Artistic and functional, or functional and artistic?

Ceramic artists struggle to balance the utility of their craft and the inherent artistic quality involved in molding, throwing and creating fine, useful works.

Gorgeous bowls glisten with elegant glaze; they are both practical and beautiful. Who says art can’t be functional, asks ceramic artist Larry Duguay, who himself struggles with the eternal beauty vs. function of the trade.

His show, Out of Hand, is featured at Copper Moon Gallery until March 31.

“This show is partly to reveal the inherent artistic quality in ceramics. We see them as bowls, platters and vases, but do we see them as art?”

Duguay also goes the extra step in his creations. He hand mixes porcelain clays with iron oxides to have special coloured clay to work with. Smooth reds, pinkish granite, cobalt-blues are all created for his self-confessed art pieces as he admits there is extra time taken for the artistic process.

“Sometimes, when an item is seen as purely functional, there is a limit to how people view it. When it is seen artistically, there is value added, a certain depth,” says Duguay of his time-consuming creation process.

The theme represented in Duguay’s ceramic show is two-fold: landscape and artifact.

He points out a vase that is coated in sea-green glaze, featuring a rippled top. It resembles the waves of an ocean, resting on a base of rock. It has an earthy feel to it and it even looks like a potsherd dug up from civilizations long gone.

To Duguay, the vase is not only functional, with an inner glaze to prevent staining, but it is art. It represents something far beyond a simple vase.

Duguay lifts a tall, fluted vase from the shelf. It is a gorgeous, mottled piece of ceramic featuring blended coloured clays of grey, blue and red. The colours blend together in a Yukon landscape of snow fields, hills, blue sky and clouds.

“Some people can look at the vases and pick out landscapes, even before they know what my themes were,” says Duguay. This is truly the mark of his artistic achievement.

Mingling throughout are familiar pieces, like his round-bottomed teapots, serving platters and shaped vases.

“I think 80 per cent of the show is unique, original material and 20 per cent are creations I have experimented with before,” says Duguay.

He has lost pieces to the temperamental fires of the kiln, and he acknowledges that is part of the danger of the art. He estimates he lost up to 20 pieces he prepared for the show.

Despite the fragile nature of ceramic work, there are no constrictions on art.

Duguay echoes a famous European clay worker when he says, “You could live to be 80, and create a new piece every day of your life.” And he laughs, “Well, as long as you don’t get stuck in a creative rut.”

Creativity limited only by imagination, tangible practical pieces breathe new life with Duguay’s masterful hands shaping them.

Out of Hand runs until March 31 at the Copper Moon Gallery, 3 Glacier Drive in McCrae.