Mariko McCrae   "She sips Ceylon by the seashore." Hand-built Cone 6 Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, luster and decals.   "Onward Ho!" Handbuilt Cone 6 Porcelain, glazes, underglaze, luster and decals.  

Life in a Ceramic Nebula

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm.
Room 291, North Building of Emily Carr University of Art + Design
(1399 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver).
All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

"In my orbiting universe there is plenty more material that can be dragged in and spun into the pulsating weave of historical and contemporary. "

Mariko McCrae grew up in Vancouver, studying ceramics at the Langara campus of Vancouver Community College and at ACAD in Calgary, Alberta. In 1998, she received her MFA in ceramics from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. She lived subsequently in New York City and attended residencies in Banff, Alberta and Skaelskor, Denmark. She has taught both workshops and credit courses in New York, Michigan, Calgary, Red Deer, Winnipeg and Vancouver and exhibited in over thirty exhibitions in the United States, Canada and Denmark. In 2008, she co-founded Box Social Inc., an on-line gallery and store dedicated to promoting fine craft. In 2010, she moved with her husband, graphic designer Bryan McCrae, to Gabriola Island, where they established Feedlot Studios, a combination ceramics workshop/studio and graphic arts design business. From her studio, McCrae has launched an on-line gallery and ambitious program of classes promoted by her humourous and wide-reaching blog posts and emails.

McCrae creates elaborate personal narratives interspersing alter-egos, historical precedents, fantasy elements and actual events and locations. Often working in series, she subverts such traditional sources as Staffordshire spaniels, Pennsylvania Dutch décor and the Blue Willow pattern to surprising and playful effect. Her use of zany alter-egos first surfaced in 2002 while at a residency in Denmark, where she was presented with pristine porcelain blanks on which to work. Somewhat daunted, she riffed on Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica to create Dana Florica, a bearded, overweight, transvestite china-painting art star whose work she channeled. For her show at the Crafthouse Gallery on Granville Island in February 2012, she will present works arising out of her imaginative creation of Abigail Tackle, an elderly prairie woman who dreams of living at sea. McCrae will populate Tackle’s “Shrine to the Muddy Mariner” with “sea sponges and slithering snakes . . . à la Bernard Palissy, twisted replicas of exotic coral-infested lamp bases. . . commemorative platters” and a few more of her favorite sea things.

Other favorite things from her on-line gallery include tableware decorated with jaunty sea-going vessels and pirate maps comprising an inspired “mash-up” of eighteenth-century European tea wares and ship paintings; figurines and a vast array of dog-themed works ranging from cheeky portrait sculptures to wedding plates in which bride and groom are represented by poodle decals. Her working methods include hand-building and moulding using both terra cotta and porcelain clay and decorating with slips, glazes, decals, china paint and other means of marking the surface Throughout, her wicked sense of humour and horror vacui dominate, ensuring that even the most conventional commemorative trophy is reborn as a witty objet d’art. McCrae’s extensive knowledge of historical models paired with her impressive ability to both arrange and graphically realize motifs drawn from popular culture ensure a wide audience for her work. As she opines on her website, "Viewer discretion is quite unnecessary."

In her talk, McCrae will discuss her use of historical models, personal narrative and decoration. Drawing on her experience as a proprietor of an on-line gallery, she will assess the impact recent developments in web design, blogging, social media and other technologies have had on contemporary craft practice. The lecture will be Thursday, June 2, 2011 in NB 291 at 7:15 pm. The lecture is free and open to the public, and we look forward to seeing you there.
Note: For more on Mariko McCrae's work, please see her website at