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Summer 2007 Cover
Summer 2007 Cover
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"Quilt of Belonging"
From the "Quilt of Belonging" exhibition at Calgary's Glenbow Museum.
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"Quilt of Belonging"
From the "Quilt of Belonging" exhibition at Calgary's Glenbow Museum.
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Carol and Richard Selfridge, "Rooster Romance," woodfired teapot. From the Alberta Craft Council show Brew Ha Ha
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Mel Bolen, "Estrella," stoneware, 2006. From the Saskatchewan Craft Council show Dimensions 2007
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Michael Hosaluk's recent installation "Containment" at Saskatoon's Mendel Gallery. Photo Courtesy Rebecca Cittadini Mendel Art Gallery
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Alwyn O'Brian, "Teacup," hand built and slip cast, porcelain, 2006. Photo Courtest Prime Gallery
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Red glass bead bracelet with freshwater pearls
Martha Henry, red glass bead bracelet with freshwater pearls, labourite and silver.
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Tanis Saxby, "Shadow Form," porcelain clay, 2006, 26"(w)x 10"(h)
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"Moontide (brooch/ pendant)"
Erin Dolman, "Moontide (brooch/ pendant)," sterling, etched copper, 18k gold, text from vintage copy of the Tempest, clematis seeds, shell, cast twigs, acrylic, 2003, 2.75" x 1.25" x .5"
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Zinc silicate crystalline glazed bowl pedestal vase with 22k gold trim
Bill Boyd, zinc silicate crystalline glazed bowl pedestal vase with 22k gold trim, 2007, 20.5"
THE ART OF CRAFT
With a year long celebration, western canadian artisans step into the spotlight.
BY: Beverly Cramp
If recognition of fine craft is still languishing behind fine art in Canada, this year may help the genre step out further from the shadows. Led by the Canadian Crafts Federation, 2007 marks the official Craft Year, a country-wide umbrella of awareness and events that’s giving artisanal work a boost. It’s an idea that has easily found a home in western Canada.
Many craft genres, including ceramics, glass art, jewellery and fibre art, continue to reach fresh audiences and attract new collectors in the west, with some geographical locations becoming hotspots for artisans, such as the proliferation of glass artists in Alberta.
“Glass is really strong in Alberta,” says Tom McFall, executive director of the Alberta Craft Council, based in Edmonton. “We have a lot of hot glass people working here. Partly that has to do with natural gas, a fuel for hot shops where glass is blown, being historically cheap.” He adds that the strong glass program at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) also helps glass artists. “The college has great affiliations with Pilchuck, which creates a lively international perspective,” says McFall, referring to the Washington State glass school founded in 1971 by internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Red Deer College is also widely recognized for its glass program.
Alberta’s glass art stars include Tyler Rock, Darren Petersen, Bonny Houston, Jeff Holmwood and Martha Henry, one of the first hot glass artists to establish a studio and a career in Alberta.
“I built my first studio in my backyard in 1978,” says Henry. “I had a tiny furnace and of course I made very small things. Then, in 1979, I started Skookum Art Glass with my partner Bob Held. At the time there were probably only three main people working here in hot glass — Bob, myself and Norman Faulkner.
“Bob and I did a lot of exhibitions to educate people about glass,” she continues. “We did it because there was lots of ceramic around at the time but not much glass art.”
When Henry and her partner Bob Held split in 1989, (Held moved to Vancouver, B.C. to establish Robert Held Art Glass studio and Henry built her own glass studio in Calgary), she had become famous in her own right. “1990 was when I built my own studio,” she says. “I had my own name by then, my own reputation.” Henry’s artwork is now owned by international luminaries including Queen Elizabeth II, the Rolling Stones and Garth Brooks. She received the Alberta Craft Council’s Award of Excellence in 2005.
Her practice has undergone a vast change recently. “I’m not blowing glass anymore,” she says. “I’m making glass beads, necklaces and glass sculpture using soft glass. I’ll be going to Murano [Italy] in May to learn about figurative glass sculpture. There’s always so much to learn. After 30 years, I’ve found a whole new area. I’m really excited about it.”
One of the retail outlets carrying Henry’s glass bead jewellery is Influx Gallery, a Calgary-based fine craft dealer that is host to a diverse collection of contemporary art jewellery and wearable art. Influx was founded in 2004 by three ACAD jewellery graduates and another artist who works in fine furniture design.
“We established a following for our work, which is more sculptural and artistic than most commercial jewellery,” says Devon Clark, one of the co-owners. “We’re finding that we’re getting a lot of people buying one-of-a-kind pieces for their engagement rings — funky rings that are the furthest things from the typical engagement ring.” Influx now represents more than 40 artists, and hosts presentations by ACAD professors.
