For over forty years they have been a mainstay of Nova Scotia pottery. Although their work displays their individual interests and talents, it is always recognizable as their distinctive brand, Birdsall-Worthington pottery. Their earthenware works reach across many genres including functional, commemorative and jewellry.
Enjoy their story and let them know how much you appreciate their art and contribution to Canadian studio ceramics.
The bilingual Peter Powning A Retrospective/ Peter Powning Une rétrospective, from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, is a much-needed addition to the history and understanding of contemporary ceramics and sculpture in Canada. It is encouraging to see such major recognition for an artist, even in these difficult times.
Powning’s work does not fit easily into one artistic medium or category. He has created works in ceramics, glass, bronze, and paper for pottery and sculpture, both free standing and architectural. A major, multi-award winner, Powning has received among other honours, the 1991 Deichmann Award for Excellence in Craft, the 1993 Strathbutler Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the 2006 Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in Crafts in Canada.
This hardcover book of 192 pages is a detailed and full-colour presentation of Powning’s life and work. It is extensive, as much biography as critique.
The book is edited by John Leroux, Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. He has organized insightful articles, helping the reader understand the scope and complexities of Powning’s varied artistic output and life. They dig deeply into the “who” of this multi-faceted artist as well as into the “what” and the “why”, much more so than the standard exhibition catalogue.
The articles’ authors include Rachel Gotlieb on Expanding Ceramic and Craft Practices in Canada; Peter Laroque on Exploration, Experimentation, Self-Sufficiency, and Technical Mastery in the 1970s and 1980s; John Grande on Art into Time; and Allen Bentley’s look at The Mythic Basis of Peter Powning’s Art. An afterword by Peter’s wife, Beth gives a seldom seen look at the man as artist and husband. The articles also have integrated colour illustrations that add clarity to their commentary without the reader having to flip back and forth through pages.
The articles, each with its own focus, share details that combine them into a well-structured whole.
Gotlieb brings her experience at the Gardiner Museum and Sheridan College to describe the context of the time of the Pownings’ coming to Canada: key influencing artists of the time, the Powning lifestyle choices, and an overview of Powning’s media and process explorations.
Larocque focuses more on the New Brunswick elements of Powning’s activist choices and career, including his family and studio set up, and his political and artistic networking to develop the visibility and quality of New Brunswick crafts.
Grande delves more into technical and aesthetic development, revealing Powning’s media choices and directions with particularly interesting analyses of specific works and Powning’s own reflections on the success and surprises of his explorations.
Bentley presents a more scholarly tone exploring the nature of myth and the links to Powning’s long-term interest in the subject.
But there is more. The book is blessed with an abundance of high-quality illustrations, all in full colour, of Powning’s works. The one hundred and fourteen plates, arranged chronologically from 1971 to 2019, give a sense of his shifts and explorations in media, scope and purpose. All are listed with title, date and media, a blessing for any researcher. At the very back is a more traditional catalogue-type listing of one hundred thirty-two coloured thumbnails of works. The scope of the collection, is impressive for one artist.
The book would be a meaningful addition to a library, be it of a collector, museum, art dealer, or school. It is also an excellent example of “what could be”, a possible norm for displaying and documenting ceramics and ceramists in Canada. One can dream.
Good things are afoot when pottery collectors and connoisseurs come online to share their information and collections. Less than a year ago Cliff Schwartz and his page on the Schwenks. Cliff has an interest in BC ceramics. particularly the Okanagan. You can see the Schwenk page at www.schwenkpottery.ca . But the surprise is there is more: more artist information on such contemporaries as Axel Ebring, Walter Dexter, Zeljko Kujundzic, Des and Peggy Loan, Frank Poll, and Frances Hatfield.
And still more. Cliff has another site studiopotterycanada.ca . that he started in 2018. He modestly describes the site:
This purpose of this site is to tell and preserve some of the stories of Canadian potters and thus serve as a source of information to collectors, researchers and enthusiasts.
Studio Pottery Canada primarily focuses on pottery thrown before 1980 and is intended to supplement (not compete with) other on-line sources of information about the potters of Canada.
Cliff’s images and information are marvellous. Enjoy his sites
I have added a page on Ontario potter, entrepreneur and animateur Donn Zver.
A key figure in developing and sustaining pottery in Ontario, Donn Zver has created a workplace and body of work that has earned him the wide respect not only of fellow potters but also the admiration and friendship of customers .
Valerie Metcalfe at 1000 Miles Apart conference, University of Manitoba. October, 2015.
Valerie Metcalfe.. 2017. Skyscape/Landscape plate. Porcelain, solder, glass. 40.6 cm w.
I have added a page on Winnipeg ceramist Valerie Metcalfe to Studio Ceramics Canada. Valerie has been a key ceramic artist in Winnipeg for over forty years. Her work varies from the elegantly functional to the eye-stopping artistic. The sample of works presented will give only a hint of her production but what a hint!
Enjoy the story of Valerie Metcalfe. Let her know how much you enjoy her work.
Normandeau, Pierre-Aimé. c.1936,. Bowl, stoneware. 7.c cm h x 17.5 cm w. Collection: Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.
I have posted a short page on the influential Quebec educator and artist, Pierre-Aimé Normandeau. Highly respected in Quebec he is little-known in the other provinces and regions. His role was transformative for such artists as Gaetan Beaudin, Jacques Garnier, Maurice Savoie and Jacques Cartier.
Enjoy reading about Normandeau. Also, if you have further details on him and pictures of his work please contact me if you wish to share them.
One of the joys of working on Studio Ceramics Canada is the discovery of collectors who enjoy modern Canadian studio pottery. Larry Lewis is one. Larry has just brought his collection online with his website http://artshuttle.com/ . Artshuttle’s content is wide but there are two sections that will catch your attention: firstly, an extensive collction of Axel Ebring pots, the largest private collection I have seen; and secondly an extensive section on modern Canadian pottery from ceramists across Canada. Just click on the Ceramics tab to start exploring the drop down menus. Then click on a picture to see a larger format with details.
Description: PETER RUPCHAN (Ukrainian/Canadian, 1883-1944) “Colourful Pot With Scalloped Rim” – Clay pot with applied paint. 7 x 8 x 8 in.
I have just received an email from the Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting’s imminent auction of some 20 Peter Rupchan works. The sale is in about 4 days, October 27, so you will have to move fast if you collect vintage works and want to add to or increase your Rupchan holdings.
Thomas Kakinuma, UBC, date unknown, Courtesy of the Rare Books and Special Collections UBC
Thomas Kakinuma. Girl with Dog. Photo: Terry Yip
I have added an updated page on artist Thomas (Tommy) Kakinuma to the studioceramicscanada.com website. New details are courtesy of guest author Debra E. Sloan and provide updated information and images linked to the recent Kakinuma retrospective exhibition at the West Vancouver Museum.