• Mick Henry

    Artist

    Mick Henry graduated from the Vancouver School of Art in 1961. Here he began his ceramic activities working with David Lambert and had his first exposure to the work of Bernard Leach through his study with Reg Dixon. Following school, Henry went to visit fellow student Glenn Lewis at the St. Ives pottery and was drawn to the communal atmosphere there. The Leachian aesthetic and philosophy resonated with Henry and he stayed to apprentice at St. Ives. In July 1965 he completed his two and a half year apprenticeship.

    Returning to Vancouver, Mick moved in to a studio that had been established by Glenn Lewis under the Granville Street Bridge. After an active year of production the city zoning laws forced them out of the space. Mick decided to buy a house on East 13th Avenue and Mick moved the Granville Bridge kiln to the garage/studio. He continued to produce pots, refining the language of his work to relay the moral concerns of his activity. This he achieved through continued simplification of form and economical choices such as firing techniques (oil kiln) and utilizing a refined variety of glazes. Through this time his maintained support for his family and pottery through employment as a medical illustrator at UBC. He shared the position with Claude Breeze. He was also able to sell his pottery wares through local shops including the Vancouver Art Gallery Shop, Dennis Vance’s Pot Shop, Pandora’s Box in Victoria and pleasure fairs around the Lower Mainland. Henry was included in regular sales exhibitions at Hycroft House and the North Vancouver Craft House.

    After visiting the Hornby Island potters Heinz Laffin and Wayne Ngan in 1967, Henry decided that he wanted to move his pottery to the country, buying property in Roberts Creek in 1968.  Shares of the property were eventually sold to Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov and the property was dubbed “Babyland.” In 1972, Henry built “Slug Pottery” on Babyland. The name was inspired by the admiration of the local slugs by poet Gerry Gilbert. Slug Pottery established momentum as a salt glaze kiln, and Mick busied himself with the intention of producing usable wares that met the social and economical needs of his immediate community. Mick left Roberts Creek for a year to spend additional time at the St. Ives Pottery. He returned after a year and maintained his production at Slug Pottery until 1978. At this time the combination of a back injury and a realization that desire for pottery had become one of a “art object” as opposed to a counter-cultural material production, made Henry decide to stop throwing pots and focus on maintaining the self-sufficient mode of living he had established at Babyland. (2004)

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  • Tam Irving

    Artist

    Tam Irving was born in 1933 in Bilbao, Spain. Part of his childhood was spent in Portugal where the traditional earthenwares first stimulated his interest in ceramics. This interest was set-aside for what he deemed as more serious vocational matters while he studied at Edinburgh University, Scotland, receiving a B. Sc. degree from this institution in 1956. That year he immigrated to Canada and worked for seven years for Shell Canada. Finding no fulfilment in this work, he left industry in 1964 and returned to his first love, clay. He studied at the Winnipeg School of Art, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine, and the Vancouver School of Art. Realizing what he needed to do was to make pots, he cut short any further academic study and established a studio in Vancouver in 1966, where he earned a living as a production potter for the next seven years. In 1974 he started to teach at the Vancouver School of Art which matured into a full time teaching career at the Emily Carr School of Art and Design. He retired from the Institute in 1996 in order to return to his own practice.

    While maintaining his studio work, Tam sustained a career over a period of 23 years. During this time he insisted on a role that bridged the art/craft dichotomy and respected both traditional values and innovation. In a culture moving swiftly in the direction of electronic mediation and virtual reality, he championed the reaffirmation of art forms with craft roots that he believed was integral to the continuity of a humane society. The ceramic department at Emily Carr continues to support this ethos which attests to his success in laying this philosophy as a strong foundation for the department.

    Over the years Tam has done much work for the Potters’ Guild of British Colombia serving as the president on two occasions. Recently (1992-1995), he acted as president. In collaboration with the Board he worked to restructure the staffing of the organization and renovate the Gallery of B.C. Ceramics that is operated by the Guild. During this period he also initiated the creation of the North-West Ceramics Foundation, a new not-for-profit society to support excellence in the ceramic arts and foster the continued evolution and vitality of the medium in Western Canada.

