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Maker Monday: Lysanne Larose

I'm Lysanne Larose, a fully bilingual shameless punster who lives in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke, and who makes ceramics in her home studio. I like bright colours, patterns, and textures, which I try to translate into my pots, bowls, cups, wall hangings, and other fun wares. I pay attention to what is going on in the world and in Canada, and I've started to respond to some of these things with my artwork.

What do you make? I’ve been learning and practicing pottery since 2017 as a student and then a floater at Studio de céramique Alexandra. Carol Mose and Yukari Hazama Iverson, both fantastic Montreal-based potters, were my teachers. I had taken a pottery course in cegep, way back in the 80s and it is one of my fondest memories. During the 2020 lockdown, I was able to continue practicing pottery, because the studio owners generously allowed us floaters to borrow some equipment so we could continue making at home. This helped keep me sane, as I started carving clay items on the corning of my dining room table after each workday on Zoom. In 2021, I started dreaming big and launched my own (teeny tiny) studio. And here we are!

When did you first become inspired to start creating? I was an artsy kid, but as I entered adulthood, time to make art shrank and I gradually moved to other things. That's life, eh? And then, in 2017, I was going through a really rough patch. Clay became my way to achieve the uninterrupted flow and serenity I desperately needed. When you are fully focused on the clay before you, seeing a new shape appears under your hands, solving structural problems, carving, painting glazes on, etc., your troubles fall away. It's like meditation to me. My day job is purely digital, so a fully analog form of art is amazingly therapeutic. I get my hands (and hair, and glasses, and clothes!) dirty, I make objects that can last centuries, and I love seeing my work in the hands of pleased friends and happy strangers.

What is art to you personally? Art is the human answer to life, no matter the era or area of the world. Humans have this irresistible need to create and decorate; even Neolithic potters decorated their jars with marks and patterns, some wonderfully elaborate (check out Jōmon ware!). Their work was essential to survival; jars were needed to store, ferment and cook foods and drink. But the urge to add ornamentation was already there. I love how making pots connects me to all the potters who came before me. Whether it's a Korean artist masterfully etching a delicate porcelain vase, a Nigerian artisan building a coiled terracotta pot atop a flat stone placed on the ground, or a Portuguese family of potters collecting clay from the river nearby in preparation for the next cycle of making, I feel connected to all of them by the earth, the soil, the clay. Art is a way to be present, to bring the past forward, and send a message to the future.

Why do you create? What is your spark? Because my brain is always dreaming up new things to make with clay. I love that I have been able to fold all my other artistic hobbies into ceramics: drawing, painting, beading, stenciling, photography... it's all doable and usable in pottery. So, when I look pensive, and you ask me what I'm thinking about, ninety percent of the time, the answer is: "pottery." The other ten percent is probably about coffee or my cats.

Tell us about the progress you've made since you first started. never thought I would end up setting up my own home pottery studio when I began evening classes. So that escalated quickly, as the joke goes. My home studio brings me so much joy. It's tiny but it is fully functional.

If you had all the resources in the world (time, money, etc) would you still make the kind of art you make? Oh yes! I would certainly get a larger studio and a few more pieces of equipment, such as a potter's wheel, but I would still make ceramics. Making art is the best feeling in the world for me. Actually, it would be nice to have more space, if only to be able to host fellow artists and events.

What does success mean to you? That someone looks at my body of work and wants to take a piece of it home to set on their table or hang on their wall. It's the greatest compliment. Also, making a living at this would be fantastic.

What is your favorite tool/thing to work with? My kiln! No pottery studio can be without a kiln, really. I purchased it from a retired potter who had it for 20 years, and it's impeccable and so well maintained! I've named it Valentine, after Valentine Schlegel, a French ceramicist and sculptor who passed away recently. She made fantastic mid-century style pots, and also designed fireplaces. You should look her up!

Name a material that you refuse to work with. Porcelain! It's so pretty, so translucent, so pure... And it's expensive, and demanding, and unforgiving. Any mistake you made while handling it will show up again after firing. Can you tell I'm scared of it? (laughs) I use clays that are more forgiving; they allow me to screw up without much fuss!

Which of the pieces you've created is your favorite? You're asking me to pick which among my children I love the most! Joking aside, I'm very fond of a green and blue spiral platter I made on the wheel two years ago. Because of the pandemic, it had to wait a long time for me to finish it. It turned out so gorgeous, I can't part with it, and it is one of my signature styles now.

And there's this fish jug I made early on. It's too heavy for its size, but it's splendidly decorated. And it's named Gary. The entire class loved Gary because Gary is a pretty dang awesome fish jug.

How have other artists influenced your work? Naomi Clement, Sarah Pike, and Diana Fayt are three ceramicists that have hugely impacted me, and I was grateful I was able to take workshops with them without having to leave Montreal. The pandemic had _some_ positive aspects, and one was that many workshops moved to Zoom in the past year. And a shout-out to my teachers Carol Mose and Yukari Hazama Iverson, right here in Montreal, who got me started on the potter's wheel at Studio Alexandra. I have also learned a lot about organizing and running a studio by watching Veronika Horlik, one of Studio Alexandra's owners. And if Don Goddard, a doyen of the Montreal pottery scene, is thinking about giving workshops again, I'll be first in line (I hope he reads this!).

How would you describe your aesthetic? Maximalist with a side of Mother Earth. I'm all about abundance. I like colours and patterns and textures. If I manage to combine all three and still make it look good, then I've had a successful day! I'm drawn to trees and plants, to leaf and branch, to flower and fruit. I enjoy trying to combine order and chaos in a piece.

What are your hobbies? Ceramics are my hobby, so it's hard to have another! I cycle to stay fit and get some fresh air, and I also take painting classes at the Visual Arts Centre.

