Alan Lacovetsky Capsule
Production Dates: 1978 – present
Types of Work: wheel thrown and hand built functional and architectural commissions
Preferred Kiln Type and Firing Process: Bourry double-chambered, wood-fired kiln
Preferred Clay: stoneware and porcelain
Alan’s Chop: Alan’s most recent chop is a horned “A”. Note the spiral in the base from his removing the form from the wheel. (Click on the image to enlarge. )
Alan’s Homepage: http://www.alanlacovetsky.com/
Alan Lacovetsky typifies the major contemporary studio ceramist in Canada: international in inspiration, focused and committed to his work and approach, and willing to share and teach.
Like many contemporary ceramists, where Alan ended up is not where he started. His first contact with clay came while he was living on Texada Island, BC from 1973-75. Prior to this he had no practical experience with clay but wanted to find out more. it was not a personal contact that started his career; rather, it was through books from the BC library system such as Bernard Leach’s “A Potters Book” and Michael Cardew’s “A Pioneer Potter”“blew him away.”1
From the beginning he wanted to study and work with world renowned master art-potters. He knew he had to learn to come up to the level at which one needs to operate. The discovery that there were artists in BC such as the Leach-inspired John Reeve catalyzed his progress. He soon experimented and learned to handle clay. He wrote to John Reeve and asked if he could become his apprentice. In later years he studied with Reeve and travelled throughout the US giving workshops. He first studied (and still works closely) with Manitoba’s Robert Archambeau at the (University of Manitoba) from 1975-78; and then John Reeve at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1978-79 where he received his BFA. Later, through John Reeve, he was given the opportunity to travel with and assist Michael Cardew when he came to Canada and the USA in 1989 to do workshops. Cardew shared his life and philosophy with Alan. For a young potter starting out, this was a critically important time.
It was through Reeve that he obtained good introductions to Gwyn Piggott in Australia and Warren Mackenzie in Minnesota, both former Leach students in St.Ives. Soon after, he moved to Australia and met Gwyn who took him to meet Peter Rushforth, himself the “Bernard Leach” of Australia. He worked with Rushforth for many years, learning to fire his wood kilns He spent enough time with Gwyn and Peter to be heavily influenced by their work and philosophy. After many years of producing, teaching and globe-trotting, including a stay in Thailand he returned to North America and obtained an MFA from the University of North Dakota.
By 1996 he had moved to his current, rural studio location in St. Andrews, just north of Winnipeg and has been producing his work there since.
His knowledge and expertise are widely recognized. He has served on the executive of many craft groups including the Manitoba Crafts Council, the Canadian Crafts Federation, and as a juror on many exhibitions.
He has been artist-in-residence and panelist He has been a teacher in such place as the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, in Australia, Silpakorn University in Thailand and China. He is a member of the Stoneware Cooperative and Site Gallery in Winnipeg. His studio however is rural, in St. Andrews in the Interlake region just north of the city of Winnipeg. Always the teacher, a conversation with him is very much like a teaching lesson with much give and take.
Before he studied with anybody or made any work for that matter, it was Japanese and Korean styles of pottery, introduced to him through Leach’s and Cardew’s books, that caught his interest. He came to study with Robert Archambeau who had the same influences, which fit perfectly for Alan. John Reeve and Warren MacKenzie suited him as well. These three latter ceramists had also been heavily influenced by European/American folk pottery traditions which was dear to Alan since as a small child he always loved his father’s old stoneware jug (which he still treasures). Gwyn Piggott’s influence was a little different. Her work is more Chinese in nature particularly the refined glazes; she works in finely crafted porcelain not the heavier rougher stoneware made by the others; she was also influenced by the paintings of ceramics of the Italian artist, Giorgio Morandi. Rushforth’s work probably fits more closely to the others but it was his Chun/celadon and iron glazes that Alan has used extensively over the past fifteen years.
Those were the people-influences on Alan. Travelling, seeing folk potters work and getting access to museum collections, geology, art history and old building fragments have also been a powerful reinforcement for him.
Alan does not just make pots but indulges in the whole process, from the initial throwing on his treadle wheel, to the firing in his double-chambered Bourry down-draft kiln. He and fellow Manitoba ceramist, David Krindle, built the wood-firing kiln in 2006. The Bourry kiln was re-popularized by Michael Cardew, one of Alan’s early artist inspirations. After mudding-in the door of his kiln Alan will sometimes start a small fire in the bottom of the chimney to get a draft going. He will then start the fire chamber proper in the mousehole, down on the lower left of the kiln. This is an area where he also has to occasionally remove ash to ensure there is draft while building up the ember pile.
