September 18, 2013

Ten Questions with Heather Dahl

Let's meet Heather Dahl, from dahlhaus studios where she has been making ceramics as a full-time maker since 2007. 

When did you start your art practice?

I took my first painting and ceramics class my first year in college while I was practicing for a violin exam.  I thought taking a couple of art classes would give me a bit of a break from my intense music studies, along with some of the general arts classes I was taking in University.  Sure enough, it wasn't long until I wanted to be in the Visual Arts program full-time.  I ended up graduating from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2001 with a major in painting and ceramics.  
A year after I graduated my first son was born, with my second 2 years later.  As a new mom I was checking out my local community centre and found a pottery studio that offered part-time memberships for people experienced in clay.  It was the perfect scenario for me to get back into making a few pots I needed for my family and slowly as my hands got more involved in making, my head started wondering if I could actually pursue the art career I had thought about in Art school.  In 2007 I applied for a self-employment program that gave me a bit of a financial cushion while also giving me some of the business skills I would really need to take my practice to a level that would sustain me and my family.  

What is your creative process like? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

The concept for dahlhaus came about from an interest in mid-century design, vintage textile and wallpaper patterns, modern abstract art, and some of the paintings I had worked on in art school.  I love using hits of colour in my work in the form of simple, graphic shapes.  Inspiration often comes with just a pair of scissors and some tape or paper- cutting shapes out that will become glaze designs really inform how I make my work.

How has your art practice evolved over the years?

When I started dahlhaus I had a super small painting studio and a little ceramic studio- both shared spaces so they were affordable.  I spent time in both studios making paintings and functional ceramics, but over time it was clear I had to make a choice about what medium I was going to commit more time to.  At the time a larger studio in my ceramic studio opened up and I had my first solo show as a ceramic artist at the Gallery of BC Ceramics, so I made the choice to focus just on clay. Since then I've had the opportunity to work with small shops and galleries, but also some really big retailers too.  

Describe what you make.

I use porcelain and white stoneware clays and then just glaze to decorate my work.  My glazing method, style, and colour palette have really become my signature look, so I take a lot of time to glaze each piece. 

How many years have you participated in SFM?

This will be my 3rd year participating in SFM!

What's new for this year's SFM?

I'm really excited about premiering these new porcelain platters with my glaze patterns as relief that I've been making over the past couple of months.  Along with the platters, I recently made some new tall vases that create a great grouping when added to my bottle vases.  I can never have enough new glaze colours in the studio!  There's always a new pattern that evolves in the mix so there will be plenty of new work to see!

What's your favourite part about the SFM show?

My favourite part about the SFM show is that I actually want something from every vendor that's part of the show! The show is really well curated, the quality and level of each maker is really high and it's really inspiring to be part of a show that represents such great work.

Who are your favourite artists?

Just a couple of artists that have recently made me excited about painting again:
Julian Meagher is an Australian painter who's work caught my eye on instagram- his paintings are so intensely beautiful!
Jessica Bell is a Vancouver- moved to Ottawa for grad school artist who makes work that is based in the idea of collage, but presented in kind of a fresh way.  I have a few pieces of hers at home, including a knitted painting that is so fresh and kind of crafty at the same time. 

What are you listening to in the studio?

I'm a CBC radio junkie. Mostly I like to listen to The Signal, with Laurie Brown.

What other creative outlets do you enjoy?

I really enjoy making food, having people over, baking, gardening, and sewing things for my home or for myself. 

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