Category Archives: NWCF Blog

The North West Ceramics Foundation Celebrates 30 years!

Guests enjoy the spread from Noble Egg catering.

Founded April 23, 1993, to assist the Potters Guild of BC, The NWCF subsequently developed to become an independent agency with the mandate to foster public education in and appreciation of the ceramic arts. Dr. Carol E. Mayer was our first president, joined by Tam Irving and Sally Michener, both professors of ceramics at The Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design).

Carol Mayer describes the new NWCF Sally Michener Emerging Artist Award; By Donation table at right.

Though out our history, we have provided awards, scholarships and bursaries; supported publications; presented a public Speakers Series; supported a BC Ceramics Mark Registry, and generally worked to connect the many wonderful ceramic artists, supporters, and collectors throughout the province. These and other activities are detailed here on our website.
On November 2, 2023, we had a party to celebrate our success and thank our donors and supporters who have made our work possible. Held at the Mayer Studio at 1000 Parker St, the event featured marvellous food by fellow ceramic enthusiast and chef extraordinaire Nicole Guillemin of Noble Egg Catering. A silent auction of historical BC pots donated by the estate of Sally Michener and others, and a “By Donation” table of objects in use in Sally’s own home and kitchen generated  enthusiasm and interest. Proceeds from the auction will go to a new initiative, the NWCF Sally Michener Emerging Artist Award.

Collectors tyler Fritz and John Lawrence chat about an Axel Ebring candle holder.

Collectors Tyler Fritz and John Lawrence examine an Axel Ebring candle holder.

All in all, the evening was a great deal of fun and a wonderful way to celebrate our spectacular ceramics community. Thank you one and all!!!

Thank you to Board member Gillian McMillan for her great photographs of the event!

Kristine Aguilar at the Cerdeira Home for Creativity

The North-West Ceramics Foundation was recently able to support Kristine Aguilar’s workshop opportunity at the Cedeira Home for Creativity in Serra de Lousã, Portugal, through the Maureen Wright Bursary. Below please find an excerpt from the fascinating report  she wrote for us. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Kristine for her account and to wish her all the best on her future projects, which will undoubtedly be all the more exciting given her remarkable experience.

About an hour’s drive east of Coimbra, [Portugal] Cerdeira Home for Creativity is situated in the mountains of Serra de Lousã, in an old schist village by the same name. The oldest record of the village’s existence is from the late 1600s, though it is suspected to be much older. . . . Driving into Cerdeira for the first time one wonders, how did humans ever get to this place before automobiles? As you drove on, the feeling of remoteness starts to set in with each hairpin turn up the steep mountainous road. At the end of the road is a small cobblestone parking lot with a chapel on one side of a valley that’s divided by a stream. Stepping out of the car, you are immediately struck with an incredible view of the schist village enveloped by trees. This storybook landscape seems so surreal that it is hard to imagine a place like this still exists in 2023. It appears to be untouched by modern society, yet at the same time, reminders of the present can be seen with the wind turbines that top the mountain ridges. To enter the village, one needs to walk from the parking lot and cross a small wooden bridge above a stream. Like in Zen Buddhist gardens, a bridge is symbolic of a gateway- once crossed you are transported into another world. With each step towards the village, time starts to slow down and as you get absorbed within the history and nature of place that you find yourself now in unity with the environment.

I am here for a 9.5 day workshop called, “Making Glazes from Rocks,” taught by Matthew Blakely. Matthew is a highly accomplished and internationally renowned potter from the UK who fires with wood and gas. Unhappy with the commercially available clay bodies in the UK, Matthew began to develop his own clay bodies, as well as glazes, from local materials he collects. In addition to our glaze experiments and lectures, we also had 3.5 days to make as much work as we can to fill the Sasukenei Smokeless wood kiln for a firing.

We started off the workshop by conducting various glaze tests with materials that some of the participants brought. We had German river clay, dirt from Stockholm, wood ash from New York, Mount St. Helens volcanic ash, just to name a few. The participants who didn’t bring any materials were given some from the Azores to test, which were collected by the amazing artist couple who run the ceramic studio at Cerdeira, Renato Costa e Silva and Kerstin Thomas.

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After 2 days, we had a chance to see how our glaze tests turned out. We fired them in an electric kiln at cone 10 just to get a sense for what the materials would do at temperature. Those that had interesting results, made bigger batches of glaze for the woodfire. Others were driven to research their materials further and made more tests.

