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MARNEY McDIARMID lives and maintains an active studio and teaching practice in Kingston, Ontario.  She has been working with clay since the mid-1990s and is largely self-taught. In 2010 she quit her PhD in Cultural Studies to embark on a career in ceramics.

A long-time community activist, Marney supports clay and craft groups though her involvement with the Kingston Potter’s Guild and the Fat Goose Craft Collective.

Marney’s technique involves hand-rolling porcelain slabs to the desired thickness, impressing with pattern, painting and drawing, then cutting and constructing with them. It is a careful process but one that is full of possibilities in terms of form and surface treatment: from her unconventional bowl forms of wonderful patterns and textures, to vessels with decal imagery pertaining to cultural location/identity/mapping, to her Garden Jar series of pillow-y forms alive with colour and organic growths.

In many of Marney’s series, the element of play is prominent. As she explains, “Play is a moment of possibility. It is a state of engagement that asks ‘What next? What else? How about this? It opens up a dialogue about what is possible, and it posits how things can be different.Embedded in this is nostalgia for a time in which play was closer at hand.

 

Play

“This series was motivated by a desire to feel more joy in my studio practice. Some of that joy comes from the experience of the materials and process of making. I take pleasure in the physical and technical challenges they can pose. For example, the piece Take Shelter was inspired by an irresistible impulse to paint the surface with thick, black slip (liquid clay), slather it in wax and then gouge into the surface. The physicality of this way of working was very compelling.”

The Garden Growing On Within Us

“We all need a place to put things – metaphorically or physically, emotions or objects. The box operates as a symbol of this need to hold onto what is most precious or frightening as the garden grows within us, always altering the landscape.

Constructed by hand from white porcelain, these pieces serve as a blank canvas for lush, graphic imagery inspired by concepts of growth, decay and regeneration. A garden can overtake you, nourish you or provide a place to hide. The boxes’ elaborately crafted finials evoke a playful ‘other-worldliness’, alluding to a place that is yet to be discovered.”

I Know A Place

These exquisite miniature landscape tableaus have a precious quality that make you consider such things as the micro-life of nature, the possibility of tiny strange and beautiful worlds within our own, of ordinary people in extraordinary places.

There Are A Lot Of Things I Do Not Know

“This piece challenges our knowledge of First Nations history. In this case, archival materials document the sale of aboriginal land in the Thousand Islands, suggesting questions regarding the conditions under which these islands were sold.”

Documents: 1874 deed to Rabbit Island, 1892 Thousand Islands auction poster, Thousand Island print advertisement, map of Hill Island and area

PLAY

We play dumb, we play deaf, we play the part, we play hard and hard to get. We need to reconnect with the way play sets us free instead of closing us in.

Play is a moment of possibility. It is a state of engagement that asks what next? what else? how about this?

Play opens up a dialogue about what is possible, what can change, and it asks how can things be different. With the work I offer a sense of whimsy and unpredictability.