Pottery Exhibition Encourages the Growth of Ceramic Artists at KPU

Ceramic showcases such as the one recently held in Spruce Gallery lead students towards careers in the arts

Leah Rosehill, KPU based artist, displays her ceramic art. (Cristian Hobson-Dimas)

Ceramic artists, including some fine arts students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, had their work showcased throughout May in the Spruce Gallery on the Surrey campus.

Hosted by the Fraser Valley Potters Guild, the annual juried exhibition—which this year was entitled Growth—aimed to display the work of artists at a wide variety of skill levels, from students to instructors.

“As much as growth is an aesthetic, it’s also the inspiration behind these pieces on a deeper level,” says Leah Rosehill, a fourth-year fine arts student displaying two handmade ceramic bowls at the exhibit.

Rosehill expresses how her “interest in sustainability and agriculture” informs her work as someone who was raised surrounded by nature.

“The form re-enforces the theme of opening up, of upward growth,” she says, about her pieces that were put on display. “[Bowls] start at a pinpoint centre and flower open, creating upward movement.”

Another artist, whose piece “Personal Growth” was showcased, is Kay Bonathan. Bonathan is a member of the exhibition committee and a former assistant treasurer of the Fraser Valley Potters Guild.

“Part of our mandate is to encourage education and growth, so we want to make sure all of our members are encouraged by getting at least one piece in the exhibition,” she says.

Bonathan adds that the guild encourages artists to sell their work as part of the experience of exhibiting.

To select the pieces that were included in the exhibit, the jury for Growth accepted three submissions per person. Although nearly 100 individual pieces were on display, Bonathan says that this showing was “a little more limited than usual,” with other showcases displaying up to 10 works from each artist.

“I think it’s great when students participate in an opportunity to exhibit like this,” says Ying-Yueh Chuang, a KPU fine arts instructor specializing in ceramics. “A lot of the time, students don’t think their work belongs in the gallery because they don’t have that confidence yet.” Chuang says she never thought she would end up making a living off of her art either.

“Even when I went to do my MFA, I wasn’t thinking I would do art as a career,” she explains. “But eventually, when you just keep doing it, you realize, ‘Hey, I’m actually good at it. I can actually do this.’”

Chuang attests that exhibiting in showcases like Growth provides “a path to becoming an artist,” and that before students exhibit, they will, “never really know how [their] work will be received by the public.” She adds that exhibiting helps emerging artists “gain confidence,” and creates networking opportunities for other artists “to learn about [their] artistic concepts.”

There is also much to be learned by joining the Fraser Valley Potters Guild, Chuang adds. On top of teaching art students how to apply for grants, residencies, and workshops, the guild “invites practicing artists to give lectures and lead demonstrations.”

“It basically gives ceramics students a model and goal for success, a way to survive as an artist,” she says.

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