PC.vLeta Cormier vase series – from 2016 exhibition with painter Mary Pfaff, at General Fine Craft

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59-48 59-47 Mask series

My introduction to clay began as a child, digging red earthenware clay out of the banks of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, pinching, rolling, slapping this marvelous stuff into all sorts of shapes – some even functional!  Clay has been a lifelong passion. My formal training in ceramics at the Nova Scotia College of Art, Vancouver School of Art and Douglas College came later, after two university degrees and five years of teaching kindergarten.

I have been making pottery, reduction fired stoneware and raku, in the Ottawa area since 1975.  I make pots to be used in the rituals of daily life in the home, in the kitchen, at the table, in the garden.  This chosen focus of the “vessel” provides endless opportunity to investigate concept and structure. Within this context, the relationships of idea, form, texture, and surface intrigue and engage me in exploring ‘variations on a theme’.  I work in series often returning to familiar forms to discover an essential gesture, or a deeper “knowing” experienced and revealed within each new variation.  It is my hope that the pieces convey a unity and vitality, an honouring and sensibility to the qualities of the material and process and open a space for communication with the user.

The traditional pottery of Japan, Korea, China, the Cycladic culture and African textiles and masks are rich sources of reference for my work.

For 38 years I have shared a studio with my husband Don Cormier. We work independently on our own pieces and occasionally work collaboratively on a short series. We share the same materials and firings. Currently, we are using two stoneware clay bodies which we prepare.  The work is fired in one of three propane fuelled gas kilns to 1260º C – 1350º C in a reduction atmosphere.

We continue to work with traditional glazes – shino, celadon, temmoku while developing new glazes.

In addition to my work as a potter I have been active in the arts community as a volunteer, teacher, mentor, consultant, curator and juror serving as President of the Ontario Potters Association (Fusion) and the Ontario Crafts Council, a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Craft Council, the Council for the Arts Ottawa, and the founding program committees and Boards of Directors of Arts Court and the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Public Collections include: Canada Council for the Arts – Art Bank, Canadian Museum of History (Civilization), City of Ottawa, Claridge Collection, Burlington Cultural Center, Fusion: the Ontario Clay and Glass Association, Ontario Crafts Council, Royal Ontario Museum and Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Description of “Mask” series

These three pieces are part of a “Mask” series first begun in 2005 and inspired by an exhibition of ‘lukwakongo’ masks from Zaire which I saw in a small gallery in Paris.  The forms and intention of this series are informed by these masks.   ‘Lukwakongo’ masks are made of wood, undecorated direct shapes – rectangles, squares, ovals – with ridges or holes suggesting facial features and patinated with layers of clay and white paint.  Their ceremonial purpose is to transform the external identity of the initiate in order to reveal something of the inner self.  For me, the pieces in this “Mask” series are studies in simplification and understatement, a continuing exploration of the integration of structure, proportion and the relationship of interior and exterior both physical and metaphysical. 

These pieces are made from an iron bearing stoneware body fired between 1280˚C and 1340˚C.  The glaze is a high magnesium matt white glaze applied in up to 4 layers of various thicknesses.  The “pink” blush is fumed copper migrating from a piece placed near the “Mask” form.   Mask #4 and #5 are thrown in two pieces and altered.  Mask #6 thrown in one piece, altered and paddled.

Description of the “Landscape Cylinder” series

The “Landscape Cylinder” series is part of an ongoing exploration of the cylinder shape.  The cylinder represents a beginning point, for me.  It is the basic form from which a potter hones his/her skill, explores proportion and interfaces with the myriad world of form.  The natural environment – landscape – and individual elements, stones and patterns of the natural world remain strong references for my work.

This piece is made from an iron bearing stoneware body fired between 1280˚C and 1340˚C.  The surface is scored and altered with rasps and rifflers creating areas of textured surface which are painted with white slip and reworked to create texture and movement.  The glaze is a high magnesium matt white glaze applied in thin, overlapping layers. 

Leta Cormier portrait