The woods he uses are principally tamarack, pine and ash that he buys from a Beausejour, Manitoba, lumber yard. He has always preferred wood-firing although he does own electric kilns. He fire approximately every 2 1/2 months.
Since his Australian experience Alan is very much interested in kiln architecture and will discuss the torque on his kiln’s angle-iron supports, the hinges on his firebox door, as well as the operation of the kiln. For example, like most kilns the Bourry has its own personality and occasional quirks: counter-intuitively to increase the temperature at certain times one has to NOT throw more fuel into the firebox.
It was the Leach inspiration that motivated him to build the treadle wheel he still uses. He finds the movement for satisfying. Throwing is a full body meditation for his production. He gets his clay ready made from the Pottery Supply House (link). Sometimes he acquires powder which he mixes in one of his two pug mills. He makes up his own glaze recipes . He uses stains, mostly oxides, to cone 6 or 4. One regret he has for the business is that not many people do colours in wood-firing anymore.
Although he prefers wheel-throwing he does produce hand-built and slab-built works as seen in some of his more recent commissions. His works vary from the sublimely functional, to the rough and irregular Oriental, to the more massive abstracted work in such public commissions as the Manitoba Hydro Head Office Building in Winnipeg.[image]
A Select Gallery of Alan’s Work
Covered cooking pot, casserole dish: 1998 – present. Various sizes ( this one is approx. 30cm. dia., 13cm. h.) continuing production. The surface texture is created by rolling a brass bead onto the leather hard surface. The inside is glazed with a clear liner glaze and the outside is unglazed. The basket like surface is similar to many pots Alan saw in Thailand. The lid on this one sits low. Most of the lidded forms have more height to the lid and some are quite domed similar to the Moroccan Tajine.
Wood fired stacking bowls: 2003, 11cm. dia., 15cm. h., white stoneware clay, celadon glaze inside, unglazed outside. The rims have a “wave” or crimp that helps create a sculptural effect. This piece was purchased by Jeannie Mah (Saskatchewan). Occasionally Alan does small runs of this series but not many stacking, mostly individual bowls.
Wood fired carved bowl: 2005, 14cm. dia., 10cm. h., buff stoneware clay, shino style glaze. Again simple and probably influenced by Warren MacKenzie. The bowl has a concave waistwith the waist loosely cut out in diagonal strips. the glaze has settled as white into the grooves leaving the ridges orange coloured. Carbon trap is scattered throughout. The neck and the foot are each separated from the waist by a loosely incised line. The surfaces are casual unlike some of his other styles that can be tight, almost industrial in their perfection. The interior has the same glaze colour. In this style Alan keeps his work simple, easy and fast to make with minimal decoration. “No fuss, no muss.”
Wood fired tall bottles: 2005, 50cm. h. (tallest), medium dark coarse stoneware clay with iron and blue slip under a shino type glaze. The surface is generally smooth with no overt modification such as carving. The tall and narrow profile is modified by the horizontal lines from the throwing process. Some of the blue slip has dripped down and caught in the riffles caused by the throwing. This creates an arrested line that shows the bottle shape but does not become an emphatic line. The bottle shaped is more aesthetic than functional: both their height and narrow forms suggest the sculptural in a minimalist way. He fires such forms on their side to deliberately create a bit of bend or distortion.
These are forms taken from canon or bullet shells, something Alan finds generally destructive but still with an inherent beauty in design and form. He has taken a machine form and given it an organic hint. In a triad arrangement such as in this picture there is an essence of an almost prehistoric, symbolic-humanoid family grouping. There is an irony here in that these metaphors of death come from an artist who has worked in one of the most war-torn areas of the world, Cambodia. The revival of Khmer culture has been an area of particular interest for Alan. Something positive in this case.
Wood fired copper red bowl: 2005, 15cm dia., 11cm. h., white porcelainous clay. Alan is attracted to simple strong forms. This is where both Robert Archambeau and Gwyn Piggott have had their influence on him. He only did a small series of copper reds but uses the glaze as an over glaze that he brushes onto the celadons (see platter below).
Wood fired platter: 2008, 45cm. dia., buff stoneware clay, iron kaki glaze, wax resist, celadon glaze and copper over glaze brushed on. This piece is part of an aerial landscape series depicting the Prairie landscape. In this case “rivers”. It is in the permanent collection of The National Craft Museum in Cheongju, Korea. Alan wanted to do the aerial drawings/paintings that sprung up from all his air travels sitting in the window seat. “I need to see where I’m going and also the views are incredible!”