On day 5, we had to glaze, wad and load the wood kiln all in the same day as the firing was to start the following morning. . . .  After glazing, we assisted Renato load the kiln. September is deer rutting season in these mountains. Every night, we heard the grunts and groans of male deer trying to call a mate. I don’t know if one could ever get used to these bewildering sounds- sometimes they sounded like cows, sometimes donkeys- which came at random intervals that occasionally caught you off guard. On this particular evening, the calls were so much louder than other nights since we were up until dawn bricking up the kiln door. Nevertheless, we got a chance to see some deer close by.

Kerstin and Renato had first heard about the Sasukenei smokeless kiln concept through another Portuguese potter who used one while he was working in China. After learning who designed the kiln, Kerstin and Renato invited Masakazu Kusakabe to build one at Cerdeira in 2015. If the name sounds familiar, it is because he is the same person who had also built the Umbu kiln that was previously at the Shadbolt Centre. The Sasukenei is not a new design for it is described in detail in Masakazu’s book that he co-wrote with Marc Lancet, called Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics, published in 2005. . . .  Another design feature worth mentioning is the two oven ports on top of the firebox for cooking. Although it is too hot for pizza, Kerstin had roasted some apples with cinnamon during the firing and while the kiln was cooling, she baked us apple loaves.

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After firing the Sasukenei for 33 hours, we finally had some recovery time the next morning. Later in the day, Matthew gave more lectures on glazes, wild clay and about his own work. Matthew revealed that he originally went to school for medicine but then later changed majors and found himself in ceramics instead. This illustrates Matthew’s ability to explain the scientific workings of a glaze in such an approachable manner that’s easy to comprehend. I highly recommend taking a class with him if you can.

The following day, we unloaded the kiln. The results were quite varied as one would expect from a wood kiln. Some pieces got a good amount of ash while other pieces were dry or underfired due to the air that was unintentionally let in from the side stoke ports. For the remainder of the day, we knocked wads off our pieces, sanded, wrapped them up with newspaper and stuffed our work into our suitcases. In the evening, we had a little commemorative toast to end the course and say our goodbyes. The next morning, we all had to check out by 11am. Rolling my suitcase on the uneven shale path, I slowly made my way back to the little wooden bridge and crossed over to the other side of the stream anew.

For more information on the kiln, please see Masakazu Kusakabe and Marc Lancet, Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics (Kraus Pub. 2005).

Kristine Aguilar

September 2023




Kate Metten Presented with Judson Beaumont Emerging Artist Award

Kate Metten

We are pleased and proud to announce that Kate Metten, who previously received our Maureen Wright Bursary to attend a residency in Denmark, is the 2023 recipient of the BC Achievement Award of Applied Art + Design Judson Beaumont Emerging Artist Award, presented by the BC Achievement Foundation, an independent foundation that honours excellence and inspires achievement throughout the province. The award program celebrates British Columbians who excel at creating functional art and design, while advancing the collective conversation around its importance. With the support of the NWCF, Kate was nominated by our founding president and long-term board member, Dr. Carol E. Mayer, who received the Craft Council of BC “Citizen of Craft” award earlier this year.

As stated by the committee, Kate Metten’s pottery is a “testament to intuition and muscle memory found within each unique piece. An exceptional commitment and dedication to her craft have made her an emerging artistic force in the world of ceramics.” Kate’s contributions to the cultural economy are similarly noteworthy. She runs an atelier in Mount Pleasant, where she conducts workshops, mentors students, and curates exhibitions, providing emerging potters and craftspeople with exposure and opportunities.

Quoting from Dr. Mayer’s nomination letter, Kate is “. . . passionate about clay, and she works tirelessly in opposition to mass production by creating vessels that have spirit and soul, no two alike yet all consistently finely thrown and caringly glazed. . . . Her vessels are a combination of well-thrown forms and jewel like glazes that are sought after by a growing clientele.”

Congratulations Kate! We look forward to many more achievements from you.
For more on Kate Metten, please see her website.

Dr. Carol E. Mayer receives the Citizen of Craft 2023 Award

The North-West Ceramics Foundation is thrilled to announce that one of their founding Board members, Dr. Carol E. Mayer, was recently presented the Citizen of Craft 2023 Award by the Craft Council of BC. For over 35 years, Carol has been a staunch advocate for ceramics, beginning with research and support leading to the establishment of the Koener Gallery of Ceramics at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, through her helping to found the North-West Ceramics Foundation in 1993, and her extensive work in promoting the cultural, community, and aesthetic value of BC ceramics. Carol has curated and published widely about ceramics including A Discerning Eye: The Walter C Koerner Collection of European Ceramics; Don Hutchinson: The Artful Potter; Transitions of a Still Life; The Space In Between: The Contemporary Works of Sally Michener and Tam Irving; Pleased to Meet You- Introductions by Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott; and the recent blockbuster exhibition Playing with Fire – Ceramics of the Extraordinary.

