Category Archives: Journal

First weeks at Shigaraki Cultural Park

Mary and I arrived at Shigaraki exactly 4 weeks ago today….it was cold and raining then, and the first morning it snowed. And to our disbelief, it tried to snow again today. Today I loaded my first reduction glaze kiln of all my dried and bisqued work, with some of Mary’s tests. So, will any of my sig’s have any colour or character?? I have used wood ash and soda ash as fluxes instead of my trusty colemonite. Meanwhile, there are five more days of making, before my last bisque.

At any residency, my goal is to respond to the place.  Japan is a country filled with traditional beliefs, spirits and myths, – how to respond to that, as a secular person?  The traditional roofs are resonant of Japanese beliefs, they are heavy and protective, embedded with emblems and demons to ward off evil – a different approach from European traditional roofs, which are practical.  I have also been playing around with an East West face….
Now it is the last 2 weeks before the end of the residency and  before Terry arrives!

First weeks in Tokyo, en route to Shigaraki Cultural Park

What a city. we were lucky to be in Hiroo, a small village-like setting in central Tokyo, an ex-Pat area, full of embassies, and at Azuba Court Apartments, where Alex Lambley suggested we stay. Hiroo felt like a village and I could prepare myself for the Metro, the crowds and the complexity that is Tokyo. So well organized, but intense and always moving. Courtesy everywhere. Every area of the city has an entirely unique personality. We only brushed the surface. After 7 days, on to Shiagaraki by the Shingazen.

Leach Pottery 2014, Finished Work and More Images

I was so relieved and so pleased that there were 7 surviving pieces.  In the case where I made the tiles and attached the horses’s legs  – the tiles suffered some cracking – not surprisingly.  I got smart and made the last 4 horse and riders detached – so they could be cemented onto a standardized earthenware tile.

There was a huge and beautiful  Pine tree outside the window, that could be seen from the kitchen and from the studio window.  I had to try and include it in the body of work.  I would have liked to continue working, making montages of horses and trees – using a drawing of Leach’s,  but time ran out.  In the end, the Leach Pottery has kept the naked Leach, the Hamada and the Janet tiles.  A collector has placed the Leach in Tweed on his roof, replacing Leach’s  1930s Horse and Rider2.  Alex has the guy with toque for her roof, and The Winds Of St Ives – aka – Windy – has been cemented in place over the Leach shop door.  I can’t say how pleased I am at these outcomes.  Peter and I continue to work on our joint article.  I am very curious to read the research that Peter will have done.  My heartfelt thanks to Alex, and to Julia and everyone at the Leach who made this residency such a wonderful experience.

Leach Pottery 2014 – last week and final exhibition

I was always looking for horse and rider tiles. When I did find the Skinner Hotel horse and rider roof tile – it was like finding treasure. Then I found the Ayr Manor horse and rider tile – and was enchanted with the tiny figures silhouetted on the roof. Margaret Parma directed Matt and I to the third horse and rider on the roof of RJ Noall’s ancient home. Matt captured these magical figures in detail with his excellent camera. Matt also gave me Peter Smith’s email, and soon Peter became involved in the research and the speculation of who made the three horse and rider tiles on the roofs in St ives, and whether Leach actually made the horse and rider in the Cube Gallery. Peter and I are now co-writing an article, and will use Matt Tyas’s photographs. I spent my evenings emailing anyone I knew who had spent time at the Leach – asking about their memories of horse and rider tiles. Alex and I visited the Royal Cornwall Museum and Sarah Lloyd-Durrant showed us truly ancient horse and rider tiles. I visited the St Ives Archives several times, finding an image of another Leach Horse and rider that had been published in 1978 in Carol Hogben’s book, The Art of B. Leach. It turns out that both these horse and riders belonged to the same collector for many years. In the St Ives Museum, I was delighted to find and take a forbidden picture of photograph of the great BC painter, Emily Carr [her back is turned] in Julius Olsson / Algeron Talmage’s studio. She was the first British Columbian to study in St Ives.The final firing happened in the last week, the five remaining horse and riders all in one go. I was fairly terrified, worrying that it would be an egg-on-face disaster. However they survived, imperfect, but mainly intact. Matt Tyas organized an exhibition – From Across the Pond, with Warren Mackenzie, Jeff Oestreich, Glenn Lewis and myself – all of us as recent artists in residence from North America. I gave a talk about contemporary ceramics from BC, and on our research about the horse and rider tiles, attended largely by Alex lambley’s students from Falmouth University and interested local artists.

