includes an article I wrote on the work of three Vietnam era ceramic artists who migrated to Canaday.  They are Sally Michener who taught at the Vancouver School of Art (later Emily Carr), Debby Black who taught at George Brown College in Toronto, and Richard Gill who taught at various colleges but he is known mainly for his large and very complicated architectural installations.  

Gunter sent me the PDF and hard copies to share with the ceramists.  Those who read my blog and my Facebook page do not (with the exception of one) belong to this potters association.  I do not want to take away any issues regarding copyright or sales. 

The link is below.  Click on steggles:

steggles_ tb_2017_2_final

Vietnam Era Resisters Research

I received a Canada Council Jean A Chalmers Grant to conduct research into the impact that Vietnam era resisters who came to Canada had on Canadian ceramics.  To date, there are 117 individuals in my study.  Conference presentations have been given in Dublin, at the University of Szeged in Hungary, and at the first Craft Biennale at the Art Gallery of Burlington.  Articles are in press and exhibitions are being planned.  I am still seeking individuals who fit my profile:  came to Canada because they did not wish to be part of the support for the Vietnam War and who were already trained in ceramics or learned after they immigrated in order to make a living.  If you know of someone, please have them contact me at my university e-mail address:  maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

The image on today’s posting is Walter Ostrom’s China Bottle.  Ostrom came to Canada because of the Vietnam War in 1969.  He had a contract to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax.  Ostrom was elated because he would be teaching at one of the hippest art schools in North America but also because he was going to be living in Canada:  ‘The land of Pierre Trudeau, a friend of both Castro and draft dodgers, leading a nation of peaceniks’.