In addition to her support for BC ceramics, Carol is vice-president of the Pacific Arts Association (North America) and a board member of the Pacific Peoples Partnership (the only Canadian NGO working in the Pacific.)  She has received fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution and the Sainsbury Research Unit, and has been granted numerous awards, including from the Canadian Museums Association (where she is an appointed Fellow), the International Council of Museums, the BC Museums Association, and life membership in the Potters Guild of BC. She has also received the President’s Medal of Excellence at UBC, the Independence Medal from the Republic of Vanuatu for her cultural contributions, and the Pacific Arts Association Manu Dala (Frigate Bird) Award for outstanding achievements in the study of the arts of the Pacific.

Congratulations Carol!!!

Honours for BC Potters Robin DuPont and Amy Duval

Robin DuPont, wood-fired plates

The North-West Ceramics Foundation is thrilled to announce honours for two members of the BC Ceramics Community, Robin DuPont and Amy Duval.

Robin DuPont, who was awarded the 2021 NWCF Mayer Wosk Award of Excellence and who was one of our most popular presenters for our Speakers Series, was recently honoured by the town of Nelson BC, which named him the 2023 Cultural Ambassador. He joins other distinguished ambassadors from that culturally vibrant city. To read more about Robin, please see here.

Amy Duval, Mechanics of Growth (Part V), 2017, ceramic, coloured slips, 17’ x 9’

Amy Duval earned her BFA from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2017, where she studied with Board member Ying-Yueh Chuang. In 2017, she received a Maureen Wright bursary from the NWCF and was accepted as a Ceramic Artist in Residence at Harbourfront, in Toronto. She currently serves as the Residency Coordinator at the International Artist-in-Residence Program at the Shaw Centre for Contemporary Ceramics (Medalta) in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In 2023, Amy was awarded the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramicsan extremely prestigious acknowledgement of her achievements and the only national award for emerging ceramic artists in Canada. The award supports career development, and we are all excited to see what this young artist does next!!

Congratulations Robin and Amy! Your achievements contribute to the ongoing story of ceramics in BC!


Judy Chartrand at the Scripps College 78th Ceramic Annual

In Memory of Those No Longer With Us, 2022, Low fire paper clay, underglaze, glaze 13.25 x 13.25 x 4.25 inches. Photo: Judy Chartrand.

The North-West Ceramics Foundation is proud to announce that Judy Chartrand, who shared the 2018 NWCF Mayer Wosk Award of Excellence with Jackie Frioud, is one of ten participants in the 2023 Scripps College 78th Ceramic Annual. Held at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, in Claremont, California, from January 21 to April 9, 2023, the exhibition Handle Carefully: The Power of Words and Clay, was guest-curated by Kirk Delman and included, in addition to Judy, renowned ceramic artists such as Robert Arneson and Beth Lo. The annual ceramic exhibition features new art in clay, and, rather than presenting one work by many artists, the exhibition focuses on a smaller number of artists showing several works. To bring a range of perspectives, a different guest curator, many of whom are well-known artists, is invited each year to curate the exhibition. The 78th annual looks at how artists use words in their work to “illustrate, emphasize and elaborate social, political, gender concepts along with personal inspirations.”
Writing in the catalogue, which is available on line here , Kay Whitney says “her confrontational work speaks of the social and cultural situation of First Nation peoples and issues confronting them: racist policies and attitudes, inequity and poverty. That these issues are expressed with a sly undercurrent of humor makes her messages all the more pointed.” One of the works, In Memory of Those No Longer With Us, 2022, was purchased by the gallery for its permanent collection.
We are delighted and proud that Judy and her outstanding work are being recognized in such a prestigious international context. Congratulations Judy!

For more on Judy Chartrand and her work, please see here.

Fredi Rahn at the Zentrum für Keramik

The North-West Ceramics Foundation was  recently able to support Fredi Rahn’s residency at the Zentrum für Keramik in Berlin through the Maureen Wright Bursary. Her account of the experience reveals the depth to which she absorbed and benefitted from this remarkable opportunity. We look forward with enthusiasm and excitement to see the new work this residency will surely inspire. Below, please find an excerpt from her remarkable story.

