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15 Canadian women ceramic artists to follow

Green and red ceramic figure with wavy limbs
2 years ago

From Lucie Rie and Ladi Kwali to Betty Woodman and Toshiko Takaezu, women artists have long been trailblazers in the medium of ceramics, producing some of the most innovative and skillful work in the field—and that certainly hasn’t changed.

This year in celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite Canadian (mostly Ontario-based) contemporary women ceramic artists to follow on Instagram. It’s a great reminder that much of the most exciting talent in the field is right in our own backyard. From seasoned contemporary artists to students who are making their mark, check out the list and give them a follow. You just might discover your new favourite artist!

Marissa Y Alexander

Ceramic vessel painted with Black women swimming

Photo via Marissa Y Alexander

Marissa Y Alexander is an artist to watch. Her mugs, cups, bowls, and vases are pure joy, and her highly decorated coil pots evoke a sense of play and rhythm that can’t help but make you smile. She won both the 2019 Best of Ceramics Award and the 2020 Power Plant Emerging Artist Award in 2020 at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. Follow her on Instagram for a peek at her studio process, and to get a first look at new work for sale in her online shop.

Shary Boyle

Porcelain figure pulling a wheelbarrow containing a lace dress
Photo via Shary Boyle

Shary Boyle drew international attention when she represented Canada at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. Her distinctive and deeply imaginative work considers the social history of ceramic figurines, animist mythologies, and folk art forms to create a symbolic, feminist, and politically charged language uniquely her own. Shary’s first public sculpture, Cracked Wheat, was installed in front of the Gardiner Museum in 2018. A major exhibition of her work titled Outside the Palace of Me will open at the Museum in 2022—and we can’t wait!

Habiba El Sayed

Artist Habiba El Sayed performing at the Gardiner Museum
Photo by Aniqa Tabassum via Habiba El Sayed

A graduate of the Ceramics programs at Sheridan College and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Habiba El Sayed is inspired by Islamic architecture and human vulnerability. In 2020, she led a live workshop as part of Clay Date, hosted by the Gardiner Museum’s Young Patron Circle. It was truly one of the bright spots of the pandemic for our community. Habiba was interviewed by the Toronto Guardian in advance of the event, sharing what she loves about raw clay and how she uses it in her performance art (read the interview).

Kaley Flowers

Ceramic figure on a laptop on a pink background
Photo via Kaley Flowers

Toronto-based artist Kaley Flowers makes art for the digital age, so what better way to enjoy it than on your smart phone? Her Instagram page is bursting with colour and whimsical characters that belie the urgent subject matter of her work. More and more, her practice is informed by the climate crisis, represented by a mash up of floral imagery and modern technologies. In 2018, Kaley shared insight into her practice in an interview with CBC Arts (watch it now). With all the buzz, it’s no surprise that the quirky clay characters available in her online shop sell out fast.

Rachael Kroeker

Ceramic pendant lamp with Misty Mountain pattern
Photo via Rachael Kroeker

For beautifully handcrafted tableware and lighting, look no further than Winnipeg-based ceramist Rachael Kroeker. We particularly love her Misty Mountain series, featuring a soothing gradient of blue casting slip that evokes the mountains and the sea. She’s also known for her signature marbled cups, bowls, and jewellery. You can find Rachael’s work in the online Gardiner Shop or through her website.

Janet Macpherson

Large deer head and small deer decorated with sgraffito
Photo via Janet Macpherson

Janet Macpherson’s 2017 acclaimed exhibition A Canadian Bestiary at the Gardiner Museum remains one of our most talk-about shows. Janet is known for her slip-cast porcelain creatures and her deft use of sgraffito, a technique in which a surface layer is incised to reveal a ground of contrasting colour. Endearing and unsettling at the same time, her work is immediately recognizable and beloved by visitors and collectors alike.

Eiko Maeda

Nerikomi porcelain bowl
Photo via Eiko Maeda

Japanese-Canadian ceramist Eiko Maeda has captured the attention of pottery lovers with her use of nerikomi, a decorative process from Japan that involves stacking colored clay and then slicing through it to reveal a pattern. You can watch Eiko demonstrate this mesmerizing process in a video produced by CBC Arts in 2017. Eiko shares photos of her elegant bowls and vessels on her Instagram page, often with beams of light streaming through the delicate porcelain. The online Gardiner Shop features a wonderful selection of her pieces, and they never last long on the shelves.

Heidi McKenzie

Vintage photographs printed on ceramic blocks
Photo via Heidi McKenzie

A Toronto-based ceramic artist and arts journalist, Heidi McKenzie once apprenticed in her father’s ancestral home at the foothills of the Himalayas with India’s foremost studio potter, Mini Singh. In 2019, the Gardiner Shop held a solo exhibition of her work titled Family Matters featuring photographic images on clay that spoke to her mixed Indo-Trinidadian/Irish-American heritage. In 2020, we paid a virtual visit to Heidi’s home studio as part of our “3 Works” artist series (watch it online). We love to follow her progress on Instagram as she experiments with innovative techniques for printing on ceramics.

