Patterns hold a seductive beauty in both their production and consumption. We surround ourselves with repeating patterns in our dwellings and on our clothes; speak of patterns of weather, behaviour, and thought; and often conceive of the sacred and its affiliated institutions through infinite patterns. Pattern-making and pattern-finding are inherent human compulsions. I am obsessed with pattern-making in my work; I cover the surfaces of my functional pots with patterns and create installations of repeating decorative motifs using modular ceramic tiles.
The infinite is often tied to our sense of the sacred; when each unit of a pattern interlocks perfectly into place it is easy to see pattern as a reflection of sacred connectivity. Yet, our conception of the world and its resources as infinite has led to collapse of animal and plant ecosystems around the world many times over. The animals I paint onto the ceramics disrupt the sense of the infinite created by the formal patterns. The ephemeral and realistic paintings of animals that live, or in many cases used to live, in the Intermountain West disrupt and melt in and out of the infinite patterns that cover the pots and grow out from the walls. They appear upon and inside of objects that normally reside in the domestic space such as cups and bowls, functional objects that themselves are central to many everyday patterns of human behaviour. The animal depictions are a reminder that we share this world with other beings who we so often forget about.
I first started making pots half a lifetime ago, still in high school in Elkford. Growing up as a bit of a misfit in such a small town, I was so lucky to have both the outdoors and the arts as outlets and places where I could find some sense of belonging; these two things have continued to hold huge importance for me all through art school, university, and now as a professional ceramic artist, teacher and maker.
I was only sixteen when I left Elkford and decided to pursue a diploma in studio arts at Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, BC. I took a clay class and was totally hooked. In the years that have passed since that first clay class, I have taken a bit of a circuitous journey with clay, leaving and returning, going to university for several years, wandering the west in my beat-up Toyota, and living in Fernie as a housekeeper at Island Lake Lodge; however in 2011 I decided that working with clay was what I really was meant to do, and I returned to school obtain my degree in fine arts specialising in ceramics at Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary (ACAD).
From when I started at ACAD until now, clay has opened doors to me that I didn’t even know existed. I have worked in clay in Denmark, China, and around the USA, and have just completed my Masters in Fine Arts degree in Utah. I have always loved travel and clay has made it possible for me to work in and experience many far away places; in fact, this summer I will be travelling to Korea for a two-week-long ceramic conference.
However, I am more excited in this moment to be able to spend the summer back at home here in the Elk Valley. Noticing and appreciating the small wonders of the natural world has become more and more central to my ceramic practice, so I am so grateful to be back in the place that started my fascination with the outdoors. I look forward to reconnecting with the patterns and forms of this place and this environment; I am excited to develop patterns and motifs to make my ceramic work more place-specific. I am also delighted to be teaching two classes in Elkford, one in introductory ceramics and one in ceramic surface decoration. I want to give back to the community that so shaped me and also, hopefully, help provide a creative outlet to some people who might be like I was back when I was growing up in the Elk Valley.
Join Katy in Elkford Tuesdays and Thursdays for her Pottery When Classes, running July 9 - August 1 from 6-9pm, or for the Pottery Decorating Workshop July 24 from 6-9pm and July 27 and 28 from 9am to 4pm. Visit elkfordarts.ca for details, or kdrijber.com to learn more about Katy’s pottery.