Thomas Aitken and Kate Hyde

The North-West Ceramics Foundation is pleased to announce Thomas Aitken and Kate Hyde as their featured speakers at a free public lecture Wednesday, March 9, 2011, at 7:00 pm. The lecture will be held in Room 245, North Building of Emily Carr University of Art + Design (1399 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver). All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

“We make and sell objects; we make a living from this. This is amazing in the world today. How does that happen?”

Creative couple Kate Hyde and Thomas Aitken of Warsaw, Ontario, first met in grad school, where they initiated a conversation about life and art that continues to this day. Since 1997, Aitken has produced one-of-a-kind tablewares and accessories. Hyde works across several disciplines including graphic arts, textiles and ceramics. While each maintains a separate practice, the couple also collaborate on creative ventures that showcase their individual strengths.

Born in Prince Edward Island, Thomas Aitken attended Red Deer College in Alberta and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, where he obtained his BFA in Ceramics. He received his MFA in Ceramics from the School of Art and Design, University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, U.K., where he and fellow student Kate Hyde first met. Returning to Canada, Aitken participated in numerous annual juried shows, solo and group exhibitions including On the Table: 100 Years of Functional Ceramics in Canada, The Art of Function and Heated Discussions: Conversations in Clay, one of several exhibitions held jointly with Kate Hyde. He has undertaken many private and public commissions for dinnerware including designing and producing wine cups commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto and a place setting for the President’s Service for the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His work is in the collection of the Burlington Art Centre, the Design Exchange in Toronto and the Government of Ontario Art Collection.

Kate Hyde received her BA in Textiles from the Department of Art & Design, Middlesex Polytechnic in London, UK, and her MFA in Ceramics from the University of Wales in Cardiff. In 2005, she received the prestigious Winifred Shantz Award for ceramists. Drawing on her background and love of historical textiles, she often treats her clay as if it were fabric, developing work that reflects the textures, intimacy and social meanings of cloth and clothing. She has exhibited in both group and solo exhibitions including On the Table, Staffordshire Tales in Clay, Journeys with a Stitch in the Stairwell gallery at the Art Gallery of Peterborough in Ontario and Heated Discussions: Conversations in Clay with Thomas Aitken.

Aitken and Hyde will address a number of issues arising from their practice of making domestic functional objects. Aitken brings a deep interest in “how things work,” researching mechanical, technical and ergonomic aspects of functional ware. His wares meet all the tests of contemporary life, travelling from microwave to table to dishwasher and resisting knife marks in-between. His interest in aesthetics, art history and the social life of things tempers his technological focus. He draws constantly, working back and forth between two and three dimensions to fully investigate problems of form and function. The objects he designs complement contemporary interiors and are often incorporated into sculptural objects that allow the work to be displayed while not in use. Aitken maintains a running commentary while he works, believing that in the quick loop “from mouth to ear to brain,” the artist often recognizes a problem or sees an object anew, even if only for a second. That fleeting insight often provides a key to new work. Working with customers in their homes, he takes their entire world into account. Noting that local potters were important members of their communities historically, he asserts studio potters still play a concrete and vital role in people’s lives.

Moving back and forth between textiles, ceramics and drawing, Kate Hyde attends to the fleeting moment, gesture or glance that gives meaning to experience. She enjoys working collaboratively with Aitken, embellishing his thrown forms with decorative flourishes, lettering and elegant figures. She often makes sculptural versions of the two-dimensional drawings she develops for ceramic surfaces. Hyde responds strongly to the idea that the object can be placed on the wall, where it functions as a painting, and then it can be taken down and used to serve food. The images evolve and change as the meal is eaten. As they often make work to order, she is able to develop significant imagery that creates a personal narrative for the client.

Kate Hyde and Thomas Aitken will discuss aspects of their individual and collaborative practice, the challenges of making one’s living as a studio potter, objects that have influenced them in their development and the meanings special objects have in our lives. The lecture will be held in Room 245 of the North Building of Emily Carr University on Wednesday, March 9, at 7pm. The lecture is free and open to the public, and we look forward to seeing you there.

Note: Examples of Thomas Aitken’s and Kate Hyde’s work may be viewed on their website at