On the Table
October 5-December 9, 2007
On The Table looks at Canadian industry, design, craft and consumption of functional tableware ceramics over the past century. The exhibition draws from over 40 artisans and 200 objects collected and compiled by co-curators Sandra Alfoldy, Assistant Professor of Craft History at NSCAD University, and Rachel Gotlieb, former curator of the Design Exchange. Its primary goal is to consider the prevailing artistic issues since the rise of Canadian ceramics in the early 20th century, delayed in part by the dominance of British imports.
The exhibition introduces its audiences to the varied cultural issues surrounding functional wares that are often overlooked through daily use. Examples found in Canadian ceramics of American and European moulds and patterns, Asian celadon glazes and Iroquois incised motifs, point to the varying external and indigenous influences.
On The Table also explores the relationships between the three distinct domestic potter groups: commercial potters who use industrial factories and practices for mass production; art potters who use commercial materials but hand techniques for decoration; and finally, studio potters, artisans who reject industry practices to ensure individuality in their limited runs. The tensions between the commercial and studio potters, is, according to Alfoldy and Gotlieb, "a rich terrain of previously unexplored territory." On The Table draws parallels, asks questions and fosters debates concerning the position of functional ceramics in Canada.
Alfoldy and Gotlieb say that although the history of Canadian pottery traces the ups and downs of industry and studio pottery, the visual impact of the pieces tell another story. "The diversity of forms, glazes and motifs creates multiple narratives about the role ceramics play in the daily lives of Canadians" and represent much more than basic utility.
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