Salt Spring Ceramic Awards closes successful season

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Victoria potter Sandy Harquail was announced the “undefeated champion” of the biennial Salt Spring Island Ceramic Awards on Saturday night, following up on her 2016 grand prize win with a matching achievement in the 2018 edition. 

The undisputed winner of the inaugural event two years ago for her simple and charming Spring Basket, Harquail wowed the jurors with another subtle, well-crafted stoneware piece called Infinite Void.

“It’s so exquisite and it’s just so perfect. Her geometry is just beyond compare,” said gala MC Laura Carey, who was one of the jurors in 2016. She noted this year’s jury was completely unaware that Harquail had won the top prize that first year as well.

“Thank you all for the hard work of jurying. I don’t envy you — it was very very hard last time, and there’s been such spectacular results this year,” Carey said. “And what a great choice to have a broader geographic region for entry, and the show is as strong as ever.”

Speaking on behalf of the jury, Jonathon Bancroft-Snell said the show was “extraordinary.”

“I’ve travelled the country going to shows, I’ve juried other shows, and this one really stands out,” he said. “But as far as the winner, when I walked in yesterday and was walking around, that was the one that really spoke to me.”

Pat Webber is the winner of the Salt Spring Island Prize for her charming sculpture Voyage of the Pacific Hounds. Salt Spring artist Denys James received an honourable mention for Ernestina, one of two ceramic wall paintings of his that were accepted into the finalists’ show.

The three jurors who created the finalists roster and decided the award winners represent a wide range of experience. Bancroft-Snell is an expert ceramic collector and gallerist based in London, Ont.; Trudy Golley is an artist and educator based in Red Deer who has studied and lectured all around the world; and Alwyn O’Brien is an award-winning artist who divides her time between Salt Spring and Vancouver, where she’s currently teaching at Langara. Though the jurors were themselves selected with the aim of creating a diverse show, they were unanimous in all of their choices.

Other top awards they handed out Saturday night included a second-place prize for Robin DuPont of Winlaw for his wood-fired Pitcher. Vancouver’s Amy Li Chuan earned third place for her sculpture Raincloud Maker.

In addition to James, three other finalists received honourable mentions: Meira Mathison (Victoria) for Tidal Seaweed, Andrea Revoy (Creston) for her quirky Glam Chops sculpture, and Debra Sloan (Vancouver) for Naughty Muse.

Bev Ellis (Abbotsford) received the People’s Choice Award for Together: Broken, an installation from her Birch series.

The 2018 ceramics show events included a wrap-up panel discussion with the jurors on Sunday and a two-day masterclass and demonstration by Katrina Chaytor, who travelled to Salt Spring all the way from Newfoundland. Chaytor joined the officials in praising the Salt Spring Potters Guild for all the hard work they put in to realize an incredible event.

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