There’s more to Elaine Brewer-White’s vases than molded clay.
Hillary and Benita — two of the ceramic sculptor’s latest abstract pieces — take on entire personas themselves.
Though faceless, the bright colours and rugged textures of the vases have the same characteristics as the exuberant figurines she has become well known for over the past 30 years.
“It’s all about colour and form for me,” Brewer-White said.
“The goal for me is that no two will ever be the same at all. It’s abstract, they’re supposed to be different every way you look.
“When I show them sometimes I put big flowers in them because they are meant to hold floral arrangements, but they are also meant to be intriguing on their own.”
The vases, all of which have names, are part of Brewer-White’s latest venture into pottery.
The “usable artwork” began while Brewer-White was caring for her mother, who has dementia.
“I had to take a couple years off work to look after my mom,” she explained.
“And the only time I could get into the studio was for very short bursts, so I discovered pottery. Something small, something that wouldn’t take long that was still satisfying that creative urge. And I found that I really liked it. It opened my work up to another market.”
It also was a way for Brewer-White to pay homage to her mother, without even realizing it.
She was an abstract quilter and painter, and Brewer-White’s vases resemble the fabric artwork that she grew up with.
“It’s funny, because I only discovered it half-way through the process,” Brewer-White said.
“(The vases) they’re like pieces of fabric, the texture and colour. And that’s really what got me going because when I was caring for (my mother), and she wasn’t able to do her quilting anymore, it still really was there with me. She definitely was an inspiration. And it was very deep, I didn’t even realize it at first.”
In addition to vases, Brewer-White has also created a collection of eclectic mugs, which she is selling at the West Coast Women’s Show in Abbotsford this weekend.
But don’t plan on buying a matching set. Like the vases, no two mugs are alike. A veteran of improvised theatre performing, Brewer-White brings this same approach to her art and pottery.
“It’s a thought process that you never let go of, so even though I’m not performing anymore, it’s still with me,” she said.
“I approach my artwork with, ‘I’ll try something new and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter.’ Mistakes are part of the process, that’s still how I work.
“Sometimes I’ll try to make a different colour format or a different glaze and it doesn’t work. I don’t do tests, and sometimes I really pay for it, but that’s how I was trained. With that thought process, with an improviser’s mind, I think I have a much greater field of inspiration and imagination, because anything goes.”
The West Coast Women’s Show is on Oct. 16 to 18 at the TRADEX in Abbotsford, 1190 Cornell St.
Now in its 15th year, the show is the largest of its kind in Western Canada and features more than 400 vendors, including a new Artisans Marketplace where Brewer-White will have her pottery on display.
For more information on the event, which includes shows by Joshua Morrow from TV series The Young & the Restless and rock star Bif Naked, visit www.westcoastwomen.net.
Photos by Miranda Gathercole. Top: Though she is busy with her pottery and commissioned pieces, Elaine Brewer-White still finds time to create her signature figurines. Bottom: Many of Brewer-White’s eclectic mugs will be on sale at the West Coast Women’s Show this weekend (Oct. 16-18).