Influx’s success has fine craft artists from all over the world submitting their work for representation by the gallery. “We’ve had submissions from Korea, Iran and the States,” Clark says. “So far, we’re only carrying Canadian work.”
Clark singles out two artists who particularly impress her with their work: Jackie Anderson and B.C.-based Erin Dolman. “Erin’s work is very sculptural, very three-dimensional,” she says. “She uses a lot of mixed media and is very good with textural metal. And Jackie is an established artist.” Dolman is one of the 31 artists chosen to represent Canada at the 31st annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, a major North American fine craft exhibition.
Ceramic, historically a craft with strong presence, has built into a robust genre in the west, though serious local collectors are still scarce. “I see a lot of growth in terms of the amount of people doing good work, I see ceramics evolving,” says Bill Boyd, a potter since 1970. He now lives and works on Galiano Island off B.C.’s west coast. “But there usually isn’t much recognition for ceramics locally,” he adds. “Potters don’t get the kind of support here that they do in other parts of eastern Canada.”
However, this past March, much to his astonishment, Boyd’s show called Crystal Magic virtually sold out at the Crafthouse Shop in Vancouver — many of the buyers were local. Boyd credits his success to his unique method of making pots. “I’m working with something that not many people have seen: crystals in glaze,” he explains. “It’s a big plus for me. Crystal glazes are very elusive and difficult to control. Only about one quarter of my production is good enough for the galleries. I’m very fussy about this.”
Calvin Taplayof the Craft Association of British Columbia agrees that there are too few local collectors for B.C. ceramics. “Our major market is still out of B.C. — Ontario, the U.S. and other international places such as England. We don’t feel there are enough locals who appreciate fine craft. Bill Boyd’s exhibit was a pleasant surprise.”
Recently, B.C. ceramist Paul Mathieu received the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in fine craft, part of the Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts. Other rising ceramists cited by CABC include Alwyn O’Brien, who opens a show at Toronto’s Prime Gallery in June, and Tanis Saxby, whose works in porcelain are influenced by shadows cast on the clay.
Injecting new ideas into the promotion of craft has worked well in Saskatchewan, according to Mark Stobbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Craft Council. “We had a few years of stagnation but in the last year that has turned around,” he says. “There’s a better climate for craft and we have better craft promotions. A new appreciation for craft is slowly growing here.”
A major sign of recognition for craft in Saskatchewan comes from fine art galleries. “There’s more interest in craft from the major visual arts galleries,” Stobbe continues, citing Regina’s MacKenzie Gallery and Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery. “They’re finding that fine craft shows draw some of their biggest crowds. The Mendel’s show of Michael Hosaluk work earlier this year had one of the gallery’s highest attendances. Michael was originally a wood turner but he’s branched out. Michael was also the 2005 Saidye Bronfman Award winner.”
Stobbe points to commercial art galleries like the Verve Gallery in Regina and the Darrell Bell Gallery in Saskatoon — which are also exploring possibilities in exhibiting and selling fine craft.
Saskatchewan artisans are also benefiting from better marketing of the province’s bigger fine craft shows like Saskatoon’s Waterfront Art and Craft Show, which started in 1997 as a joint collaboration between the Mendel Gallery and the SCC. “We’re taking these shows and turning them into more people-friendly events,” Stobbe says. “We want people to come for the fun of it as well as the shopping. This year, the Waterfront show is being renamed and we’re partnering with new people — we’re bringing in more entertainment and more food, making it a richer event to attend.”
The outdoor show, now called Living Artfully on the Waterfront will be held on the grounds of the Mendel Art Gallery on the South Saskatchewan River and will include not only a market for visual artists and artisans, but organic farmers, environmental education, theatre, dance and music.
The fine craft shows, better marketing and education initiatives, and increasing awareness of fine craft both from the public and the galleries have all created a more vibrant fine craft sector in the West. The added boost of Craft Year 2007, with hundreds of linked events, adds to the critical mass of craft awareness in Canada, throwing a spotlight onto a genre that has previously been considered mostly decorative.
With a year-long celebration, western Canadian artisans step into the spotlight
Craft Year 2007 in the West
Many events across the Western provinces and the North showcase the best of fine craft. This year, the Canadian Crafts Federation is backing them as part of the national celebration Craft Year 2007. Here are some recommendations:
All About Alberta is a major show of fine craft practitioners from Alberta organized by the Alberta Craft Council. The exhibitors were asked to share their impressions of the province in a medium of their choice. The show was exhibited at the Canadian Embassy Gallery in Washington D.C. last year and will be in Calgary from July 21 - October 6 at the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary.
