LANE DELMONICO GIBSON
Words: Riel Lynch / Photos: Janine Kropla
Plane Ceramics is miles from being plain ol’ pottery. Lane Delmonico Gibson, 24 is also far from plain as well. Her current pieces are as agreeable and welcoming as she.
Her studio is in the space below a 1902 farmhouse, and it is the home where she grew up. Beneath a small trove of tall pines, Lane—clad in full overalls, stands and beckons us to follow her. To get into Lane’s workspace, you enter on the side, and walk down several cement steps into a roomy space. She leaves the door open to let in natural light and fresh, for without it; the space would be ink dark and perhaps mimic the innards of a kiln.
She aptly served us French press coffee, and poured them into two of her pieces, both earthy tones with electric colour splashes and drips. She served us pancakes and syrup from an earthy brown-lidded dish, and a variety of fresh fruit from yet another hand made piece. We talked for some while about how coffee warms us in winter, and how the thought of spring was now warming us up too.
Muddy Water: What was your first encounter with pottery?
Lane: I got into pottery in a big way when I was seventeen. I moved to France right after high school with my friend Chloe. She gave me the opportunity to study with her in France—as her family is from there. She was telling me about all these little pottery villages there, and then, one summer she came back and said you have to take this pottery course I discovered a woman in France and she offers this apprentice to two students every year. I intended to go to school after high school but the more she described the course the more I thought I should do this.
The two of us lived in a little stone house in La Borne, France. The only people that live in this city are potters, or potters’ children. So they are about 230 people in that town. We made it 232. They called us “the Canadiennes”. All the potters know La Borne as a major pottery hub. It is the spot for pottery and ceramics and wood styling. So, we took this six month course, but stayed an extra few months because I just didn’t want to leave.
MW: How did this experience in La Borne made your knowledge of pottery more unique?
L: Before going there, I did not have knowledge of what was really out there, even here in Winnipeg. After coming back though, I’ve realized, there are so many potters that are quietly doing their thing, just rockin’ out in their basements. There is definitely a pottery culture in Winnipeg that I have yet to discover. The University of Manitoba has a ceramics program, there are also lots of wood kilns out and about, and there are even people in Winnipeg who extract their own clay. Had I taken courses here, I probably would have had a very different experience. I think my course in France what it offered was to be fully immersed, living in a potter’s village, and having to learn it all in French. All the technical terms I learned are in French. The course itself was a very steep learning curve, as we were doing eight hours of pottery every day.
MW: Did you meet a lot of potters right when you returned from France? Or was it more so the opening at MAKE in November that kind of immersed you into the “prairie potters” community?
L: Well, little did I know, but my next-door neighbour is a potter too. He educated me on clay before I went to pick some of my own up just the other day. However, when I came back from France in 2008, I sort of put pottery in the backburner. I always wanted to pursue it more though, but it is one of those crafts that require a lot of space and time and tools. The show at MAKE gave me the opportunity to exhibit a lot of my things, to sell, and to get rid of a lot of these pieces. It also held me accountable. I felt motivated to do it again.
I went to France for the skills that can’t be taken away from me. I like sharing it with other people. It was nice to see people interested in my stuff. The success was really positive. People came in who had never been to the coffee shop before, just because they had heard there was pottery. A guy I just met had lived in Japan for three years…he saw one of my bowls and he said, “I just have to have this, it reminds me of Japan!”.
Can you tell me about style or inspiration that you try to bring to the aesthetic of your pieces?
L: I am not sure if I have developed anything unique quite yet. The course taught us a variety of styles, such as Terra sigillata—inspired by ancient Roman pottery, Raiku or Japanese, African techniques, as well as how to use 10 different types of kilns. We made all our glazes from scratch. In pottery there are so many paths you can go, that your style changes as you learn more. I like making functional, utilitarian pieces, like these coffee cups, really simple ware—but the more whimsical and hand built the better. It is all kind of mysterious, because when you make something when it is its raw form when you have an idea…and then apply the glaze you have a hope it will turn out something to the effect, and then it comes out of the kiln and you either love it or you hate it, and you just accept it.
MW: If I was a potter and I hated it I would just hurl it across the room!
L: Oh! Oh man its therapeutic! I made ten bowls three days ago and I just crushed them all after. If you wanted to keep or sell everything you made, that’d be tough.
MW: Can you describe the process in perhaps layman’s terms for us?
L: Okay, I will describe some wheel throwing. You prepare your clay. I buy my clay premixed. If you extract your clay or mix your own clay that is a career in itself. It is daunting and impressive. You kneed your clay like you are preparing pizza dough. Once that is ready, you thrown that onto the wheel decisively. The biggest frustration is centering your mass of clay on the wheel. You center the clay and kneed it a bit on the wheel to get it a bit more pliable. Clay is essentially earth with a lot of plasticity in it. You then wet the clay, but not soak or it will become waterlogged, then you bring up the wall and make a hole (if you are making a bowl). You are pretty much only using your fingertips now, and your elbows are anchored, either on your knees or the drip tray. You then bring up the wall—making sort of a little love handle at the base of the mass of clay. You pinch that from the side of the wall and then it is finished. There are about ten other finishing steps…like trimming, refining, and letting it dry. By trimming you are taking away the weight, like a tree stump and modifying your pot in that stage. From there, you fire it.
MW: Do you have a favourite glaze design or technique at the moment?
L: One of the reasons I like pottery so much is the long process. It is not monotonous, or repetitive. You’ve got your wheel turning, glazing, and firing. They are all art in their own way. One of the most involved techniques I have done is the “naked raiku”. This is really fun because once your pot is in a semi-dry stage you polish it with a stone. It seals off the clay, and then you apply another layer of glaze before you fire it in a raiku gas kiln. One you remove a piece from a kiln, it is at its highest temperature or 1300 degrees, and you take it out right away. And it shocks the pot. Its outer layer crackles off like a turtle shell. This technique is really fun, but very involved.
MW: Do you have any other shows planned?
L: I really want to get going on the production. But first, I really need finish renovations here in the studio over spring.
MW: Can you tell us more about your studio space?
L: Well, this is my mother’s house. We bought it about 25 years ago. The house was built in 1902. The second part of the place was built in 1925. It was the first dairy farm in the community. It had a huge acreage. After the war, more residents were built. In 1946 it became a riding stable. My parents were really intrigued by its history. We were only the fourth owners. This portion has always been unfinished. It has been the home to all my mother’s books before this. It was a crafting or hideout area. Next to me here is a wine cellar.
MW: It is pretty neat how you grew up in this house and this space was always so familiar to you and now it has changed it's shape for you. You are going to get the nicest summer breezes through those doors.
For more of Lane's work visit her website
or her instagram