Imaginative, playful, and a passion for hand-made craft with enduring design describes Vancouver artisans whose unique, small production pieces can be found in the Pop-Up Shop at SwitzerCultCreative and online at Oden Gallery. Their labours of love easily translate into your own conception of what makes a comfortable and luxurious living space in 2018.
Ceramicist, Anyuta Gusakova expresses joy through clay
With a delightfully naïve style evocative of childhood, ceramicist and multi-media artist, Anyuta Gusakova’s decorative porcelain collections reflect her playful nature and love of multi-cultural myth and folk art. Her hand-made, small production pieces from Anyuta Studio.
“When I was a little girl growing up in the port city of Vladivostok, (it was still part of the Iron Curtain,) everything was very grey and dull. I remember classmates whose fathers were sailors, bringing to school colourful gum wrappers and little toys in crazy colours and patterns from Japan. I also had a book on Russian folk toys. Years later, as I began creating in porcelain, these pieces, like my Japanese and Russian Doll Vases, just emerged subconsciously,” laughs Gusakova from her Vancouver studio.
Her stylized big and baby MoBears are clever molecular atom re-creations of her favourite childhood teddy bear. Mishka the Russian Bear recalls the hand-painted exotic patterns of traditional ‘matryoshka’ nesting dolls while others display faux fur on porcelain, the latter making for the perfect pet without the cleanup!
Gusakova’s edgy Spirit of the Woods OLEN Deer Skull Collection was inspired by a real deer skull found in a forest in B.C. The abstract porcelain sculptures of which several are embellished with gold branching antlers, can also be wall-mounted, used as tabletop décor or bookends and evoke a spiritual connection to nature.
Recently, Gusakova won the 2017 national design challenge to create the Canadian Legend Award initiated by the Canadian College of Performing Arts and The Canadian Heritage Arts Society. Her Wings of Inspiration statuette was presented to 16-time Grammy Award-winning music producer, David Foster in his hometown of Victoria.
Like gardeners plunging their hands into the raw earth, “It’s an amazing feeling working in clay,” confides Gusakova. “I experience an immense sense of joy through my art work and this is what I want to share.”
TOP PHOTO: Spirit of the Woods OLEN Deer Skull Collection by Anyuta Gusakova
Nature inspires the “Fraternity of Antler, Beak and Claw” for ceramicist, Russell Hackney
If you grew up loving Beatrix Potter’s watercolour illustrations, reading The Chronicles of Narnia or the beloved owls in Harry Potter books and films, Russell Hackney Ceramics will evoke the same joy in nature’s simplicity.
A third- generation ceramicist from Stoke-on-Trent England, Hackney immigrated to Bowen Island with his wife in 2002. He applies his specialty of delightful animal embossments to his ceramic vases, canisters, cookie jars and lanterns with meticulous detail, capturing each creature with subtle humour without looking cartoonish.
“At 16, I apprenticed with my father, a Master Ceramicist, in the family business modelling 60-piece dinner services and tableware for large companies like Dudson in Stoke-on-Trent. Later in my 20s, in celebration of their 200th Anniversary, I modelled a replica of a 19th Century clock that was presented to HRH Queen Elizabeth when she visited their company,” reminisces Hackney from his Vancouver studio.
“My embossed Fraternity of Antler, Beak and Claw are represented by the deer who are so elegant and remain in the shadows; the owl is the watcher of the forest and the bear is the warrior,” he explains. Hackney often depicts the creatures wearing crowns on his ceramics, (the bear also wears a chef’s hat, very apropos on the Cookie Jar, safeguarding its contents.)
Bees and butterflies, hares and chaffinches frolic on churns, vases and vessels, in pale shades of eggshell, pink, butter yellow and robin’s egg blue. Turn the porcelain and several of Hackney’s ceramics are lovingly embossed with poetry, making them the perfect anniversary or house-warming gifts.
“If all art is in some way a reaction, then the pursuit of beauty is my reaction to the world around me,” says Hackney. “Where nature is at its most memorable, I draw inspiration from it.”
Indigenous weaver, Jessica Silvey, captures the spirit of the forest in her cedar baskets, wall hangings and mats
A childhood spent with her paternal grandmother fishing, gardening and harvesting cedar roots had a profound impact on fibre artist, Jessica Silvey. Those memories imbued in her a passion for traditional weaving techniques and patterns and a reverence for nature.
Silvey’s hand-made, aromatic woven pieces from her Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio in Sechelt B.C.
“I remember as a child being in awe of beautiful baskets woven by my aunts that were so huge, I could sit inside them and pull the lids over my head,” laughs Silvey, of Coast Salish and Portuguese descent. Predominately fishermen, Silvey was brought up with her extended family in Egmont, B.C. on 29 acres of waterfront. She was accustomed to seeing her father and uncles mending their nets and she accompanied her grandmother into the bush to gather bark and cedar roots to use for weaving baskets.
“I’m mostly self-taught and love the whole process of gathering roots in the spring when the sap is running. My kids used to tease me that the bathtub was full of cedar!” Silvey confides. “I love the golden patina of the wood. All the dyes I use in my pieces are natural from plants- red Alder bark for burgundy to orange shades and black from boiling iron or from roots buried deep in the mud. It’s a time-consuming and meticulous process but I feel so rich and contented when I leave the forest and the weaving is very meditative.”
