Unpredictable art

KV Times – Febuary, 2011

By Joanna Carson Skead

Emenau’s work found in homes around world

Darren Emenau is a potter from the Kennebecasis Valley whose work is becoming increasingly well known in North America and abroad. He’s been featured in Ceramics Monthly, an internationally distributed magazine on ceramic art.

Title: Caprie.

Medium: Local cone 06 Earthenware

6 x 4 x 4”, 2009.

Private collection,Fredericton, N.B.

Darren Emenau likes to experiment with a lichen-like glaze. His work is found in homes all around the world and is part of the New Brunswick Art Bank collection. The combination of unique glazes and interesting forms sets his work apart from traditional pottery lines. I asked him to elaborate on his influences.

Q: Why pottery? What events and life experience set this in motion?

A: When I was en route to getting my masters degree in biology, I ran into an old friend at the farmers market in Fredericton. He was selling jewelry and I thought that it would be a nice thing to look into when I retired. Then it hit me. I realized that I was seriously interested in looking into what other career options were out there. Soon I was enrolled at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design – and clay ended up being the calling.

Q: You grew up in East Riverside. Did your time in the Valley shape your work in any way?

A: I would say that the relaxed environment of the River and woodland played a very important part in the way I approach ceramics. Growing up in the ’70s, I had a lot of freedom to explore and really get in synch with nature. I moved to Montreal for four years to check out the city scene and acquire an education. Coming back for visits, I was able to see what N.B. had to offer. I love it here so much – the people, the land, the ways.

Title: Lichen Pod.

Medium: Local cone 06 Earthenware

14 x 14 x 3”, 2008.

Q: You currently produce four different lines of pottery. Two are everyday dishware, similar in shape but different in character. The others are unique natural-looking pieces dealing with local clays and wood-firing. Can you explain the differences?

A: The Whimsical line is my oldest style of work and was developed when I was a pottery student. My inner child gets to play through the “light and foolish” (as my neighbour calls it) imagery. I enjoy the spontaneous calligraphy brush strokes this technique requires.

The style of the Whimsical then inspired me to create something where the focus was more on the subtle variations of the form itself. I made a neutral colour palette to emphasize the overall piece, which became known as the Japonesque line.

When I was producing these two lines, I also became interested in more traditional ceramic techniques. I found and dug some local clay and learned quickly how hard it was to create a finished product that I was happy with. This led to experimenting with a lichen-like glaze that mimicked my woodland surroundings.

Q: The wood firing process involves a lot of effort with unpredictable results. Why do you think it captures the attention of so many skilled potters?

A: I believe it’s because of its unpredictable outcome. The lengthy process bonds the maker to the work and is linked to the tradition, which stems thousands of years. Wood-fired work brings the human and chance factor back to the process.

Title: Tea bowl.

Medium: Local cone 06 Earthenware

4 x 2.5 x 2.5”, 2010.

Private collection

Q: What kind of contribution do you think pottery makes to the world?

A: When I started to collect other potters’ works there was a subtle bond created between maker and user; this bond remains with every collected piece and resonates in my house.

Over 90 per cent of my home and its contents are made from artists. I am not being obsessive over art but I feel that living with it daily helps shape my family and me.

Joanna Carson Skead is manager of Handworks Gallery.