Lindsay Montgomery

Charger with the image of a woman-dragon hybrid
Photo via Lindsay Montgomery

Lindsay Montgomery’s ceramics are not for the faint of heart. Fiery and grotesque, her astoundingly detailed works are populated by goblins, witches, and demons. In an interview with Canadian Art Magazine, Lindsay discussed the influence of Italian Renaissance Maiolica in her practice and her desire to bring a contemporary feminist perspective to this centuries-old craft. Also a respected educator, Lindsay has taught at the Gardiner Museum, Sheridan College, and Concordia University. In 2018, she was the recipient of the prestigious Winifred Shantz Award, presented annually by the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery. You might just want to avoid scrolling through her feed before bed.

Julie Moon

Green and red ceramic figure with wavy limbs
Photo via Julie Moon

Julie Moon studied fashion technology and spent over a decade working in the garment industry before she discovered clay. Her eye for graphics, colour, and pattern is evident in everything she creates, from ceramic sculptures to handmade jewellery and functional pipes. She exhibited her work at the Gardiner Museum in 2012 as one of the nominees for the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award, and again in 2019 as one of the featured artists at the International Ceramic Art Fair (ICAF). Her highly-coveted work can be purchased in our online Shop or through her website. We recently paid Julie a virtual visit via Instagram Live (watch now).

Nadia Myre

Hanging bundles of clay pipe stems strung together
Photo via Nadia Myre

While Montreal-based interdisciplinary artist Nadia Myre works in a variety of media, some of her most striking pieces are made of clay. A member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg First Nation, Nadia draws attention to the power and histories of Indigenous textile practices that she situates in a colonial context. Her recent exhibitions Balancing Acts (Textile Museum of Canada, 2019) and Code Switching and Other Work (The Briggait, Glasgow International, 2018) featured pieces made from woven clay tobacco pipe shards. Nadia is one of three finalists under consideration to design a new public artwork honouring the ongoing Indigenous presence on Turtle Island, slated for installation at the Gardiner in 2022.

Sharon Norwood

Vintage porcelain painted with curly black lines
Photo via Sharon Norwood

A Canadian artist of Jamaican ancestry, Sharon Norwood currently maintains her art practice between Florida and Georgia. She aims to disrupt the white gaze and other passive notions of viewing “the other,” and to question standing narratives and systems that shape how identities are understood. Sharon first caught our eye with her series Hair Matters, which features overglaze drawings on vintage China. In her work, the curly line becomes a signifier of the Black body. As a museum that houses a major collection of European porcelain, including hundreds of tea and coffee wares, Sharon’s thought-provoking work encourages us to see our collection in new ways.

Linda Sormin

Abstract ceramic sculpture with tangles of clay
Photo via Linda Sormin

Linda Sormin’s Instagram is a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes studio videos and detail shots of her intricate ceramic installations that explore upheaval, fragility, migration, and change. Born in Bangkok, she immigrated to Canada at the age of five. After working in community development for four years in Thailand and Laos, Linda studied ceramics at Andrews University, Sheridan College, and Alfred University. She is currently Associate Professor of Studio Art at New York University. In the summer of 2020, the Gardiner Museum’s Chief Curator Sequoia Miller hosted a special Instagram Live with Linda, in which she took viewers into her home studio (watch it on YouTube).

Sami Tsang

eramic bust with smaller ceramic figure dangling from its ear
Photo via Sami Tsang

Ceramic artist Sami Tsang moved to Canada from Hong Kong at the age of 12. She grew up as the youngest child in a conservative family where her voice was not always heard or welcomed. At age 20, she began resisting her traditional role and started using openness and humour in her ceramics to overcome feelings of guilt and shame. In 2019, she won the Gardiner Museum Award at the Sheridan Graduate Show, and will present an exhibition of new work at the Museum this fall. Sami is currently working toward a Master of Ceramic Art at the prestigious Alfred University. Her work can be purchased online in the Gardiner Shop.

Shannon Weston

Abstract sculpture of a body with scarification
Photo via Shannon Weston

Since first exhibiting Shannon Weston’s work at the Gardiner Museum in 2020, she’s became an instant favourite. Shannon was named the winner of the Sheridan Graduate Show’s Gardiner Museum Award and will have the opportunity to mount an exhibition at the Museum later this year. We can’t wait to see what she has in store!  Shannon draws inspiration from African scarification patterns to create work that preserves and promotes Black beauty and strength. She is currently an artist in residence at Harbourfront Centre, and a selection of her “body spheres” are available in our online Gardiner Shop.


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