artist statement

Baby Doll

I first trained as a potter and I continue to build  structures with the volumetric attributes of pottery, with slips,  glazes, and carvings, embellishing the surface. Though the fired materials are unified, the interior space and the external surface operate as distinct entities  – calling upon skills and ideas that are  both sculptural and painterly. I have drawn upon imagery of women, babies or various animals, representing the human and animal worlds respectively.


Over time my figures have become what I call proto-human, neither male nor female, adult or baby. Landscapes and architectural references are about my environs and provide opportunity to add contextual layers. Placing my figures and images within metaphorical constructs, and outside of how we normally encounter them, is how I comment on our interaction with environments and society.

Little Carved Torso

The female torsos were inspired by prehistoric ‘Venus’ fertility figures. This image is economic and  universally understood. The clay torso is a place of containment, mirroring our own status as emotive containers. I return to my images and ideas recurrently rather than in series. The earlier explorations of an idea become archival, and the new interpretation is re-examined and re-cycled again.


Off to Science World, 1992

Our Grade Three class was shown “The Story of Peter and the Potter” [NFB 1953]. The film showcased potters, Erica and Kjeld Deichmann, who pioneered studio pottery in New Brunswick. The film followed them demonstrating the processes of throwing, glazing and firing a pot. As the story progressed I could see that this family of potters lived and worked seamlessly.  Their lives made sense to me and the materials and processes were enticing.

When I was 16, I started taking pottery classes and I read “A Potter’s Book” by Bernard Leach.  Leach’s philosophy reinforced the notion of an integrated personal and working life.  From 1973 – 79 I spent six years working in a self-directed apprenticeship as I ran a large pottery school, learning as time went on, and intentionally isolating myself from outside influences.  In 1979 I enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art.  At least one teacher stated that women should choose either a family or a career. It was an infuriating and typical statement of its time, challenging my resolve for an integrated life as witnessed and still fondly recollected in the little NFB film.

Debra Sloan describes her work in A Dogged Process, CeramicsTECHNICAL, No. 27, 2008

The ceramic practice is akin to living with an extended family, crowded by unruly characteristics and peopled by complex processes. The material [its characteristics] and my intention to create an integrated life, all connected with my innate drive – to be a maker [and that included making a family.] During the childhood and teenage years of my children, with tremendous support given to me by my husband, Terry, I snatched work hours during naps, school hours, and long nights. As it turned out both endeavours responded to and transformed each other.