Ceramicist Grace Han arrived in British Columbia in the midst of a pandemic but considers the move to be lucky. Only recently her work received high praise from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) who will be exhibiting her work at their conference in Portland in March 2021. She is a recipient for their 2021 Emerging Artists Fellowship and will be part of the physical show as well as on their virtual platform. Grace will also be exhibiting some of her work at Crafted Interiors taking place at The Pipeshop, April 30-May 6 during Crafted Vancouver.
Originally trained in traditional ceramic techniques in Seoul, South Korea, Grace gained a BFA from Danhook University, majoring in ceramics and went on to work for one of the largest ceramics manufacturers in Korea. Grace came to Canada ‘because of love’, she admits proudly; ‘I married a Winnipegger’, never thinking it would be possible to be an artist here but ‘this is where I am and where I am going to stay’. As a relative newcomer to British Columbia, she initially had an ‘Identity crisis’ but explains how ceramics allowed her ‘to survive in a new culture’. Keen to make a connection with the community in her newly adopted home, Grace expresses herself by encouraging people to interact with her work.
The large pieces involve her whole body, a great deal of physicality and strength as she manipulates the clay in the traditional Korean way with no electric power.
Grace explains how Covid restrictions have created difficulties in her finding a pottery studio and to explore the local area but how her time away from ceramics has been well spent. Grace has had two residencies at Medalta and another at Banff Arts Centre. She took this as an opportunity to study, research and apply for grants and had time to think about her practice while looking for studio space. Currently her work as a technician at PoMo Arts Centre in Port Moody, has given her access to a studio and so for now this is her workspace. Some of her work is very large. She needs facilities for working and in terms of creating her larger works the first thing she does is measure the kiln, she quips. She actually enjoys making small and large pieces. ‘The process is very different’ she explains. The large pieces involve her whole body, a great deal of physicality and strength as she manipulates the clay in the traditional Korean way with no electric power. With smaller pieces she enjoys the repetitive nature and detail-oriented labour. Currently her work involves various techniques and sizes, which she tries to combine. This is the direction she is heading for her solo exhibition in Saskatoon September 2021 which will involve large and small pieces. It will be an interactive exhibition so a great deal of planning will need to be done for public safety. Part of her creative process is to encourage people to touch her work ‘even break pieces’. ‘It’s about their interaction’ she explains.
At two recent concurrent exhibitions at Medalta she installed a large number of ceramic nuts, the result of an epiphany at Home Depot, which her audience were invited to touch and move around the exhibition space. Finding an exhibition rearranged and shards of broken ceramics on the floor indicate to Grace that her audience are communicating directly to her work. She even posted a sign saying, “Please touch!” Grace relishes the fact her audience can connect with her and her ceramic in this way, getting immense pleasure from seeing people eating and drinking in what some may consider to be dangerously close proximity to the work.
Grace has a solo exhibition next year in Winnipeg and plans to expand her medium of ceramics with the use of video and sound as well as live performance engaging in mixing over 600lbs of clay with her entire body. For Grace, ceramics is not about the results, the process is what drives her, communicating with her audience in an authentic way. Grace recognizes that her move to B.C. was just the start of the good news. The future for Grace is an exciting one.