    He has actively promoted a return to original sources and pioneered, in Canada, the use of naturally occurring raw materials in clays and glazes, feeling that a closer relationship between potter and environment makes both aesthetic and economic sense. To this end, he has given numerous workshops throughout British Columbia and in Alberta and Nova Scotia dealing with methods for finding, evaluating and processing local materials. His own work is based as far as possible on raw materials that he collects from many different areas throughout the province. (2004)

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  • Glenn Lewis

    Artist

    Glenn Lewis graduated with honours in painting, drawing and ceramics in 1958 from the Vancouver School of Art. He followed this up at the Faculty of Education, University of BC where he received a B.C. Teaching certificate. In 1961 he left for England and studied ceramics under Bernard Leach in St. Ives. He did his full two-year apprenticeship and then spent a short time in the north of England founding ‘Longlands’ pottery with John Reeve and Warren MacKenzie.

    In need of steady work, Lewis returned to Vancouver when offered a full-time teaching position in Ceramics, Sculpture and Drawing in the Fine Arts Department at the University of BC. A prestigious post followed this from 1970 – 1971 as visiting professor in ceramics at Alfred University, New York.

    Lewis was an integral part of the Vancouver art landscape of the sixties. As well as teaching ceramics in the Faculty of Education studio program at UBC, he exhibited his ceramic works in 1965 at the Bau Xi Gallery and in the “Birth and Rebirth of Objects” in 1968, at the Fine Arts Gallery at UBC. He also promoted the knowledge of fine ceramics through an exhibition of the British Pottery including works by Leach, Lucy Rie, and Hans Cooper at the new Design Gallery and organized a major exhibition of British Ceramics for the National Gallery.

    By the late sixties Lewis had met Vancouver artists, such as Michael Morris, Roy Kyooka, and Gary Lee Nova, that would have a enormous influence on his work. Lewis began making sculptural porcelain works as well as incorporating his Orientals and culinary interests in his performance, video and print works. Lewis became a central figure to the new influx of avant-garde artists coming out of Vancouver in the late sixties. Important recognition of his work from this time includes inclusion in Art Forum editor Philip Leider’s “Vancouver – Scene With No Scene” June/July, 1967, the 1968 ‘Sculptures’ exhibition at the Douglas Gallery, 1968 prize for sculpture in “Spectrum 68”, Vancouver Art Gallery, and in 1969 “New Art of Vancouver 1969”, at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Balboa, and UC at Santa Barbara.

    1969 and 1970 brought a lot of new directions for Lewis. His involvement with the New Era Social Club and Intermedia led to many events at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the making of one of the first video works in Vancouver “Japanese Pickled Cabbage”. He received a commission for the sculptural wall mural, Artefact for the Canadian Pavilion of Expo70 in Osaka, Japan (acquired by Vancouver Art Gallery in 1986).

    Through the 70s as a founding member of the Western Front, Glen was intensely active in the mail art scene and developed many works, performances and collaborations. In his art of this time he continued to develop his interest in the Orient, the garden as a utopia, the natural, and the moral possibilities of returning to a life based near the land. He has designed many gardens, specifically to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, researched and photographed oriental gardens, and worked to preserve rare and regional botany.

    As the energies of the 70s changed, Lewis found he was a natural and skilled administrator. His contribution to the development of Canadian culture extended into the late eighties with a number of important posts including Arts Administrator, 1979-1987, at the Western Front Society; Curator of the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 86, 1985; appointed to the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Art Gallery, 1986, as well as being appointed to the Canada Council Media Arts Advisory Committee; in 1987-1990 he became Head of the Media Arts Section. His passion for art, commitment to the community and incomparable professional ethics made Lewis an important ally and friend to much of the Canadian arts community.