Tucked away in a leafy prosperous neighborhood just outside of the busy center of Berlin is the Zentrum für Keramik in Pankow. Surrounded by the 5-storey apartment buildings typical throughout the city, the Zentrum is housed on the grounds of a villa from the turn of the century. . . . One doesn’t think of cities as wild places, but Berlin is a green city, with large parks in every district, some populated by foxes and wild boars. The garden at the ZFK is dominated by a huge beech tree, well over 100 years old, home to flocks of magpies and doves.

. . . .  Germany feels at once familiar and exotic. The layers of history reveal themselves constantly – in the architecture, which spans the newly restored neo classical to post-war Soviet brutalist concrete, to sleek modernist constructions of glass and steel; also in the monuments and remnants, big and small, from the Stolpersteine (tiny brass plaques with the information about former residents who became victims of the holocaust, set unobtrusively into the pavement outside their houses; to the Gleisdreieckpark built on the ruins of a destroyed railyard, with sections overgrown by scrub and small forests, the entire space lined with bike paths and punctuated by playgrounds. The city seems to say “we have experienced unimaginable violence and destruction, and we have endured, and we remember“. . . .

Everywhere I look I notice themes of home and belonging, and, in contrast, the feeling of the outsider. As we know, these themes are woven deeply into German history. Overlaid on this is a pride in the remarkable contributions to technology, art and culture that this country has made, a testament to a culture that values learning, innovation and craftsmanship. The other prominent and remarkable theme I witness here is that of memory and history. This is a culture and country that has had to truly face truth and reconciliation, and must continue to do so as time unfolds. . . . ..

. . . As a maker, my practice is rooted in the domestic, quotidian world. I feel the power of ordinary objects transporting you to imagined worlds. My research pulls from architecture, typography, textiles, as well as historical ceramics. . . . I think about the meaning a vessel carries, its potential to hold and to transport both physical and metaphorically. My deeper dive into the German language leads to a series of word fragments, stamped and inscribed into the walls of cups. This experience offers so much inspiration, so many threads to pick up and play with. I feel that by working intuitively, ideas that live just below the subconscious rise, connecting story to object.

The last week is a blur of loading kilns, organizing packing, visiting museums, and saying goodbye. A journal full of sketches and notes, a phone full of images, and a head full of memories are carried with me along with the 60 pound suitcase that somehow manages to protect its bisque fired cargo. There is a saying “ich habe ein Koffer in Berlin” which signifies the intention to return, and I have literally left a suitcase full of pots in my cousin’s cellar, stored with the intention to glaze and complete them upon my return.

Congratulations Fredi!

Board Member News: Dance Craft performance

NWCF Board President Debra Sloan was part of a performance that has been in the works for three years. She was responsible for creating large-scale ceramic figures and masks, which were incorporated into a dance performance. The event was held May 20-22, 2022, at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre,  part of the downtown SFU campus. Components from the performance were subsequently exhibited in the window space at the Craft Council of BC from June 10 to July 26. For more, see here.

The three-year project involved five craft artists, Patrick Christie, Stefanie Dueck, Deb Dumka, Hope Forstenzer and Debra Sloan , one each in wood, metal, glass, textile and ceramics, and the Joe Ink Dance troop. The dancers experimented with static objects, animating them through their choreography. The presentation also included dramatic lighting and virtual reality film. For a review in STIR, see here.  Bravo Debra!




Board Member News: All Consuming

NWCF Board Member Amy Gogarty‘s exhibition, All Consuming, will be on view at the Craft Council of BC on Granville Island (1386 Cartwright St, Vancouver, V6H 3R8, 604-687-6511) from June 16 through August 4. A recording of her artist talk is available on the CCBC Website here.

Gogarty was presented with the Citizen of Craft Award by the Craft Council of BC at their AGM on June 23. For more on the award, please see here.


Russell Hackney’s talk

On June 12, 2022, we held our first in-person talk for the NWCF Speakers Series since the pandemic. Russell Hackney, an artist, designer and mould-maker who lives on Bowen Island, presented a fascinating account of his history as a third-generation ceramic maker from Stoke-on-Trent, Britain. We have not yet figured out how to record live presentations to make them available later to those who missed the talk, but, fortunately, Board Member Gillian McMillan has posted an excellent account on her blog Rara Avis. For a personal, in-depth account, please see her blog post here.