Brew Ha-Ha, also organized by the ACC, is an exhibition of teapots in all media to be shown in the ACC Edmonton Gallery through July 14. This exhibition will focus on perspectives of the ritual of tea — historic, social and emotional.
Dimensions 2007, an annual juried show of Saskatchewan’s high profile fine craft, will kick off at Regina’s Mackenzie Gallery this year before touring other Saskatchewan galleries and the Alberta Craft Council Gallery. Organized by the Saskatchewan Craft Council.
The Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival, established in 1976, is the ‘granddaddy’ of the province’s fine craft events, held in the city of Battleford’s Alex Dillabough Centre, July 13 to 15.
The Nunavut Arts Festival 2007, now in its eighth year, brings together visual artists from many Nunavut communities to exhibit and sell their work. This year there will be 40 to 50 artists attending the show in Iqaluit from June 20 to 27.
The Alianait! Arts Festival, will be presented for the third time in Iqaluit by a coalition of arts organizations from across the north including the Nunavut Arts & Crafts Association. Alianait showcases traditional arts and new artists from Nunavut, Yukon, the North West Territories and across Canada from June 21 to July 1, featuring art, music, film, storytelling, dance and theatre.
Something to Crow About is an exhibition of textile work by the Mid-Island Surface Design Group at FibreEssence Gallery at 3210 Dunbar Street, Vancouver B.C. from May 14 to June 17.
Mosaic, opening May 12 at the Manitoba Crafts Museum & Library in Winnipeg, features 75 objects from their collection in celebration of their 75th anniversary, accompanied by publication of an art book called Crafting the Mosaic. The Museum will also open a juried show of contemporary craft inspired by Manitoba history called By Design on September 27.
Contemporary Craft in B.C.: Excellence Within Diversity opens September 11 to 26, organized by The Craft Association of British Columbia. This juried show will be held at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Vancouver. The show will also include public programming and community initiatives.
Many craft genres, including ceramics, glass art, jewellery and fibre art, continue to reach fresh audiences and attract new collectors in the west
Modern Handcraft: The Quilt of Belonging comes to the Glenbow Museum
In 1994, at age 42, Ontario visual artist Esther Bryan accompanied her father to Slovakia, a country he’d left behind 43 years earlier as a refugee. Visiting relatives she didn’t even know she had, and a land that had shaped her father as a young man, Bryan uncovered a side of her own identity that had been previously unknown to her. This discovery got her thinking about the connectivity of the world’s people. “How do we all fit together?” she asked herself.
The answer would come to her as she managed the piecing together of a monumental work of fine craft. Featuring 263 handcrafted blocks representing the 71 Aboriginal groups and 192 nationalities found in Canada, The Quilt of Belonging is considered the country’s most comprehensive textile art project. It took Bryan, the spirited force behind the project, and hundreds of volunteers six years to complete.
The diamond-shaped blocks were crafted by immigrants to Canada, including many refugees, and feature a range of materials — from African mud-cloth to embroidered silk. Each symbolizes a unique culture.
The block representing Afghanistan features a miniature Afghan carpet. The block representing Vietnam shows a young woman in traditional dress, sitting by a river and playing a bamboo flute. The Chilean block features the country’s national flower, the bellflower, on velvet fabric, commonly used in traditional Chilean costumes. All along the bottom and both sides of the massive quilt are blocks representing First Nations. It’s a powerful metaphor for the vastness of our world and cultural diversity in Canada.
“Canada was created from a great mosaic of people,” says Adrienne Horne, exhibition coordinator at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, where the quilt will be on display from June 30 to September 30.
Halfway through work on the project, a volunteer’s son died in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. After the shock of that day subsided, Bryan and her crew were left with a renewed resolve. “9/11 left us with images of a broken world,” she says. “We thought that if our children could see a vision of what the world could be like, they’d have something to keep walking towards.”
The Quilt of Belonging was unveiled on April 1, 2005, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It has traveled the country from Nova Scotia to B.C. On a trip across the Arctic, it was blessed by an Inuit elder. When it arrives at the Glenbow’s Gallery One, Horne says it will take up the entire 2,600 square-foot space. Its size is representative of Canada’s geographic vastness.
The quilt, Bryan says, tends to leave viewers humbled and changed, as it affected its creators. “It’s changed us enormously,” she says. “When you hear people’s stories from their side, what happened to them, it changes you,” she says. “You look at the world differently.”
— Amber Bowerman