Throughout my ceramic practice, I have been concerned with ideas of nourishment and the deeper meaning of basic necessities. There is a stark distinction between what we all need to survive and what we need to thrive. This is true for individuals and communities as well as ecosystems, and the well-being of one is dependent on the well-being of the other. It is difficult for an individual to flourish in an unhealthy community; likewise, a healthy community depends upon an ecosystem in a balanced state. One of our most basic necessities is water. “Hold Water” is an ode to our water sources and the life-giving essence of water.
It is challenging to represent water symbolically through shape, form, patterns or motifs because water is a shapeshifter, taking on many forms and colours. Through mark making and the development of glazes using river clay harvested from the banks of the Kicking Horse and Blaeberry rivers, tributaries of the mighty Columbia, I have tried to capture some essence of water in a solid form. Perhaps I have attempted an impossible feat. The yellow earth tone portions of the ceramic surface are the river clay glazes which I have used in conjunction with various blue glazes I developed to represent the many colours of water. The forms within the body of work are also of significance. The large jars are a nod to historical ceramic water storage jars. Water storage jars were a part of many cultures in a time when collecting and storing water was a daily concern for survival. Since the ability of fire to transform clay from a soft, malleable material into something hard was understood, people have used clay to make vessels to hold water. Much of the mark-making on ceramic water vessels of early cultures were symbols and patterns full of meaning about the area's water sources. They were used to communicate about and honour the natural resources that communities depended on.
Water and river systems connect us all. Water knows no boundaries and requires that we work together as a global community to protect our rivers, lakes and oceans. The large platters and shallow bowls symbolise this idea of coming together. We all receive nourishment from the same source.
The body of work “Hold Water” reflects on the uncertainties of one of our most basic necessities and poses the question: How do we ensure the longevity of our water sources? My goal with the exhibit is to challenge us as a culture and a community that shares space, land and natural resources to contemplate the future of water and honour our water sources.
by Mary Oliver
What is the vitality and necessity
of clean water?
Ask the man who is ill, who is lifting
his lips to the cup.
Ask the forest.