    In recent years Glen Lewis has received recognition for his achievements with the presentation of the “Emily” award by the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He has founded a small nursery, Fragrant Flora, specializing in unusual, fragrant and wildlife plants. He is president of the Sunshine Coast Botanical Society and is active in founding a botanical garden in Roberts Creek. Glenn Lewis continues to be creative. His passion is breeding orchids and has recently grown one the size of his hand which he has called ‘Ocean Orchid’. (2004)

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  • Wayne Ngan

    Artist

    Wayne Ngan was born in China and immigrated to Canada in 1951. In 1963, studies at the Vancouver School of Art resulted in graduation with honours and the A.W. Tickle Award. Though trained in art, Wayne maintains that his exploration in ceramics have always been self-directed and that he is essential “self-taught.” Wayne received immediate attention while still in school. In his final year at Vancouver School of Art he entered and received first prize in the BC Craftman exhibit at UBC. From there he participated in exhibitions at UBC Fine Arts Gallery, Bau-Xi Gallery and in 1967 at the National Gallery. This period was followed by experimental work in painting, sculpture, ceramics and drawing while teaching ceramics at the Vancouver School of Art and the University of British Columbia.

    Ngan maintained independent study and travel, gaining reference from his exploration of collections through out Europe. He also continued to win prizes and acclaim for his work. In 1969 he moved to Hornby Island were he built his kiln. He prodigiously produced work, exhibiting and gaining attention for his Hornby Island pottery. In 1977 he had the opportunity to go to China and study Sung and early Ming pottery first hand. Meeting with potters through out Asia, he travelled through Japan with a master potter to see the many country folk potteries. These influences continued to shape and evolve his voice as a potter.

    Wayne returned to Vancouver to a solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, curated by Doris Shadbolt. This was followed by the prestigious exhibition at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Sendai, Japan. As his International profile developed he had invitations to teach and participate in arts and ceramic education. This work was recognized in 1983 with the Saide Bronfman Award for Craft.  In this year he started construction on his Sung Dynasty style wood-burning kiln. By 1986 he was finished and the product of the initial firings were collected by the National Museum. Wayne actively promoted Asian folk ceramics, participating in a symposium in Hong Kong in 1988. His fame in Asian continued to grow, and his participation in International ceramics activities accumulated in Ngan’s representation in the ‘Masters of Craft’ exhibition at the Museum of Civilization.

    Wayne Ngan continues to produce exquisite ceramic works in his Sung wood kiln. He maintains a hectic international exhibition schedule as well as his on going pottery production and sales on Hornby Island. (2004)

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  • John Reeve

    Artist

    John Reeve moved from Ontario to Vancouver and wanted to go to art school. He went to the Vancouver School of Art and met Fred Amiss, then the President, and he registered him for foundation. Tuition was $18.50 a month and could be paid month by month. Faculty from that time include Murray Dublin, later with the CBC, Gordon Smith, Don Jarvis, Orville Fisher, Gordon Aspell, and Don Macintosh with who he studied sculpture. Herbert Gilbert taught design and showed the class a Leach standard ware tray with four small bowls (like the one in the Smith collection) to the class. This was the first time John encountered Leach. Had been studying painting with Shadbolt. Glenn Lewis, John and a girl (no name, will ask Glenn) were the entire ceramic dept. He stayed till the end of that year. In the summer Reg Dixon called him and said that he was going to Mexico and that John should come. He did, hung out with Reg for a week and then wandered around the country for four months. He says that was his first real education. He came back to Canada and returned to Ontario. eventually went to England to hunt him down. He ended up at the Ailsford Pottery run by Leach trained Colin Pierson. He then went to work for Harry Davis, Finally John decided to go to St Ives and pursue internship in person. He was interviewed on a Sunday afternoon. Spent 2 ½ years as an apprentice.

    Returning from a two year trip back to St Ives (Janet Leach situation) John took a position at the Vancouver School of Art.

    His activities through this period were focused on glaze experiments. He wrote two manuals for potteries from this research. In his experience most potters managed for a long time w/ out really knowing or collecting recipes.

