Creatures of Two Masters

Blurring the Lines, a collaborative show by Whitehorse potter Larry DuGuay and clay sculptor Sandra Storey, presents a playful, exploratory and successful merging of artistic styles and sensibilities.

DuGuay typically works on a wheel using white stoneware and porcelain clay. Storey, on the other hand, is mainly a sculptor who opts for heavier-bodied clay, working with her hands. Put the two together and something exciting begins to happen.

Their playful spirit shows in their work presented here at the Copper Moon gallery. What catches my eye immediately, and seems the centrepiece of the show, is the swan-laden large bowl piece entitled “Swans Return”. This painterly sculptural piece looks as if it has jumped out of a canvas into 3D form.

“Swans Return” involves three of Storey’s clay sculpted swans in various stages of flight adorning the rim of a large DuGuay bowl.

DuGuay explains that because the firing had to be done at a lower temperature, he could not use his typical glazing techniques. Instead, Storey stepped in and used her unique sculptural finishing technique of brushed-on metal oxides, followed by hand-finishing with wax.

Other pieces in the show are smoke-fired. Their mottled finish is created by carbon being forced into the clay.

It is because both artisans possess mature skill and control of their medium that they can venture into this collaboration with trust and a spirit of fun.

The sense of adventure shows its shaggy-nosed face in the resulting work, in Storey’s anthropomorphically sculpted animal figures as they fuse and engage with DuGuay’s expressive pots.

Sexy rabbits, mystical coyotes, amorous ravens, entwined hares and watching wolves abound and bound about in the gallery.

DuGuay considers himself first and foremost a potter. His designs are individually worked up, and elegant. For him, this collaboration is a venture from traditional and functional clay work into the art realm.

His main technical challenge was working with the heavier-bodied sculpting clay on the wheel.

Storey, too, had to adjust her techniques to work sculpturally with some very soft-bodied clays that don’t necessarily hold their form during the firing process.

Adjustments in firing temperature, decorating and glazing technique have led these two artists to many happy surprises.

The Storey/DuGuay collaborative process begins with a pot thrown by DuGuay (often specified in shape and size by Storey).

Then Storey attaches her beasts directly onto a piece – adding new lines and sculptural negative spaces as well as new imagery. For example, the wings of a raven curl around the opening of a pot in “Rise Up”.

Storey’s imagery is influenced by local and world mythology and folklore. In “Raven Wants the Jo” a raven is humorously in pursuit of a coyote’s “Jo” or coffee.

Her interest in Celtic mythology is seen through circular interlocking hare imagery she made in raised clay on two stunning circular platters, formed by DuGuay.

The fox clinging to one side of a pot called “Raven Tricks the Fox” seems to slump that side with its body weight. The raven perches gently on the opposite rim, obviously in full control and ready to swoop off easily at any moment.

When I visit the gallery, Storey takes me over to “Wolf Watching” to tell me about its story.

The piece is one of DuGuay’s heart-stoppingly beautiful ginger jars glazed with Tenmoku, a classic Asian glaze made from feldspar, limestone and iron oxide. The quicker the piece is cooled, the darker the glaze.

A figure of a wolf gazes loftily from the jar’s lid, standing on two legs, arms crossed in a protective human-like gesture. To me it is reminiscent of animal characters in fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood.

Storey explains the symbol of the wolf as protector and speaks of the influence of other literary works such as Ted Hughes’ poem “Wolfwatching”: “Floored with glaze. Eyes/ Have worn him away. Children’s gazings/ Have tattered him to a lumpish/ Comfort of woolly play-wolf./ He’s weary.”

Blurring the Lines shows at Copper Moon Gallery until May 3.

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