For over 40 years, Leta and Don Cormier have shared a life and a studio together. They live in rural North Gower, Ontario.
They work independently on their own pieces and occasionally work collaboratively on a short series, sharing the same materials and firings. Currently, they prepare two stoneware clay bodies and fire in one of three propane fuelled gas kilns to 1260º C – 1350º C in a reduction atmosphere. They have always used traditional glazes – shino, celadon and temmoku, while developing new glazes.
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.
My formal education is in architecture which I practiced for 27 years. Pottery training has been mainly through attending numerous workshops and visiting with potters such as Tatsuzo Shimaoka, Lucie Rie, Mick Casson, Warren Mackenzie, Wayne Ngan, David Leach and Otto Heino among others, as well as through study trips to England, Japan and France. The pottery making traditions of Korea, Japan, China and the “Leach tradition” have also been of special interest. All of these threads have created a reservoir of experience and inspiration that helps inform the work I make today.
One of the aspects that I most enjoy about pottery making is the direct interaction, a kind of interplay or dance that happens when working “with” the clay, glazes and firing process. I usually work on a small series of pieces. Every cycle is highlighted by the transformations, sometimes magical, that occur in the kiln during the final glaze firing.
I work mostly on the potter’s wheel and enjoy seeing/feeling the sense of form and fullness of space being created inside a vessel as it emerges on the wheel. Often I alter a shape or the surface of a piece at various stages of wetness to create new gestures and character. For me, the form of a pot represents its bones and during a firing the melting glazes drape and flow over that bone structure to help create the final look, feel and expression of the finished piece. No two pots are ever exactly the same. I strive to make pottery vessels that embody a natural quality of wholeness and beauty that people can use and enjoy in their everyday lives.