artist statement

Baby Doll

I first trained as a potter and continue to build with the internal volumetric attributes of pottery in mind.  I use coloured slips, glazes, and carvings, for surface work. The materials, technologies and the characteristics of clay make up a complex palette – to be applied where needed.

Fence

I have drawn upon imagery of women, babies or various animals, to represent the human and animal worlds respectively, often seeking a connection between them. Over time my figures have become what I call proto-human, both male and female, adult and child. Landscapes and architectural references reflect my environs and provide opportunity to add contextual layers. Figures and images are placed within metaphorical constructs, outside of how we normally encounter them.

Little Carved Torso

The female torsos were inspired by prehistoric ‘Venus’ fertility figures. This is an economic image 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 become archival, and the new interpretation is re-examination and cycled again. I try to make objects that have some inherent beauty in their materiality and form, but they must also relay, with unspoken signals, that which locates the work within the context of our world. My hope is that my pieces will stand on their own, as individual and singular objects, and welcomed into other people’s lives. In a way, my body of work, since 1973, may read like an exploration of a life through an art medium.

MY STORY

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 – 1979 I spent six years working in a self-directed apprenticeship as I ran a large pottery school, 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.

Just before I started working at the pottery school in 1973, I saw a small Joe Fafard clay figure in Toronto. I was entranced by its dynamic. It radiated with the personality of both the maker and the sitter. I continued to observe and be affected by the Canadian Funk scene – its inherent irony and explicit post modern irreverence. Since then, I have collected ceramics. I started when attending the wonderful openings at Hiro Urakami’s famed House of Ceramics [1972 – 79]. I am now surrounded by a ceramic ‘family’, the work of my colleagues in clay – a constant source of thought and visual pleasure. By 2005, it became apparent to me that we had not collected enough of our regional ceramic history in BC, nor did we know who many of the artists were, and are. Clay artists were anonymous. I began collecting artist marks, and histories, and am slowly working towards a BC Ceramic Mark Registry – the BCCMR. John Lawrence and Allan Collier, two other very knowledgable collectors, have been assisting me. This is a forever project, but one that will add provenance and value to our regional ceramics, I hope, and therefore provide additional context to my own.

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, are connected with my drive – to be a maker [and that included making a family.] During the early and teenage years of my children, I snatched work hours during naps, school hours, and long nights, thanks to the tremendous support given to me by my husband, Terry, As it turned out both endeavours have responded to and transformed each other.