It is March - still feels like winter in much of our fine country and a perfect time to start dreaming of plans to come. One of those alluring winter thoughts is the idea of heading off to a residency. Situated in the cliffs of the South Saskatchewan River, Medalta is a 150-acre Historic Clay District. Reimagined as a working museum and education centre, Medalta offers artists in all stages of their careers the opportunity to further explore their creativity.
With the April 1st residency application deadline fast approaching, Make and Do decided to catch up with Dianne Lee, a Toronto potter who spent a month at Medalta last fall.
Meet Dianne Lee
What kind of work do you do?
My work is rooted in memories, experiences that have not been forgotten, and are still alive. I connect to this thought through the process clay takes as a transformative material. Once clay is fired it is still. This notion allows me to play with the movement of the material and the stillness it then holds, conceptually meeting my desire to combine and juxtapose materials, objects, and symbols that reverberate the live and still of experience and memory. I use likeness to connect to an audience, utilizing empty signifiers as communication devices and the notion of freeplay.
Did you have a specific project in mind for the residency?
During the month at Medalta I planned to build a set that I would interact in while filming. When I was a child I played tee-ball and baseball. I wanted to recreate and use the elements of a baseball game exploring the similarities between motion, action, and stillness in the body to the motion, action, and stillness of clay. I planned to create clay baseball bats, baseballs, and a brick wall that would act as my opponent. Each element of the piece would be used individually but then come together in the videos.
My aim was to put together 2-3 short videos to be displayed next to three objects that are featured in the videos. I also wanted to do some writing that would help me to summarize my work by answering short invasive questions that I would ask myself. I planned to present these questions/answers on the back of a baseball card that I would produce, next to the standard height, weight and age prompts.
How did your vision of what you were going to achieve compare to what actually happened during the residency?
My vision of what I was going to achieve and what actually transpired was drastically different. I thought because I had a month away from work, teaching and from my own functional studio practice that I had a lot of free time to explore, think and create. In reality by the end of the month I was just scratching the surface of my proposed project.
Anything surprising/unexpected happen or are there any particular highlights you'd like to share?
Most of my exploration with materials and concepts are intuitive at first. I allow myself to play and follow tangents until I come up with something that makes sense to me, I then relate it's relevance to me, my environment and my history by researching or expanding critically, by writing, drawing and planning. During this process I did not place expectations on myself, rather I documented everything and was open to learning as I built and made mistakes. I stumbled upon some interesting parallels during this process, regurgitating themes that I've explored multiple times related to caution and trespassing on sensitive memories and experience.
By the end of my time at Medalta I made a video. In the video I played with the objects I created; a brick wall, baseball bats and balls, all at different stages of the materials process; wet, bone dry, bisqued and glazed. A highlight for me was the way in which I recorded the process of breaking down the wall. I used two cameras at two different angles. Sounds basic and insignificant but sometimes the simplest change in process can be the most effective. Having a camera recording in the front and one behind the wall was a successful way to connect themes and idea to the potential viewers.
Words from the wise: Are there any tips you'd like to pass on to people considering this residency?
A one-month residency goes by fast, it is just enough time to finish test pieces and explore ideas, materials and process. Medalta has a wide section of kilns, gas and electric, indoor and outdoor, a sand blaster and much more. I would take advantage of as much as you can in the moments you need a break from your work. I got to add a piece to a soda kiln, which I hadn't done before and blast some of my work with the sand blaster. You never know how difference processes and access to the equipment you don't use in your daily practice will shape current or future projects.
Is there anything you'd do differently?
Stay a little bit longer.
To see some of Dianne’s functional work check her out at Dianne Lee Ceramics.