I discovered pottery in 1989, when aftter a bit of trouble in grade 11 went to boarding school for grade 12. While there I dropped all my sciences and picked up every art class I could. After graduation and a few years making pots intermittently at the potter’s guild, I decided to pursue pottery. Moving home, into a trailer with six cats and no water, I set up shop. After a period of time I realized the need to advance my skills and applied to the Fine Arts program at Red Deer College. Through the summer residency program offered there I was able to work alongside many ceramic artists from around the world. Thus equipped with this fresh insight and invigorated artistic spirit, I ran away. After working construction for a few years I decided once again to set up pottery shop. In 1997 I bought the derilect schoolhouse in Duval SK. Since then I have maintained a production pottery, and produced one of a kind pieces. I am joined here with my wife Nadia, who maintains the business. I have served on the board of the Saskatchewan Craft Council, and am involved with CARFAC, previously as a mentor, and currently as a mentee.
I once visited a friend and was served tea, when I picked up the teapot to refill my cup I found the handle was hot enough to burn me. It had been made hollow and was filled with the scalding tea. He soon after received a gift of one of my teapots to replace his. That was the start of the reaction you see in the work presented here.
I have often contemplated handles. Their curves, the way they fit in your hand, whether they assist holding the vessel or make it’s holding uncomfortable. I have held handles which felt like they would break at the slightest bump, handles that made drinking a full cup of coffee a labour in keeping it from slipping through your grip as it tilts sideways and handles with sharp points that would cut you if you were to hold them wrong. Some of these idiosyncrasies create a sort of routine or ritual around the pot’s use and actually enhance the experience of using them by making the user more mindful of the act.
In my work as a production potter I occasionally used commercially produced bamboo handles on my teapots. They functioned very well, but I never felt comfortable with those handles, that such and essential part of my work, had not come from me nor the materials from the land around my studio. I have viewed masterful works by western potters that have a generic bamboo handle attached. It may be that they come from an area where bamboo is grown, or that their training has been in, or greatly influenced by, eastern ceramic traditions and they have learned how to make cane or bamboo handles, but so often it feels to me like the handle is a purchased afterthought. Why does the placement of such a small object convey to me that less care might have been given to the first place of contact, than the rest of the vessel? Does the anonymous maker of the handle then deserve co-credit for the success of the vessel and potter?
Considering those masterful pots with seemingly commercial handles, it occurred to me that vessels using a pre-produced handle had to be constrained to fit the form of the intended handle. That one lesser part of the work was actually dictating somewhat the vessel’s form and dimensions. As I explored this idea the question formed, “What if the handle became more valuable, time consuming or complicated than the pot itself.” That a more valuable addition would be made to conform to the pot. In this idea I am reminded of French Mounts, where ceramic and jade imported pieces were embellished with elaborate attachments in the attempt to make them more valuable.
I assessed what materials were native around me, and how to incorporate them as handles in my work. Early experiments were with bent caragana, wire and sisal twine. A neighbour gave me a box of shed deer antlers, their curves, colour and strength prompted experiments into how to attach them as handles. A friend farms an orchard and has provided the most wonderfully barked cherry branches. Other material has come from the trimming of the trees in my yard. Copper wire for attaching came from the renovation of my studio. The handles on my vessels, and for some of the work the term “handle” is used loosely, take far longer to design and construct than the pots they are attached to. The form of the vessels has dictated and limited how the wood and antler can to be attached.
It is with some sense of irony that I look back at my initial reaction to the teapot which burned my hand and was difficult to use. In my current work there often exists an overreaction in scale and complexity, which has resulted in vessels which are require thoughtfulness to hold and make service difficult if they are even to be used at all. The antler tines reside in space that has to be approached carefully in order to grasp them. Filling the vessel requires more effort. Serving tea becomes more thoughtful in respect to the safety and comfort of those being served. There is an uncomfortable imbalance at times between the handle and vessel. While I think this discomfort transfers to the server and the served, there is also a sense of play and whimsy asking if we are up to the challenge of use. It has me wondering about how much the things which challenge me have to teach as well.
Les Manning Workshop, Moose Jaw Potter’s Guild, Moose Jaw SK, May 2014
Antoinette Baedenhurst Workshop, Saskatoon Potter’s Guild, Saskatoon SK, March 2014
Michael Kline Workshop, Saskatoon Potter’s Guild, Saskatoon SK, Oct. 2013
Metal Sculpture Workshop, Kimberly BC, Aug. 2013
Prairie Fire Woodfire Workshop, Ruddell SK, 1999
Red Deer College, Summer Ceramics Residency Programs, 1993, 1994
Red Deer College, Fine Arts, 1992-1994
Briercrest College, 1989-1991
Caronport High School, 1988-89 first introduction to ceramics
“Rural Entrepreneurs” Video segment, Prairie Farm Report, January 24, 2015
“Playing With Clay Makes Potter’s Day.” Western Producer, Jan. 16, 2014
“Trophy Teapots” Solo Showcase, Handmade House, Saskatoon SK, April 1, to May 31, 2014
Several Group shows at Traditions Handcraft Gallery, Regina, including
“Inside/Outside” October 2007
“Time Slipping Away” March 2007
“The Face of Craft” Saskatchewan Craft Council 25th anniversary exhibit, 2000
“Put A Lid On It” Saskterra travelling exhibit, 2000-2003
“Free Me Take the Sight Out of This Eye” Mask image in The Craft Factor, Saskatchewan
Craft Council, Fall/Winter 2000, p.20.
CARFAC Saskatchewan Mentorship Program – Mentee, September 2014 – June 2015
Newschool Arts, Duval SK. Functional Pottery Studio, 1998 – Present
CARFAC Saskatchewan Mentorship Program – Mentor, September 2013 – June 2014
Individual and Group Pottery Classes, Newschool Arts, 1999 – Present
Artsmarts Grant participating artist, Raymore School, Raymore SK. 2008
Pottery workshop for William Derby School Students, Strasbourg SK, 2007
Annual Creative Weekend Retreats for students of Briercrest College, 2002 – 2006
Pottery workshop, International Students, Wester Christian Collegiate of Regina Sk, 2004
Weekly Youth Pottery Classes, Sponsored by Duval Optimist Club, 1999 – 2001
Saskatchewan Craft Council, Board of Directors, 1999 – 2003
Three Weekend Pottery Workshop, Wynyard Pottery Club, 1998
“Lounge Lizards”, Student Union Remodelling – Ceramic installation, Red Deer College, 1993
Traditions Handcraft Gallery, Regina SK
Handmade House, Saskatoon SK
Saskmade Marketplace, Saskatoon SK
Green Ark Collected Home, Saskatoon SK
Art Concepts, Estevan SK
Gift Purchase on behalf of Canadian Embassy, China.
200 Mugs, Sask Energy Christmas gifts.
150 Mugs, Saskatchewan Trucking Association
50 Prize Medallions, “Back to the Beach 5k Race” Arlington Beach SK
Saskatchewan One Act Drama Festival, commemorative gift mugs.
Saskatchewan Craft Council
Last Mountain Artist’s Collective
Other Relevant Experience
Founding Organizer – East Shore Arts and Crafts Tour.
Jeffrey John Taylor
Duval SK, S0G 1G0