Mel Bolen, "Frozen Drop," stoneware clay, wheel thrown, altered, carved, with glaze and terra sigillata surfaces, fired in a salt vapour kiln, 2009.
Melcontent, July 2 to August 12, 2010, The Hand Wave Gallery, Meacham
BY: Patricia Dawn Robertson
Saskatchewan master potter Mel Bolen grew up in Regina in a house without art. He studied engineering in the 1960s but was smitten when he took a pottery course, and since then he’s spent 40 years in the ‘clay biz’ producing innovative functional and sculptural work. Bolen’s current exhibition, Melcontent, at The Hand Wave Gallery continues the advances he made for his Induction show in Saskatoon in October last year. “I spent 16 months on a tangent,” Bolen explains. “I took some risks and really scared myself. When the new work was exhibited, it just about sold out. I knew I was on to something as a lot of my peers, who aren’t wealthy, invested in the work.” The new works in question, which are sculptural in shape, are also salt-fired. “The whole kiln turns into a glazing atmosphere. I stack the pieces, laying one work atop the other. The finished pieces look like tide pools in B.C., or a galaxy.” The fat, gourd-like shapes have been pushed to the limit, and have the stretch marks to prove it. And while Bolen agrees he can still fall back on producing functional works, the fine art sculptures he produces in his church studio in the Carmel Hills keep him engaged.