We are so thrilled to present our August Guest Artist Shaun Mallonga. This up and coming emerging artist is making some incredible work and really making a name for himself in the Canadian ceramic scene. We hope you enjoy his thoughtful and generous contribution to our Q&A section.
1. Where is your studio located? How long have you been there? What's one of the perks of being a maker in that community?
I currently do not have a working studio space, but I will be taking a wheel-throwing class with the inspiring Alwyn O’Brien during the fall semester back at Langara to further polish my making skills and continue my art practice. I graduated from the Langara Fine Arts Diploma Program in 2014, and have spent 2 years of my life in that community. The Langara Fine Arts Department is made up of an amazing faculty of hilarious, sweet-hearted, and driven people that continually inspire me to take up the challenge of making great works of art. Many of my mentors from Langara have taught me to be aware of the things that surround me, and to take full advantage of what is available to create something that sparks a flare for inquiry and discovery. One of the perks of being part of that community of artists is their outright support for their current students and alumni in paving a career path in both fine arts and emerging craft media. Langara got me interested in the benefits of learning within tight-knit communities, and thus led me to pursue my studies in Calgary, AB where I met an even bigger community of makers.
2. Can you tell us a bit about one of your mentors, someone without who you likely wouldn't be a ceramic artist?
I have had many mentors so far who have taught me important lessons in my path towards becoming a full-fledged ceramicist that it’s really difficult to just pin it down to one person for getting me passionate for ceramics. I will however mention Martina Lantin, who has recently been appointed as permanent faculty over at the Ceramics department of the Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) where I am currently studying for my BFA. I have had Martina as a professor for about a year and a half, and she has kept me fully engaged in my making as well as how I look upon the world gathering inspiration. Her way of approaching studio arts is full of analysis, research, and romance for the evocative things that cultivate inspiration for furthering craft. The constant questioning of ‘What if..?’ was always one that stuck with me each time my classmates and I received critique from her, and it would always shake things up for me causing myself to look at something I’ve made at a completely different angle. The difference she has made in my art practice has taught me to love my creative process so that I can love my work for all the fun it brings in my life. In the words of a favourite ‘clay uncle’ of mine, you should always ‘Love your work’!
I definitely suggest anyone looking to take their practice to a whole new level in both technical and conceptual aspects to hit up ACAD as a potential learning environment, as you will be in good hands with some of Canada’s own critical and contemporary makers.
3. Looking around your local or provincial community can you name 3 other clay artists that should be on our radar?
I’m really digging what the Vancouver-based Dusty Babes collective has been cooking up recently! I’m floored by the bold, innovative works I see coming out of Samantha Knopp’s studio, and how sophisticated her sculptural and functional works present themselves in both gallery and domestic spaces. Amelie Butcher’s illustrated works are so charming and seeing her work on my Instagram feed brings me joy and bliss for being able to see other Canadian illustrators working in clay around my area.
Last but not least, Maggie Boyd does amazing things for getting the Vancouverite community excited about ceramics and the joys of having awesome, kickass pots at home! I really look forward to be able to work with these peeps in my community, and can’t wait to see what they cook up next.
4. Would you describe your work as having any inherent "Canadian Aesthetic"? If so can you describe how you might perceive stylistic trends in contemporary Canadian Ceramics.
As a Canadian illustrator working in clay, I would describe my work as something that has transformed into fitting the flux of Canadian Aesthetic much like how I have been influenced by living in Canada. My experiences of growing up as a First-Generation immigrant child has taught me to use whatever that was being given to me as something that could be rewritten with my own inquiries and propositions. Popular culture is a familiar visual language that I feel speaks to a lot of people that I want to talk to, and the graphic language of comic books, cartoons, and manga illustrations spoke to me as something within that cultural sphere which I could possibly appropriate to write out my own fantasies of what could be or what might be already happening. As I began to speak in my own language through the art of making, I began to discover historic roots that linked with other iconographies and even ceramic artifacts from different civilizations. My comfort with a familiar visual language led me to link and discover other unfamiliar preceding or ‘new yet old’ languages to learn from.