During my residency I was given assistance by Roelof Uys, the head of the standard ware studio, and potters Kat Wheeler[ USA] and Britta Wengeler [Germany] – at whose home, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner – and apprentice Tinni Arora [Delhi] , who cooked some fabulous Indian meals and showed me images of the horses of Tamil Nadu and their wonderful teeth. Twice a week Amanda Brier ran vibrant children’s classes in my studio space…..I put in earplugs. Store manager, Mark Williams, took to rubbing his hands in glee whenever I came through the shop door to poke about. Mark ended up packing up a large box for me of some of Jack Doherty’s standard ware, some new standard ware, and several choice pieces – Joanna Wason’s little facetted temoku bowl being one of my favourites. I went into the Cube Gallery often and studied Leach’s horse and rider tile and I also studied Janet Leach’s remarkable portrait – what a presence she had. Margaret Parma graciously administered us all, and Julia Twomlow was a great source for Leach and local history.

Tbones arrived in the last few days of my residence and we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at a wonderful restaurant on Portminster Beach. New apprentices, Ian Morrison [USA] and Callum Trudgeon [ Seasalt Bursary Apprentice from St Ives] arrived during my last few days in St Ives, and Tinni organized a nice send off in an old pub by the waterfront. Alex gave us another farewell dinner, and the next morning we walked to the train station. I was sorry to leave, I hope to return, and now a year later, am happy to relive the memories.

Leach Pottery 2014, Making the Horse and Rider Tiles

My residency was only for one month, and I worked fast, trying various methods to capture something of Leach’s horses, which had some echo of the traditional horse and riders, particularly in the horse head shape. I made 7 pieces, plus 2 tree sculptures [looking at the great tree out the window] and 10 or so test babies, to leave behind as gifts.
I had to fire every piece while it was still leather hard in the small electric Kiln in my studio. Kat Wheeler, resident potter, and I figured out how to over-ride the computer so the heat could rise very very slowly. I only blew up one horse and rider – surprisingly, my least favourite.
Here are a few images of the horse and riders, the studio, and the  line up of 19 days work… Carol Mayer, curator of the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, came to meet Julia Twomlow, and to visit with me, and we spent several wine-tasting evenings in the Queen’s Hotel Bar.

Leach Pottery 2014, Starting the Horse and Rider tiles, Hamada first.

It is almost exactly a year since my stint as artist in residence at the Leach Pottery.  Along with the research into the traditional Horse and Rider tiles, I was asked to respond to Leach’s own versions. It was an extraordinary experience, and I relished every moment of the focus and energy engendered by this structured time-bracketed situation.
I was the first occupant of the spacious new studio situated on the ground floor of the Beagle Cross Residence. There were still traces of sawdust along the tabletops. My ‘sculpture’ clay was concocted from available throwing clays and a lot of wedging in of molochite and sand found in nearby buckets. I made sigalattas for the surfaces. I had hoped that the work would be fired in the soda kiln – which would have provided beautiful surfaces –  but that kiln was being rebuilt.  Everything was fired, along with the standard ware, in the gas kiln. I had researched roof finials before I came, but never found any reference to equestrian tiles. When making my first piece I resorted to my own imagery, and the horse ended up with a baby/proto-human rider – leaving me pretty nervous about where this ‘response’ was headed. Matt Tyas, resident researcher and doctoral candidate, took one look at the rider and commented that he looked like Hamada, and in that instant I knew what direction to take. I wanted to respond in a manner that would read as contemporary, but reflect where I was, and why I was there, and so I decided to depict those who had created the Leach Pottery.


Leach Pottery 2014 – the invitation – the Back Story


My arrival at the Leach Pottery in 2014 is due to a series of events that go back to 2008 when I was approached by Phyllis Schwartz bearing a large card file box filled with 1960s glaze recipe cards belonging to Glenn Lewis [former Bernard  Leach apprentice 1961 – 63].  Phyllis’s son had found the box in the UBC Ceramic Department, inside an old kiln.  Phyllis recognized the historic value of these glaze files and approached me about a project to publish them as part of the Leach legacy in BC.  Our first task was to find Glenn, who had been living in Robert’s Creek for many years.  To our surprise, Glenn has just returned to Vancouver, and he joined in the project with enthusiasm and we all worked together over the next 2 years.  Phyllis and her husband Ed Peck did all the heavy lifting – scanning and creating a digital format for these colourful glaze recipe cards.  Glenn advised and I did some historical research and edited.  We all contributed essays about the meaning of these glaze cards. In 2010, with the help of the Potters Guild of BC,  we published, on line and in hard copy,  Seeking the Nuance, Glaze Experiments of the 60s and 70s from the  Ceramic Studios at UBC.  ISBN 098-0-9696077-1-7.  In 2011, Alex Lambley, Research Fellow and Doctoral Candidate at Falmouth University in Cornwall, UK,  found Seeking the Nuance on-line and contacted me.  I invited her to stay at my home in Vancouver for a month while she conducted interviews with the dozens of people influenced or trained by Bernard Leach.  The end result was that Julia Twonlow, Director of the Leach Pottery, invited both Glenn and I to be artists in residence, Glenn in 2013, 50 years exactly after his apprenticeship, and myself in 2014.  In 2013 Terry and I briefly visited  Alex in St Ives and visited the Leach Pottery.   At that time the new studio in Beagle Cross did not yet exist, and everyone was wondering where I would work. But a year later I arrived to a brand new studio space – perfect for non-wheel work.