    John made a few explorations into sculpture at this time. Up to this point his activity had remained entirely functional and he had avoided sculpture.

    John Reeve hasn’t potted regularly since the 80’s, but isn’t sure if he has given it up all together. He made a pot about 5 years ago in Santa Fe. He has also just started large clay sculptures, but has had to leave his studio. In his activities he needed to make a divide between potting and sculpture to recognize the difference in intention of making these two types of work. If he were to produce more work today it would be sculpture. (2004)

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  • Ian Steele

    Artist
  • Charmian Johnson, Curator

    Curator

    Charmian Johnson was working as a elementary teacher in Creston BC when she first saw the ceramics collection of the Seattle Art Museum. Having a life long fondness for pots, this experience inspired her to study ceramics while doing graduate studies in the Faculty of Education at UBC from 1967-69. During this time she studied under Glenn Lewis and built her first kiln with fellow student and friend, Gathie Falk. Johnson’s studies were followed by extended travel where she encountered the ceramic collections of The British Museum and The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art in London, England. Returning to Canada in 1969, Charmian worked as a visiting professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1970 she moved to Vancouver to purchase Mick Henry’s house, studio and kiln on East 13th Ave. She was a regular guest lecturer at UBC in the Faculty of Education studio program from 1971-1977. Throughout this time she continued to develop her voice through study and more travel. She viewed the Potkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul, Turkey and visited Leach apprentice Gwyn Hanssen at her pottery in Le Bourne, France.

    Johnson left her position at UBC in 1977 and decided to dedicate herself to ceramics production. Continuing to seek education and influence, she went to St. Ives, England to help photograph and catalogue the Bernard Leach collection. She also had a chance to visit Lucy Rie and Michael Cardew and view their ceramic collections. From England, Charmian continued on to Morroco where she began her series of Tangiers drawings, and worked with the Berber master potter Malem Ahmed Cheraoui.

    Throughout this time Johnson produced pottery and drawings, exhibiting extensively including the Museum of Anthropology, UBC Fine Arts Gallery and Vancouver Art Gallery. Johnson has continued to produce strong, utilitarian pottery that has been collected by a supportive community. Though she has maintained an active exhibition schedule, the focus of her pottery has always been the production of usable wares.

    Johnson maintains a variety of influences. Having apprenticed with Glenn Lewis and Mick Henry she is directly tied to the Leachian tradition. Charmian continued to develop her relationship to the philosophy through her work at St. Ives documenting the Leach collection. She also realizes her influence of Korean and Chinese ceramics, especially of the Ming, Ying and Sung dynasty, in the forms and glazes of her utilitarian pots. These simple footed forms characteristically display a deliberate thrust from the foot, gentle articulation of the body, defined rim and pure surfaces glazed in natural ash, celadon or tenmoku glazes. (2004)

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  • Lee Plested, Curator

    Curator
  • Scott Watson

    Curator

    Scott Watson (Canadian, b. 1950) is Director of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia. A curator whose career has spanned more than thirty-five years, Watson is internationally recognized for his research and work in curatorial and exhibition studies, contemporary art and issues, and art theory and criticism. His distinctions include the Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art (2010); the Alvin Balkind Award for Creative Curatorship in BC Arts (2008) and the UBC Dorothy Somerset Award for Performance Development in the Visual and Performing Arts (2005). Watson has published extensively in the areas of contemporary Canadian and international art. His 1990 monograph on Jack Shadbolt earned the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 1991. Recent publications include Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry (2015); Thrown: British Columbia’s Apprentices of Bernard Leach and their Contemporaries (2011), a finalist for the 2012 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize; “Race, Wilderness, Territory and the Origins of the Modern Canadian Landscape” and “Disfigured Nature” (in Beyond Wilderness, McGill University Press, 2007); and “Transmission Difficulties: Vancouver Painting in the 1960s” (in Paint, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2006).

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