In accordance with the announcement by the provincial government, the Gardiner Museum has closed temporarily. The health and safety of our visitors, staff, and the wider community remains our top priority. We'll continue to provide you with engaging digital content to keep us connected while the galleries are closed.
During our temporary closure, we're posting exhibitions and selections from our collection online. Discover Inuit ceramics, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, pottery from the Ancient Americas, and more!
On Thursday April 29 at 1 pm, join us for a free online lecture with Professor Alison McQueen, who will discuss the significant contributions of women working at Sèvres in the first century of its history. The presentation will feature works from leading international porcelain collections and bring attention to the often-overlooked roles of women retouching glaze, laying down prints, and burnishing. Register now!
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!
With the Museum closed temporarily, we need your support to continue to offer innovative and engaging exhibitions, programs, and community projects online, as well as plan for the future. Please consider making a donation to 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