I would say that stylistic trends in contemporary Canadian Ceramics have an awareness of previous forms and aesthetics in the history of craft and art, and seek to branch out to other media and technologies in order to be considered ‘relevant’ and ‘contemporary’. I find that the contemporary work that I latch onto is culturally involved and critical in the construction of human culture. Makers are thinking through the marks they make on people with their craft, and how it benefits themselves and the culture within communities surrounding them.
5. Can you retell one of your favourite stories about being an artist?
One of my favourite parts about being an artist is the opportunity to travel and take part in a residency. I had a two-month summer residency over at the Medalta International Artists in Residence in Medicine Hat, AB. For the whole two months, I was able to make a lot of work that was outside of the regular pattern that I would normally get at art school, and I made great connections with friends from across Canada as well as outside Canadian borders. I made friends with people from Mexico City, Jingdezhen, Cleveland, and even Hawaii! I even got the chance to squeeze in some time to go inner tubing down the Saskatchewan River with some of my new buddies. Medalta is an amazing place to be able to make work amoungst passionate and talented peers, and be immersed in so much of the history of past makers from the Medalta Potteries Historical Site. The amazing administration and staff of Medalta made the experience so much more enjoyable that the memories I have of Medalta are unforgettable and nostalgic. I get homesick for Medalta, and I encourage anyone taking up a career in ceramics to apply to this wonderful artist-run facility.
6. Were there any hard challenges you had to overcome in your career? What did you learn from mistakes or challenges? Could you offer some advice for others who are trying to have similar success as makers?
I haven’t really gotten a whole year in the biz’ of being a ceramics artist outside of school, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any hard challenges to overcome in my career. My love for ceramics helped me gain the courage to get out of home’s reach and explore other breadths of experience. I came to Calgary, AB to study at the Alberta College Of Art + Design solely on the suggestion of my professors, due to my willingness to hone my skills in the medium. I now owe a lot of money (like some of my fellow students), and I became a workaholic. I also made a lot of friends, and my strength as a person was put to the test. My relationships with people are very important to me, and being outside of my support group in Vancouver taught me about how sure of a person I needed to put myself as forward. Being away from home, I ended up centering my life around my studio work and eventually got too burned out to make the things that I love. I would literally cry while I made things, and my relationships with some of my friends turned to the worse. My relationship with myself and my work became my biggest insecurity, and it mentally got the better of me.
I grew up living with a lot of fear surrounding me, and I am now learning to live out of love and not the latter. It’s been really hard and there are some wounds that I’ve made so far in my journey, but I sure as hell can tell you that I’ve become such a stronger person for going my path. I am living to create works of love that pronounce variations of happiness for those who feel unspoken of, peripheral, and invisible. What drives me to push forward no matter how hard it gets financially, mentally, or physically, is the fact that doing the thing that I love doing is giving power to myself and the people around me.
My advice for fellow makers is to keep on making past the mud, sweat, and tears. Keep your eyes open for shows and residency opportunities, and don’t be afraid to take them up. Lastly and most importantly, never forget to breathe and have hope.
7. Favourite artist, ceramic or otherwise.
Ohmygawsh! I have such a catalogue of favourite ceramic artists in my head that it’s so hard to choose one. Although, I will say that Beth Lo is an outstanding influence of mine in terms of thinking about drawing, creativity, and play. Every time I see her pots, I feel giddy like a kid in a chocolate store.
8. What's on your playlist in the studio? Silence, music, podcasts?
My music taste varies from time to time but I love listening to Beach House, the Knife, Grizzly Bear, Owen Pallet, Perfume Genius, Cyndi Lauper, and Hot Chip. I also like listening to 80’s pop, and I’m a sucker for synths and beats! Please give me more music suggestions as I’m always on the hunt.
I am currently waiting to get back in the studio to splurge on more Tales of A Red Clay Rambler.
Find out more about Shaun on his guest artist gallery page or grab one of his incredible works in our online shop.