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 jog the memories of others so that a full entry for Carol can be made in my book.

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.

 

Susan Delatour: Crossing Bridges

3-2.1In 1978, Susan Delatour came to Canada from the United States, as a post-graduate student, to study ceramics at the Banff Centre’s School of Fine Arts in Banff, Alberta.  It was there, in the beauty of the mountains and lakes, that Delatour suspended her wheel throwing practice and embraced the expressiveness of hand building.  Encouraged by Les Manning, she began to experiment with various forms of firing including pit or sawdust firing and raku.

On completion of her studies at Banff, Delatour relocated to Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia where she set up a production studio in the centre of the village.  With the financial downturn, Delatour and her then-husband, Steven LePoidevin, sought out alternative means of earning a living.  He returned to teaching while Delatour set up a studio at their new home in Princeton, British Columbia, where she also raised the couples, two sons.  At the time, she relied on two kilns, one electric and one sawdust.

Delatour’s early exposure to alternative firing methods helped her to develop a deep passion for creating primitive fired ceramic sculptures which she notes are full of ‘mystery and allegory.’  She smokes her pieces in a brick box, a practice she has been using for many years because the method incorporates shadows into her work that evoke ‘ancestors and generations of people who came before us’.  Her work honours the animals that live in the surrounding environment, as well as people and places that have touched her ‘in significant ways’.

She is currently working on a new series entitled Crossing Bridges, a reference to the universal life-changing events that we experience such as ageing and changing relationships.  In 2014, Delatour turned sixty years old, a pivotal moment that had a profound influence on her new body of work.  Her parents died, her two sons got married, and she became a grandmother.  One of her sons lives in China while the other is on the eastern coast of Canada; Delatour is in the middle, a place from where it is not easy to physically visit with her children on a regular basis.  The theme of the ‘bridge’, an object that connects something to another, that allows us to cross over, also represents aspects of transnationalism.  Delatour struggles with her identity;  she is an American living in Canada.  She tries to understand migration, immigration, and the crossing of borders, all aspects of her new series and her life.

Her work is exhibited internationally including some of the most prestigious juried exhibitions in Asia including the 6th Taiwan Golden Ceramics Exhibition in Taipei and the 3rd World Ceramics Biennale in 2005 in Seoul, South Korea.  Delatour is another unrecognized Canadian talent.  She also teaches workshops.   That is a hint to anyone looking for someone who really knows their way around sawdust and pit firing!