The Gardiner is now open from Thursday - Sunday, including free weekend admission! There's plenty of space to reconnect and amazing art to discover in all corners of the Museum. Clay Restaurant is still open Tuesday - Sunday. Reservations fill up fast, so book your table early. Please read our new health and safety policies before you visit.
From sticky to crusty, pliable to powdery, and shaped to shapeless, clay’s ability to transform in real time is prompting a new generation of artists to explore the possibilities of this ancient material. RAW features new work by four artists who are pushing boundaries with unfired clay: Cassils, Magdolene Dykstra, Azza El Siddique, and Linda Swanson. See it now!
We're firing up the kilns again! Join us on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 - 3 pm for drop in clay classes in our pottery studios. We've reduced our class sizes to allow for safe physical distancing, and instituted new health and safety protocols. Registration opens online at 10 am on the morning of the class. We can't wait to see you back in the studios!
Every object in our permanent collection can be accessed through our eMuseum portal. Learn about individual collecting areas, like Italian Maiolica or Modern and Contemporary Ceramics, or search the full collection by keyword. You'll be amazed by what you discover!
As we begin to welcome visitors back to the Gardiner, we need your support to continue offering innovative and engaging exhibitions, programs, and community projects on site and online. Make a donation and help us build community with clay.
By Josie Slaughter, Marketing Intern
Daumante Stirbyte’s work aims to instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in the viewer, and to explore the notion of the ‘unknown’ through unexpected combinations of shapes, colour, and surface treatments. It serves as a form of escapism. Familiar yet uncomfortable, the creatures she creates are like unusual specimen at a natural history museum.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the exhibition?
I wanted to really push myself and make the best work I’m able to make at this point in my ceramic career. The goal was to show everyone what goes on in my head everyday, and what my world looks like.
Your ceramic creatures live in their own universes—has this always been the case? Was there a time when you were making functional wares? How did you start creating more fantastical pieces?
I’ve made a fair amount of functional work in the past, like mugs and jars, which would have some motifs of my sculptural work. However, I don’t get the same enjoyment from making functional wares. While I can appreciate a good functional object, functionality was never really important when it comes to my own work. Making the kind of work that I do, I often get remarks like, “But what is it for?” I get really frustrated with people’s expectation that I should be making “useful things.” Not everything has to be utilitarian. Recently, I’ve completely stopped making functional and focus only on sculptural work.
What is the process for creating your larger clay creatures?
Larger pieces require either grog (fine sand) or paper fibers to be present in the clay to add strength and aid drying. Everything is made using coils and/or pinched shapes, hollow right from the beginning. I make them in a few separate parts, and join those together when they’ve had time to sit out and dry a little. Timing is everything—you have to be patient. If you rush it, they can end up collapsing or cracking.
Photo from Daumante’s Instagram
How do you come up with the names and personalities for your creatures? Are there any pieces you’ve grown particularly attached to?
I used to try to be very clever with naming my work, as if I was trying to impress somebody by using complicated words, but it didn’t bear much meaning to me personally. I hated the fact that I felt obliged to be so serious, and so now I tend to just have fun with it. Sometimes I look at a piece in progress and think, “you look like a Clive.” It reflects the work better. Giving your piece a name that doesn’t relate to you creates this gap between the viewer and the artist. I do get attached to the larger pieces, because of the sheer amount of work that goes into them. I also just really like having them around in my studio—they start to feel like pets, in a way.
As a ceramics teacher, what advice would you give to new ceramists looking how to create their own style and aesthetic?
You need to look at as much art as you can, not necessarily ceramics. Try to soak it all in, see what subject matter you tend to gravitate towards. Keep a notebook and document your thought process. Think about what’s most important, interesting, and dearest to your heart. Don’t try to force something if you don’t think it’s working out for you. It’s also important to show up to the studio every day and put in the hours. And make lots of work. I love Chuck Close’s quote:
“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of process. They come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.”
You really have to fail a lot to finally succeed, as cliché as that sounds.
Daumante Stirbyte’s new Gardiner Shop exhibition is on display for the month of September. Learn more.
111 Queen's Park
Canada, M5S 2C7