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Maker Residency Highlights from the Canadian Craft Biennial

Residency dates – Sept 4 – 15, 2017

Canadian Craft Biennial Exhibitions – Aug 19 – Oct 29, 2017

Canadian Craft Symposium – Sept 16 & 17, 2017

Nearly a month has passed since attending the Canadian Craft Biennial as a maker in residence. My time back in Alberta has allowed the buzz of this event to settle and I can reflect on this amazing experience. The residency invited 6 makers and 6 writers to come together for 10 days at the Art Gallery of Burlington, which is home to 7 art guild studios and Canada’s largest contemporary ceramics collection. Following the residency we were invited to take part in the 2 day Canadian Craft Symposium, a culminate event that hosted over 250 attendees to hear over 50 professionals to present their craft-based research. Also part of the residency was 4 organised art workshops, which got us makers and writers out of our creative comfort zones and encouraged critical dialogue, play and experimentation. Concurrently, there was also four biennial exhibitions, two community craft project displays, a 4-day professional ceramics workshop led by Dutch ceramist Anton Reijnders and the Canadian Craft Federation/Fédération canadienne des métiers d’art 12th annual National Craft Conference. While many of us residents were not directly involved in these events, we eagerly took the opportunity to engage peripherally where we could.

The focus of the residency was to foster collaboration and engage with new material processes, while not forcing a specific project outcome. Although I did have the chance to make some of my own ceramic work and experiment in the clay studio, the short duration of the residency forced me to consider how my presence could have the greatest impact. It became clear to all of us that the success of the residency would be defined more though the ideas and dialogue centered around craft, which we could then bring back to our own studio or writing practices. Throughout the two weeks I met with people engaged in the crafts field at all levels. In considering the ways in which makers navigate and engage with the diversity of crafts people and craft supporters, I left the residency thinking of my own place or role within this large and extended community. As a young Canadian artist, it was an amazing chance to see many of the potential directions my career may take me and learn from many leaders in the field. I was thankful that I took a courageous leap in applying for the program, which is a lesson for artists at any levels to strive for things that may seem out of their league.

As a ceramic artist, I loved seeing the collection at the Art Gallery of Burlington, which is one of the largest in contemporary Canadian ceramics. Make and Do artists are well represented with works by Carole Epp, Robin DuPont and Leslie McInally to name a few. The AGB’s collection strategy, of supporting artists at a variety of career levels, fosters an ongoing relationship with many artists across Canada. It was encouraging as a young maker to see so many emerging artists and early career works included amongst the ranks. Some other highlights for me came through a self-motivated wish to engage with the local community. Initially my proposal included an engagement with the community to further expand understanding of the professional legitimacy of working artists. A potluck organised with the AGB Pottery Guild was a great chance to meet other potters and share with them the experience of the residency. A trip into Hamilton for their annual Super [Art] Crawl provided a great venue to see some local art shows and meet other Ontario artists. Although not specifically engaged with the making practice part of the residency, these experiences will be some of the most influential for me when thinking back on this event.

As the one of the first to participate in the CCB Residency I am looking forward to seeing the Biennial expand and grow. Often in discipline-specific conferences, the ideas gravitate towards making techniques and materials. The Biennial, in its inclusivity of all craft, forces us to connect in ideas outside specific technical processes and is the perfect incubator for critical dialogue. During the symposium, learning of the research being done on the past and present history of Canadian craft is laying a solid foundation for the future of craft in this country. With such an overall successful experience, I would encourage you to apply to the next biennial in 2020! Another great option to experience the Canadian Craft Biennial is to pick up the amazing catalogue published in conjunction with the biennial exhibitions and symposium. The catalogue contains exhibition images and essays from leading craft writers that will be a great resource for critical thinkers and makers.

*Catalogue available in person at the AGB or contact for shipping.

Special thanks to Canadian Craft Biennial Coordinators, Dr. Denis Longchamps and Emma Quinn; Writer Residency Coordinator and Editor in Chief of Studio Magazine, Leopold Kowolik; Art Gallery of Burlington Staff and volunteers including Robert Stevens, Christine Saly, Jonathan Smith, Michelle Lynn and Dawn Hackett Burns; The AGB’s 7 art guilds including the AGB Potter’s Guild and Fibre Arts Guild; workshop artists Scott Barnim, Amada McCavour, Brad Sherwood and Tim Laurin; and fellow 2017 CCB makers and writers in residence!

Check out the makers and writers from the residency & see what they’re up to!



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