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"Barbara Tipton in her studio"
Barbara Tipton in her studio.
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Barbara Tipton, "Lime Shift," 2007, wheel-thrown ceramic altered with hand-built additions, multiple firings, 6” high.
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Barbara Tipton, "Delft Extract," 2009, wheel-worked, handbuilt ceramic cup, multiple glazes, decals, 7.5” high.
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"Vine Cup with Golden Heart"
Barbara Tipton, "Vine Cup with Golden Heart," 2009, handbuilt ceramic, multiple glazes, 8” high.
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"Afternoon Tearoom Dance"
Barbara Tipton, "Afternoon Tearoom Dance," 2011, wheel-built earthenware, multi-fired slips, glazes and computer-generated ceramic decal, 7" x 2.5" x 2.5".
April 6 to July 2, 2013
Alberta Craft Council, Edmonton, AB
By Heather Setka
Calgary artist Barbara Tipton approaches her work like a scientist and a historian, using a laborious process based on research and experimentation. A ceramicist for three decades, her non-functional sculptural creations – particularly her clever deconstructions of cups and saucers – engage larger art-world debates about the status of craft and the precious object.
Why cups? “It’s basic things that interest me,” says Tipton, noting that working intensively on one theme lets her imagination wander. She experiments and alters at every phase. For example, she began one recent piece by tossing hunks of clay at her wheel, instead of kneading it, and continued working intuitively until a form emerged.
Tipton is inspired by historical drawings, ceramics and churches and regularly searches the Internet for images. She delights at blue-and-white Chinese floral patterns and herbal drawings from the 16th century. She uses such illustrations to create decals that give her work unusual character. She also experiments with firing and glazes. “Post-forming is a time to fiddle with details,” says Tipton “Glazing these works has become a lengthy process of building up layers, adding imagery or further visual texture.”
Tipton, who has exhibited across Canada and internationally, is working on a new series for her exhibition at the Alberta Craft Council, a non-profit service organization with an Edmonton gallery. She’s aiming to complete 20 pieces in varying sizes. In her backyard studio – at twice the size of a two-car garage, it can be best described as organized chaos – Tipton points out a piece waiting to be fired. Amid its grooves and clumps, a crack. She seems unconcerned. Flaws that render functional ceramics unusable can make her work sing. “As long as it doesn’t crack so much it completely falls apart,” she says. “There’s a lot of freedom in that.”
Originally from Memphis, Tenn., Tipton earned her Master’s degree in ceramics at Ohio State University. She has lived in Calgary since 1986 and has taught at the University of Calgary and the Alberta College of Art and Design. Her work is in various public collections, including the Canada Council Art Bank, the Glenbow Museum and the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas. It has been featured in several books, including Soda, Clay and Fire by Gail Nichols and The Ceramic Spectrum by Robin Hopper.