Sunday, 8 February 2015

Keeping Lucky Rabbit on its Good Luck Streak

This show was at The Art Gallery of Burlington.  And yes, the piece on the invitation sold.

One of the bright spots in my week was an e-message I received from Deb Kuzyk of Lucky Rabbit Pottery (which she operates with husband Ray Mackie in Annapolis Royal).  Her subject heading was "a small brag" and in it she described what professional activity they had been up to recently–including a show at The Art Gallery of Burlington.  They have some exciting shows lined up in 2016 and generously trace their success to curatorial work I did with them here in St. John's for the Merchant Vessels exhibit at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and later a solo exhibit for the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax.  These shows signalled an important shift for the collaborative couple, allowing them to raise prices, get collected by institutions, and gain representation by commercial galleries. 

Also important to their creative evolution was a Canada Council grant that enabled them to see ceramic collections in Europe.  If any artist is trying to "grow" their career, it is worth noting how one show leverages another.  It is like a series of rungs on a ladder or stepping-stones.  But it all has to start somewhere.

7" teapot in porcelain: lavish and luscious!

In the case of Deb Kuzyk and Ray Mackie I believe that when they found the time and means to travel occasionally their work took a quantum leap forward.  First it was to Asia and most recently it has been Europe.  From their website, "Deb and Ray gratefully accepted a Creation Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, allowing them to visit Europe in late winter to study and research the major collections of historical ceramics in the world. They spent 10 days each in Barcelona, Paris and London, with side trips to Chartres and Oxford. Back in the studio, with thousands of photographs for reference, they produced the work for the exhibition." It's funny but I can usually tell when a source of inspiration comes from seeing, handling and experiencing something rather than through a classroom, print or digital experience.  There is something very different qualitatively about first hand experience rather than a more passive, arm's length relationship.

Kuzyk decorates the surfaces of the large vessels and so she has drawings of them.  Recently, she was asked by a collector if she is willing to share them.  In my experience, this is not usual and I would recommend any creator to hang on to this kind of documentation.  It enhances the value of the work and helps the collector build a relationship with the piece.  I once had a prominent collector tell me that he figured the value of a carving was $500 and then there was a $2,000 story that went with it.  Collectors like to talk about their collections with visitors to their home (often other collectors) and a drawing certainly supports that.

It is significant however, that Deb and Ray are also still working full-time running a pottery and selling work from their own storefront.  This is not uncommon for artists and craftspeople.  It is an exhausting juggling act trying to create a production line with a high enough profit margin to raise a family on and still find time and creative energy to pursue a creative studio practice, scout for opportunities to exhibit, network, so on and so forth.  It is easy to become a victim of your own success.  But nothing beats doing what you feel you are really meant to do.

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