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Photos: Rachel Gray

In The Making Collaborating Artist Interview: Paula Murray

By Apartment613 on May 14, 2019



Text by Joanna Tymkiw, visuals by Rachel Gray. In the Making is an interdisciplinary exhibition featuring the work of ten BEING Studio artists. The exhibition is the culmination of a workshop series presented by five local artists sharing skills in printmaking, sculpture, photography, storytelling and ceramics. Joanna is a member of BEING Studio’s Board of Directors and Rachel is the artistic coordinator at the studio.

Click here to learn more about BEING Studio’s In The Making workshop series.

Before Paula Murray was elected into International Academy of Ceramics, commissioned to create the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, multiple times, and had her work exhibited all over the world, she was a science student at the University of Ottawa considering a career in medicine. She credits a co-operative art studio close to the school for forever altering her life path. “Getting my hands on clay and trying to centre it on the wheel – I loved the directness of it and the humility. When I was trying to figure out who I was, I heeded my visceral response to clay and have never looked back.”

She credits the chemistry in her background for filtering out the intimidation that comes with high-fire ceramics. “When one has an idea of what is going on technically, the process itself is rich in metaphor. Questions that I need to figure out end up coming out in my work.”

Even though the transition to clay for Paula was natural, she did see leading a clay workshop chocked full of painters as a potential hurdle. “These artists have such extensive experience drawing and painting. They work a lot in 2D and can rely on the expressiveness of colour.” To tackle this, she broke her workshop into three parts focusing on tactile opportunities.

The first project was a simple pinch pot. This was so the artists could get the feeling of manipulating clay with their hands – to see how much pressure was needed to get the intended shape. The second stage was to move onto pressing textures into clay tiles so the artists could get the feel of creating impressions and manipulating aesthetics. The third and final stage was creating the actual vase, by wrapping clay slabs around bottles before individualizing them.

As artists, we’re all invested in our materials as a vessel for expression and I loved seeing the way some artists extended their own unique painting styles into their work with this other material.—Collaborating Artist Paula Murray

After the initial firing, Paula and the artists spent another morning brushing an iron wash over the vases to create depth and tone. She offered the option to leave the vases matte or use a glaze. The matte is more about the raw expressiveness of the clay where the sheen adds to the decoration, smooths things over and can add a level of functionality to it by extending the vases use. They chose whether they wanted the more raw texture to come through or the more refined.

One of the artists she took particular note of was Jake Riseborough, more specifically, the speed at which he works and the confidence he exudes. “He’s done within a few short minutes and when he’s done, he’s done – there’s no second guessing.”

Speaking about Jake’s ceramic works in the exhibit, Rose says, “Jake’s confidence really comes through in his work. The way he leaves marks on his clay is so bold and textural. It’s really energizing.”

After her workshops, Paula says of experience with the artists and BEING Studio: “there is such a level and respect of honouring artists where they’re at, to keep things moving and have a constructive experience, for everyone. I’m so glad to know that this place exists and to have been able to work with these artists.”

In The Making’s opening reception is Thursday May 16 from 5:30-8:30pm at the Galerie Annexe, Ottawa Art Gallery. The exhibition runs May 16-26. Ottawa Art Gallery’s drop-off/pick-up address is 10 Daly Avenue. The Daly entrance is between Waller and Nicholas on the south side. The Ottawa Art Gallery is a wheelchair accessible venue.