Nancy Walker - Featured Artist for February 2011

Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why?

I have worked in clay for almost 20 years, we get along well and I am still finding new ways to express my ideas hand building in clay. There is still room to explore and there is something to be said for really getting to know one's medium.

With which past or contemporary artists or artworks do you, as an artist, feel a connection? What is it that draws you to them?

Modigliani -  his powerful simplicity

Henryk Górecki - his powerful simplicity

Cal Lane - compelling and intelligent juxtaposition of opposing materials and sensibilities, for example, she welds delicate lace designs on big old rusty tools. Her skill and sensitivity in conveying environmental issues that directly relate to her materials are brilliant.

My new discovery is:

Vi Hart - her art is her math, her math is her art.

Which particular processes or techniques of art-making interest you now?

Constructing and building something I can never replicate. In my metal smithing days I was fascinated with the lost wax casting process where there was only one chance of casting a particular piece in silver. The casting happened immediately and it either worked or did not. It's always a surprise to open the kiln after a firing ... what survived? what did not. Taking a handful of what is essentially mud and making it into something is very satisfying and engaging, it's a bit like cooking ... only you can't eat it.

What particular challenges in art-making do you face at this time?

Puzzles. The self imposed impasses that I face force me to think in new ways. Aside from the usual challenges that working in clay can present, like cracking, slumping, warping, etc, I exasperate the issue by sometimes incorporating metal and found objects into a piece. Weather also has to constantly BE accounted for, if it's too hot (sun or wood stove), a piece can dry too fast - crack! If it's too cold and damp, it takes forever to dry and there are deadlines to meet. It's a constant two-step with the seasons.

What in your artistic training do you value most in your work at this time?

In art school in the early 70's we had the toughest life drawing teacher. Everybody complained about him. He was so 'old school' strict that in our 3 hour class, which had only one 15 minute break, if he caught anyone of us looking out the window (there were big windows) he would give us a "D" for the day! We all learned how to draw the figure really well by the end of the year.    

I trained as a silver/metal smith at the University of Oregon and studied drawing and painting at different art schools. These skills find their way into my explorations of clay and metal.

How much of a role do accident and control play in your work?

I love spontaneity, and working with clay and kilns there is plenty of that. It is a seed for creativity. The thing is to be able to see and respond to it when it happens. I find myself following the clay and it often has different ideas than I do so I need the skills to support that as much the clay has to support my concepts. It's a set up!

What are some of your artistic accomplishments at present?

In October I premièred my new series of movable, playable mechanical sculpture called "Ups & Downs" in the show “Animated Clay” with textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn at Crafthouse, Granville Island. 

I have been exploring and making menorahs for many years now. I participated in The Burquest Jewish Community Association Chanukah Menorah Exhibition / Competition and was winner of the award.

Can you share three things you’ve learned as an artist through your own art?


  1. keep your work area clean
  2. keep your eyes and ears open and
  3. look for good deals


When you need inspiration, how to do get it?

Inspiration can come from the oddest places; a glance at a book cover, a conversation, the way someone moves across a street, a spoon moving through honey, a colour on a building, finding music in unexpected places ... and sometimes right out of the blue  ... or as Tchaikovsky did, every morning at 9 am sitting at his desk.

When you need to learn more as an artist, how do you do it?

Stop Look and Listen

What’s exciting on your artistic horizon?

Sketching and illustrating with different tools on my vessels.

What is it about this artwork (self-selected work shown) that led you to choose it for this feature?

This is a lift off from a series called "Slo Dancers". The image above shows the front and back views. I am returning to this series to delve further into this work by incorporating working sketches and illustrations onto the surface of the vessel. One challenge will be to keep the integrity, simplicity and tension of the form while illustrating the surface and to harmonize the form with the visual narrative. The sensuality of the clay form needs to be sparse enough to invite the viewer into their own imagination. This is work in progress.