What Others Say About Alan’s Work
Jennifer Gibson, Director/Curator, Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg: 2
“…[he] considers the material he molds sacred due to its lengthy and complex geological history. His hand-built and wheel-thrown wall pieces, vases, and bowls reflect the sensual shapes and calming colours of the natural world. Unlike many other ceramic artists, Lacovetsky labours over a carefully tended wood burning kiln to transform the malleable clay into a sturdy rock-like state. This traditional firing method is in keeping with the artist’s desire for a close relationship with nature.
Lacovetsky’s work is very process-oriented. His concern for process may be the root of his desire to make functional objects that people will use and interact with on a regular basis. The act of filling a vase with flowers, serving food on an elegant platter, or drinking a cup of tea is a common ritual. Lacovetsky is overjoyed that many people will experience his creations in the context of everyday activities. He feels that his role as an artist is to communicate with people through his ceramics and that this dialogue is not complete until another person uses his pieces.”
Sawyer, Jill. Fire And Form, Galleries West, December 31, 2003. 3
“..his work reflects a lifelong interest in fossils and fire. He divides his pieces between heavy stoneware and delicate porcelains with rich Chinese glazes, but always with the idea that the material he’s working with has taken the earth billions of years to produce.”
Amy Gogarty. West Contemporary Canadian Ceramics Medicine Hat. May 13-July 9,2006 4
“…[he is] interested in atmospheric and wood firing, displaying strong traditional forms with surfaces marked by the unpredictable effects of soda, wood ash, and coloured oxides. “
Amy Karlinsky, Winnipeg Free Press: 16/1/035
“The dedication to technique and process is central to the work of Alan Lacovetsky, whose vases, platters, and wall sculptures begin at the potter’s wheel and are then wood fired. This artist’s high-fire work demonstrates his careful research into the interactions of clay, glaze and fire. And the effects are stunning.
Many of Lacovetsky’s explorations centre on his earthy, red-brown and celadon glazes with crackle effects, the suggestions of figuration, random licks of ash, and contrasts between inside/outside, glazed and unglazed focus our attention.”
SELECTED PUBLIC AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
- The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, On., Canada
- The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
- The Government of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
- The Medalta Museum, Legacies Collection, Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
- The Australian Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand
- The Japanese Embassy, Canberra, Australia
- The Governor of New South Wales , His Excellency Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, Government House, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
- The Governor General of Canada (past), Her Excellency the Right Honorable Adrienne Clarkson, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Canada
- The Silpakorn University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Bangkok, Thailand
- The Manitoba Craft Museum and Library, Wpg., Canada
- The Lieutenant Governor General of Manitoba, His Excellency the Right Honorable John Harvard.
- Manitoba Hydro, Head Office, Winnipeg, Manitoba
- The Blue Cross, Head Office, Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Cambrian Credit Union, Head Office, Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Musee des maitres et artisans du Quebec, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- The National Craft Museum, Cheongju, South Korea
- FuLe International Ceramic Art Museums FLICAM – Canadian Museum, Fuping, China
- Great West Life Assurance Company, Head Office, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Bibliography and Other Sources of Information on Alan Lacovetsky
Alan Lacovetsky Interview September 22, 2012
Alan Lacovetsky Recent Curriculum Vitae
Alan Lacovetsky Email Correspondence
Gogarty, Amy. West Contemporary Canadian Ceramics Medicine Hat. May 13-July 9,2006
Gibson, Jennifer. Alan Lacovetsky: Made by Fire. Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg, 2002. Winnipeg Manitoba.
Karlinsky, Amy. Ceramic Works Reinforce Sense of Diversity. Winnipeg Free Press, January 16, 2003
Sawyer, Jill. Fire And Form, Galleries West, December 31, 2003
 Interview with Alan Lacovetsky, September 2012
 Jennifer Gibson, Made by Fire Exhibition…
 Sawyer, Jill. Fire And Form,
 Amy Gogarty. West Contemporary Canadian Ceramics Medicine Hat.
 Karlinsky, Amy. Ceramic Works Reinforce Sense of Diversity.
© 2013 studioceramicscanada.com
When I see your name pop up on my screen, fond memories of your UofM Ceramics class and stimulating conversations with you come to mind. That usually happens at this time of year when I return to Winnipeg for the summer and look up events and such. (Now in the Middle East––Qatar). Warm wishes, Charlene Kasdorf (2007/8??)
Thanks, Charlene. I’ll pass your comment on to Alan
Thanks Charlene, I hope you are doing well. The best of luck and good health. Take care