Silvey sometimes incorporates found eagle down feathers from the beach into her baskets and wall hangings.
Recently she gave a cedar basket weaving workshop to 31 participants at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and her artistry is part of the current Exhibition, The Fabric of Our Land: Salish Weaving.
An appreciation of weaving, like everything made by hand, is undergoing a renaissance: “You know,” adds Silvey, “I see weaving as more than a craft. It’s a legacy because there is a part of yourself in everything you create.”
From filmmaker to textile designer, Stephanie Symns brings a painterly eye to her craft
One of the biggest trends in home décor in 2018 are bold, colourful geometrics and optical illusions in furniture, wallpaper, lighting and textiles. Stephanie Symns Antipod Workshop, Vancouver, brings a mathematician’s meticulous process, combined with a painterly eye, to her stunning collections of hand-made, block and digitally printed pillows, runners and throws.
“I’m really interested in repetitive patterns from ancient Greek times, indigenous cultures to modern graphic design like the doodles and murals by contemporary British artist, John Burgerman,” explains the award-winning textile designer, a native New Zealander who moved to Vancouver in 2000.
Ripped and frayed fragments from old posters on hoardings in Chinatown – even remnants of text, become inspirational fodder for Symns’ creations, re-born in tangerine, blue and black abstracts printed on velvet for her Artifact Pillows. Windows 3.0 Pillows (Symns’ wry commentary on urban life,) is an optical illusion in hot rhodamine pink reflecting “the patterns in rows of ubiquitous office buildings around the city.” Her vivid blue eco-friendly, hand-dyed Indigo Collection, riffs on the traditional Japanese technique of ‘Shibori ’ dyeing, originally used only for royalty and the samurai. Look through a kaleidoscope and you see the DigiFlora Throw Pillows. Symns photographs small details in her everyday environment that when combined and digitally printed on fabric, makes for boldly graphic plush décor.
Says Symns,“I think that buying beautifully made durable goods that you love from people with a story to tell, is an antidote to a fast-paced world of mass production.”
Sholto Scruton melds tradition with modernity to create timeless furniture pieces built with respect for the environment
The importance of cultural heritage, sustainability and the responsibility of the designer to contribute to a healthy environment are foremost in Sholto Scruton’s mind when he approaches furniture design. In conjunction with Vancouver Design Week, he’ll be speaking on these subjects on Saturday, May 12that 1:00 p.m. and showcasing his intricately crafted furniture at SwitzerCultCreative 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.
“I tend to make things that are purposely built with an intention to solve a problem,” he explains from his workshop, Sholto Design Studio in the Strathcona area of Vancouver. “For example, right now I’m working on benches commissioned for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale by Vancouver landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. We just got the approvals but it’s built on uneven ground from the Napoleonic times so the benches have to be stabilized to accommodate the landscape.”
For another project, he’s designing 53 jewellery cases for the Bill Reid Gallery from 16 cedar logs pulled from the Sunshine Coast that will honour Reid’s Haida culture. Scruton is collaborating with renowned Haida artist, Corey Bullpitt to ensure cultural authenticity on all of the work.
Born in Northern England into a family of furniture makers specializing in antique finishing (Sholto is a Gaelic name,) he’s a graduate of the Masters Program in Industrial Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. “I always thought I’d be working in plastics and metal,” he admits. Scruton immigrated and was raised in Northern B.C. and is married to Scandinavian graphic designer, Berit Hansen. “We come from cold places,” he laughs, “but the mix of cultures has shaped the way I design furniture to warm a space.”
His Emerald Collection began when “I wanted something unique and thought of the ‘emerald cut’ of a gemstone.” Both the coffee table and side table, hewn from solid walnut or oak in a hexagonal parquetry wood top, “were designed to feel both light and strong, angular yet soft, organic and logical and hand-rubbed with non-toxic natural oil and wax finish,” Scruton explains. Legs are available in solid wood but conceived in plated rose gold, chrome or brass instills a really modern vibe to the piece as a whole.
His rectangular Emerald Dining Table available in three sizes (or custom,) has been in great demand at Canadian Embassies and private residences in Barcelona, Brussels, Hanoi and Tanzania to name only a few.
“I first built the Emerald Credenza for my wife who wanted something in which to store files, says Sholto. “But then I thought, ‘why not a beautiful cabinet that could also store records, a wine rack and even as a bar?’” And voila! Like a magician’s box, the sleek cabinet, assembled with light-reflecting mortise and tenon joints in white oak, walnut, black oak or fir, cleverly conceals the aforementioned options. Should you choose the cocktail service, The Emerald Credenza top opens to reveal a cutting board and compartments for all your bar-tending needs.
Teaching the business side of industrial design part-time at the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic in Richmond, Scruton hopes he can impart a sense of social responsibility through sustainability and good manufacturing process to his students.
“I like to practice what I preach,” he says of the importance of durable, easily repairable furniture over trendy throw-away products.
Instilling those values in his students also includes his 7-year-old son, Finn who is already handy with a hammer and drill and has built his first chair.