? Pleased to Meet You: Introductions by Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, at the Museum of Anthropology Nov. 3-March 24, 2013. Opening reception: Tonight, Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Info: moa.ubc.ca.
HAVING spent two separate intensive two-month periods with Australian-based potter Gwyn Hanssen Pigott learning the ins and outs of her creative process, West Vancouver ceramic artist Lisa Henriques' own approach to her craft has been forever changed.
"She opened up another world to me," says Henriques, 43, referring to the countless lessons learned as a result of Hanssen Pigott's generosity, both of her time and opening up of her studio.
"The woman is a force," she adds.
Henriques is excited that other Vancouverites will have an opportunity to get a glimpse into Hanssen Pigott's creativity thanks to a show opening at the Museum of Anthropology this evening. The exhibition, entitled Pleased to Meet You: Introductions by Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, features the display of objects selected by the award-winning contemporary ceramic artist, chosen from the museum's permanent, world-wide collection, which she then reassembles with her own works. The show's curators say Hanssen Pigott's resulting groupings create "surprising new relationships" and, as the pieces aren't placed within any historical or cultural context, illustrate that, regardless of social or cultural background, makers share similar aesthetic choices.
The commonalities among artists working in clay, despite differences in culture and technique, is something that has long captivated Henriques.
"There's an indelible thread there. . . . We are the same," she says.
Henriques, who typically creates hand-built bowls that are quite large in scale, is a celebrated contemporary potter in her own right and was recently awarded the 2012 Carter Wosk Eighth Annual B.C. Creative Achievement Award for Applied Art and Design. Her experience working with Hanssen Pigott is among the many international educational experiences she's undertaken over the course of her career. Receiving a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics from Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in 1999 and a master of visual arts, also in ceramics, from Australia National University in 2011, Henriques has continued to travel the globe in search of new pottery techniques and processes. Her first experience was at age 23 in 1993 when she travelled to Ghana, ending up in a pottery village, the result of a Canada World Youth program exchange. Initially thinking photography would be her artistic medium of choice, the trip quickly changed her focus.
"The village that I was in, they made huge hand-built water pots . . . and I was hooked. I'm still learning from the potters that I got to work with every day there," she says. "I found that was the best way for me to learn. I had such an amazing experience, that that's all I wanted to do, was go and learn about traditional pottery around the world."
Henriques has since travelled to Mexico, India and China, completing apprenticeships with a diverse array of ceramic masters, not only learning about their approach to the craft, but documenting their processes via photography.
"I just picked up pieces along the way," says Henriques. "When I go to these places I just try and learn as much as I can and I find when I come back is really when I find out what I've learned, pieces that stick with me and become part of my own practice."
Apart from insight into their creative processes, it's also been interesting to see the different reasons behind the creation of objects, whether for utility or art for art's sake and how they're therefore valued, both monetarily as well as from a cultural perspective.
"I figured the best way to honour that is to learn as much as I can with my fingers and keep those techniques alive and pass them on to somebody else," she says.
Henriques' most recent trips were her mentorships in Australia with Hanssen Pigott, helping her prepare for wood firings twice last year.
"The way she does wood firing, it's quite rare. It's quite subtle," says Henriques. "She also uses porcelain and she works with it so it's translucent. And making translucent porcelain and putting it into a wood fire kiln, she's one of the first people I ever came across that did that and I fell in love with her work."
Henriques took a series of photos and videos during both trips that are featured as part of the Museum of Anthropology exhibition.
"Carol Mayer at the Museum of Anthropology had asked me to take some pictures and it was fantastic because I got to really sit there and stare with the excuse of a camera," she says.
Hanssen Pigott taught Henriques about the qualities of form, colour and space.
"Essential to all of these things, and a focus that is reflected in the new exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology, is the dialogue between the objects she creates," she says. "Gwyn is interested in the 'space between.' The relationship between inside and outside, space and form, movement and stillness. To me, her still-life groupings speak of the 'inseparable' space that connects us. Her work is quiet and powerful, just like the space between."
For more information on Lisa Henriques and her work, visit her website, lisahenriques. com. Her work is available at Provide, at 529 Beatty St., in Vancouver.