“I simply try to give shape to clay and fire, Man and life; knowing that they are fragile as well as eternal.”
“J’essaie simplement de donner forme à la terre, au feu, à l’Homme et à la vie, en ce qu’ils ont de fragile et d’éternel.”
Raymond Warren was born and raised in Montreal. As a child, he studied drawing, painting and clay at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts. His Jesuit education emphasized Philosophy and Logic but he nonetheless went on to earn a Visual Arts degree at the Universite du Quebec in 1974.
He moved to Maniwaki, Quebec and became a high school art teacher, making pottery to earn extra money. Despite the practicality of functional pottery, his desire was to do figurative work.
“Living in Maniwaki proved to be a great freedom for me as a young artist. I wanted to do figurative sculpture at a time when the current emphasis was on modular work – organizing geometric forms – it was all very abstract and intellectual. In the country people know what speaks to them. They may not have the language for it but they have the judgment. I wanted to be able to share my work with my neighbours and students, whereas in Montreal I would have had to convince my fellow artists.”
In the 1980’s he traveled to LaBorne, France – a village with a local tradition of placing ceramic figures on the rooftops of houses. The area had rich clay deposits and the popular method of firing was using wood. These simple and charming elements convinced him that he could return home and do something similar.
Raymond’s figures are formed by pinching the clay into the desired shapes using only his hands. Constructing them hollow makes them safe to fire without the chance of cracking. Raymond states, “hollowness is not just a technical description. I see the figures as containers, ready to receive anything someone wants to put in them; so it has to be a comfortable, welcoming place to be. However, the openings I make stay small – I don’t want a crowd in there!”
He adds, “For nearly 50 years I have been modeling these figures. Wood-fired stoneware clay has an incomparable signature. It matures at a high temperature (2300F) that allows ash, charged with various metallic oxides, flowing in the kiln during the 50-hour firing process, to vaporize and to melt creating a characteristic natural glaze. The presence of flames and smoke contributes to the patina by modifying the level of oxygen in the kiln. But the flames also swirl around the sculptures and flow over interstices or masked areas creating highlights.”