The relationship between ceramics and food has been symbiotic since the beginning of human civilization. Centuries ago, ceramics were not only used to form buildings and create storage, but also in food culture. With the invention of multiple ceramic materials (porcelain, earthenware, et al.) throughout history, clay pottery has remained ever-present.
As well, it has proven to be the most versatile and unlike many of its tableware counterparts, it lasts for a very long time. With that said, the ceramics of today look quite a bit different than the plates, bowls and coffee mugs you might find tucked away in your parents' and grandparents' cupboards.
Ceramic bowls and cups by Montreal's Sarah Boyer.
Canadian restaurateurs and chefs have also come to embrace the individualistic nature of local ceramic artists. Many hospitality professionals will agree that a unique plate or bowl can enhance the experience of a meal and help bring a chef's dish–ingredient-wise–to life.
Of course, one could simply go out and find fad-coloured plateware are responsible prices, but there's something to be said about serving food on something with a bit more character. This often leads to the hunt of local ceramicists, oh which Canada has a growing amount.
Here are six from across the country, who also ship nationally and beyond, that are worth taking note of.
g ceramic & co. (Vancouver, BC)
Gabrielle Burke of g ceramic & co. draws on her experience in the restaurant industry when collaborating with chefs and restaurateurs in order to bring their unique visions to life. Burke’s philosophy is to create concepts that show appreciation for both the food itself and the experience of eating it.
Furthermore, Burke believes that ceramics create a landscape for food. Her aesthetic is considered to be contemporary and minimalist, as her belief is that the ceramics should compliment the culinary creations, rather than distract from them.
Lineage Ceramics (Vancouver, BC)
Lineage Ceramics founder Shoubi Wu grew up in a family of ceramic artists. Throughout his childhood, Wu’s father had been adamant that he should not pursue ceramics as a career due to the numerous challenges he’d faced during his own career.
However, after 20 years and a move to Vancouver, Wu’s father changed his mind and supported Shoubi in launching his company. Naturally, Lineage Ceramics felt like a fitting name felt like a fitting name since the family’s ancestral line of ceramicists dates back to his great grand uncle.
Wu’s style is a combination of simplicity and boldness. His pieces reflect the everyday usage of pottery; minimalistic, functional, and portray a sense of time. His inspiration comes from the likes of Florian Gadsby and his precise and clean pieces that are both stylish and vibrant. The philosophy of Lineage Ceramics is to create pottery that makes dining a joyful and peaceful experience.
HSJ Ceramics (Summerland, BC)
Originally from the United Kingdom, Helena Jenkinson moved to Vancouver in early 2019 but shortly after moved to the Okanagan Valley. The emerging ceramicist has collaborated with Pluvio Restaurant in Ucluelet, BC for stunning array of plateware used during dinner service.
Jenkinson’s style places focus on the environment and sustainability. Her creations range from bowls and plates to a modern egg holder and all of which boast natural looks, typically in shades of grey.
“[I wanted my creations to be] something raw, authentic and [something that] would reflect the natural world,” she says.
Starfishly Clay Works (Calgary, AB)
Calgary-based photographer and ceramic artist Linh Ly took her first pottery class four years ago. Since then, her company Starfishly Clay Works has garnered plenty of local buzz. Her products are sold at select stores in Calgary, Edmonton and Regina. Ly’s philosophy behind her ceramics is to make functional pottery that is inspired by the needs of every day and the desire to dream a little”.
The artist considered her style to be on the “heavier side" and one which often shows the markings of what she calls "her clumsiness”. When it comes to the bubbly design details on her pieces, Ly happily describes her whimsical esthetic in equal whimsy.
“[I create with a] poetic notation that is seemingly relatable to everyone’s childhood narratives,” she explains.
Pepo Ceramics (Wasagaming, MB)
Manitoba's Jenn McCurry has been creating distinctive ceramic pieces since her first pottery-making class back in 2010. Years before she took to a pottery wheel herself, the artist grew up surrounded by ceramics by way of her mom’s best friend. It seems as though her success as a ceramic artist was always meant to be.
The mantra behind her company Pepo Ceramics–which is pronounced “pee-po”, an ode to her late father–is to create wares that are modern, minimalistic and functional. Inspired by mid-century (around 1950s-60s) style furniture, McCurry’s line of pottery compliments endless time periods of furniture and aesthetics. To her, each piece has Nike's just-do-it mindset; there is no overthinking and she either likes it or not.
McCurry has collaborated with a variety of Canadian restaurants including deer + almond in Winnipeg and Saskatoon's Primal. She says that she believes cooking is an art form in itself and ceramic tableware helps to make food even more beautiful.
Sarah Boyer (Montreal, QC)
From Calgary to Montreal, ceramic artist and dancer Sarah Boyer has been creating ceramics since the summer of 2019. Her ceramics tend to draw on earth tones, finding inspiration from plants, rock formations, and natural elements. The raw feel of her unglazed products reveals many hand-carved patterns. Needless to say, Boyer believes in “an embodied understanding of consistency and texture”.
Boyer believes that her pieces are sense-driven. Given her dancing background, many of her works showcase the patterns of movement and the rituals of repetition. Each of her pieces have a unique imprint that was attained throughout the process–a ceramic diary, if you will.