Leach Pottery 2014, Traditional Equestrian Ridge Tile Research

Once I had arrived and started my research on these equestrian tiles, I was told that there were three other equestrian tiles still on roofs in St Ives. The common knowledge was that Leach had made these three equestrian tiles, as well as his Horse and Rider1 and 2 sculptures.  Matt Tyas and I located and then photographed the three roof tiles, and as we scrutinized the images with Peter Smith, we noticed that these tiles reflected the traditional styles of the ancient tiles, and it was unlikely that Leach had made them.   However, they were not nearly as weathered as the tiles in the Royal Cornwall Museum.   Then we realized that these three tiles were on roofs of homes of old friends of Leach –  all members of the Old Cornwall Society, as was Bernard Leach.  So in all likely-hood were made during the 1920s by local potteries with the encouragement of the Old Cornwall Society.  The understanding of the origins of all these different tiles came together slowly over the four weeks in St Ives, and continues as we write an article about their history.  The oldest I saw was at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, about 15th century, and two 17th century tiles, donated by R.J. Noall, a great collector and expert in Cornwall pottery, and a colleague of Leach’s in the Old Cornwall Society.  Leach’s own equestrian sculptures are, in themselves, a response to a long tradition of horse and rider tiles, and I suppose, my own responses will join what I hope will be a continuum.



Leach Pottery 2014, Research and Response to BL sculptures

In 2013 Julia Twomlow, Director of the Leach Pottery invited me, as artist in residence, to research and respond to Horse and Rider2, a ridge tile made by Bernard Leach that was on display in the Cube Gallery at the Leach Pottery.  This tile had been on a roof in Carbis Bay until the early 1990. My research was greatly assisted by Peter Smith, who shared his extensive knowledge of early English ceramics, and by Matt Tyas, research fellow at the Leach Pottery, potter and photographer. Alex Lambley and I would discuss our findings, and Sarah Lloyd-Durrant, curator at the Royal Cornwall Museum was generous and helpful. The people at the wonderful St Ives Archives found images and provided other insights.  At the end of the residency I gave a presentation of what we had discovered.  The Leach sculpture is very rare – there is one companion piece, that we know of,  Horse and Rider1,  an image of which  can be found in ” The Art of Bernard Leach’ 1978 Carol Hogben, p. 57.  This piece remains in a private collection in Cornwall.   These two sculptures were Leach’s own response to the traditional equestrian tiles that adorned the roofs of better homes in the western counties.  The traditional tiles  were intended to cover old smoke holes no longer in use. Leach’s Horse and Rider tiles were made of earthenware, automatically dating them to prior 1935.  They were made with a modernist spirit and are very unlike the traditional equestrian tiles that can be found in museums. [See the next post.]

The research has been almost as enjoyable as the studio work of ‘responding’ to the Leach sculpture, which Julia encouraged me to respond to in my own way.  Interestingly, just prior to Julia’s invitation, I had been thinking of reintroducing the horse image into my work.  I will continue the theme for my solo exhibition in October 2014,  at the Gallery of BC Ceramics,  “Horsing Around – In the year of the Horse” – as  2014 is the Year of the Horse,  it all seems synchronous.

‘Midnight in the Nursery’ exhibit Oct. 14 – Nov. 7 2010

This exhibition is transitional.  I am somewhere between 2 different ways of practicing, showing pieces that are one-of-a-kind, and hand built,  and pieces made using my moulds. The exhibition is at the Port Moody Arts Centre.

Debra and Marcia’s statement

Debra spotted Marcia’s wild red shoes on the first day of their childrens’ preschool. They have remained friends ever since. As artists they recognized a similar undercurrent in their distinctly different art practices.
This exhibition dwells on the shadowed side of childhood, and the impetus is experience and memory. These constructions, disquieting and humorous, come out of the artists’ own experience, and are accelerated by witnessing their children’s.
Sometimes there is no peace in the dark. The nursery is not always a refuge at midnight.

Debra’s Statement:
The nursery is a metaphor for the realm of childhood.
We hope that the nursery is a safe and good place but we remember that it is also where fear, sorrow and conflict occur.
My babies are a metaphor for us, and the infant within each of us that marks our beginning and remains with us till our end. Childhood is a precarious place, and ceramics and childhood both exist in a state of fragility.