Blog #18

We need more Canadian content! #canadianceramics

What a privilege it was to talk with three brilliant ceramic artists from the Make and Do Collective last week. Carole Epp, Jenna Stanton and Brendan Tang took time out of their busy professional lives to share the story of the struggles and successes with their latest project, The Make and Do Canadian Clay Directory, and explain what motivates them to promote this open and inclusive online platform.

Make and Do is a collective of ceramic artists, an online community, and the brainchild of Carole Epp, who wanted to address the issues of supporting the Canadian clay and ceramic community, highlighting its players and consolidating connections. Their mandate was loose but the goals were lofty, says Carol, aiming for greater Canadian ceramic exposure both nationally and internationally. With no money in the pot and only a certain number of volunteer hours to draw upon, for the past 5 years the Collective has endeavored to compile a visible online directory for each and every ceramic artist on the scene. Carol admits this is her passion project and she wants ‘everyone to come to the table’. 

Currently there is no record of how many people are creating amazing work across this country because of the geographical spread and using the directory as a resource for curators, collectors, academics, students, emerging artists, who need support, or mid career artists facing challenges, simply pushes the boundaries of what is possible with an online presence.  Ceramics humble anyone who tries it, notes Jenna, and we really do care about each other’s success and how we can support each other. Hence the ceramic world rallies along the margins of the art world, sharing knowledge and strengthening community. Being part of the collective and part of the directory for Brendan has been his way to give back to his community and he feels that the directory is a way to celebrate what is happening in ceramics here in Canada. 

Creating a Canadian Clay Directory makes total sense. The ceramic world is massive in Canada and there is excellence in the field, generating expectations internationally.  At this year’s NCECA conference, 2 out of the 6 emerging artists were Canadian, with 4 in the student show, and there was more of a presence in art and craft publications too. 

The Internet is infinitely huge, says Brendan, and it does not need to ape the exclusionary practices that are problematic in the real world. Institutions that have been gatekeepers, taking the cream of the crop, are catching on to the idea that this is questionable practice limiting ceramic artists’ ability to work. During the pandemic, it is time to reflect on the precariousness of our economy and being part of something that can grow in digital space. Brendan stresses and the importance of celebrating locally based businesses in order to perpetuate the community spirit so evident in the ceramic world and to take time to acknowledge systemic racism and social justice issues in all our communities, to think about supply chains and whose economy we are supporting. 

Over the last 3 years, Make and Do Canadian Clay Directory has grown to over 600 ceramic artists, and the social media pages pull a huge audience – at last count, Instagram had 37 000 followers. It is easily accessible, has no joining fee nor is it juried. All that is needed is an email address and a couple of images. Carol explains the directory is almost like a business card online; it is there as a service to all clay makers, to bring the community together and make sure people know who is where and how to make those connections. It is an excellent resource listing talented people from every region and province. Crafted Vancouver would like to encourage ceramic artists to join in building this directory and celebrate what is going on in contemporary ceramics. Follow this huge community of makers and stay up-to-date with what is happening in Canada today.

Learn more about Make and Do: makeanddo.ca