If you were a canvas, what would be your color palette? I'd be the colours of plants and water, so plenty of greens and blues.

What keeps you up at night? Have you read the news lately? (:sigh:) I'm among the eco-anxious. The Australian fires last year, the current floods in Europe, the unabated fires on the West Coast, the loss of habitats and life everywhere. Tides of plastic in the ocean. It breaks my heart. I worry about the loss of democracy in so many countries right now, coming with the rise of nationalism and tribalism, and growing politics of oppression and cruelty to women, to LGBTQ2S* folx, Indigenous People, Black People, and People of Colour. I worry about so many refugees fleeing war or famine. I think often about the graves of Indigenous children being found at so many residential schools. There's plenty going on to make anyone anxious if we're even paying the slightest attention. I don't understand why being 'woke' is supposed to be an insult. I’m deeply privileged to live here in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke, where I can retire to my studio and lose myself in a ball of clay. Recently, I made plans to create artworks that will address some of those things keeping me awake at night.

What is the hardest part of running your own business? You have to be The Jill Of All The Trades Who Wears All The Hats. You make the thing. You photograph the thing. You weigh and measure the thing for postage. You write copy about the thing. You post the thing on Instagram. You figure out how to build a website, so you can sell the thing on it. You apply to places to sell the thing in person. You store the thing and hope you can find it if someone orders it. You carefully pack the thing when it sells online. I'd rather just make pots, but I'd quickly run out of space! This is why I must to do all those business-y things. So, yeah... might I interest you in some colourful mugs -- or a nice big platter?

If you weren’t making ceramics, what would you be doing? I'd be painting, collaging, and carving lithography plates if I wasn't doing ceramics.

You have 100$ to spend at the art supply store. What's in your basket? A few jars of underglaze, because you cannot have too many colours in the studio! (underglazes are expensive, especially the reds and oranges that I love!)

Describe your creative process I am an intuitive artist, even though I am a thinker by nature. Art allows me to function differently from my day job. I'll walk into my studio and prepare some clay. I'll have a vague idea of what I'd like to make, but rarely do I sketch it out. I'll just start making something, and see where it wants to go. I recently made a large cylinder vase, but its proportions were... unexciting. So I kept going: I cut into it, and gave it a waist. Better. The next day, I added leaves. It was an improvement, but not yet finished. Later on, I had a small eureka! moment, and continued by adding fruit and tendrils. When I began, I had no clue a boring cylinder was going to turn into this lush botanical vase.

A newspaper article is written about you. What is the headline? Montreal Potter Slings Colourful Wares and Words

What are your go-to snacks while creating? I share my studio with a large freezer, so popsicles are a must! They remind me of my grandmother, who always kept some in her basement freezer. As a child, I loved running down the stairs during summer to get one for myself. Confession time: I don't think of food when I'm doing ceramics. I am so engrossed, I can go for hours and hours... and suddenly I'm hungry, thirsty, and about to crash.

Veronika, one of the owners of Studio Alexandra, would often bring some homemade muffins for studio mates. They were perfect for that moment when you would look up from your work, only to realize how ravenous you'd become!

What do you love most about being a potter? I love being a potter because clay is the ultimate "open-world" game. There is so much you can do with it, and so many techniques you can use to shape it. You can turn it on the wheel, build with coils and slabs, cast it in molds, carve it, print it, stamp it, or even pipe it like buttercream icing!

And once you've mastered shaping it, there's the whole question of glazing, which is an entire rabbit hole of maths, physics, and high-temperature chemistry. Sure, you can buy reliable commercial glazes, but you can also learn to mix your own! Glazing is an entire science unto itself.

And then there's the question of the clays you may want to use, with so many different characteristics. The colours range from white to red to black, the textures go from smooth like butter to a sandy texture. Clay can be purchased from specialty stores or collected in the wild and processed in your own studio. You can totally obsess over the materials if that is your thing.

Humans have accumulated centuries of ceramic knowledge, and thanks to the internet, it's become much easier to share it and learn from it.

Have you taken classes or are you self-taught?

I took evening classes for three years. After that, I was a studio floater, and learning on my own (so many Youtube and Instagram videos!)

Pandemic lockdowns and Zoom brought about a wealth of online workshops in the past 18 months, so I took advantage. Heck, there was even an entire five-day ceramics congress, which was way more fun and informative than you'd expect. I took some vacation days to sit in front of my laptop for days! And even a demonstration that might not seem promising at first can yield a bit of advice or a tip that becomes a game-changer in your own practice.

You have to keep learning, because there is so much to learn in ceramics, and it also fuels your creativity.

If your art could be showcased in any gallery in the world, which would it be? There are a couple of noted galleries in the US that are dedicated to pottery. If my wares were shown at the Charlie Cummings gallery or the Eutectic gallery, I'd very incredibly proud to have my work next to that of some of the great ceramicists in North America.

What is your favorite painting or sculpture? I love many of Bernini's sculptures, but if I had to chose only one, I'd go for "Apollo and Daphne", where Daphne is transforming into a tree before our eyes to escape Apollo, who has been struck by Cupid's arrow. Her fingers are turning to leafy twigs as she implores the sky, her body is growing bark at he reaches for her. It's a stunning piece of work, carved masterfully from a block of white marble.

What is your favourite spice?

Cumin! Can someone please create a condiment that includes cumin? Like ketchup, only it's cumin (btw ketchup is utterly revolting)

It's cocktail hour, so what are you serving?

Let me make you a cocktail we call The Pinkerton at our house.

2 shots of gin (preferably one of the many wonderful gins now being distilled in Quebec)

1 shot fresh-squeezed ruby grapefruit juice

0.5 shot Campari

0.5 shot dry Vermouth

5 dashes of orange bitters

Shake over ice, pour into a chilled double old-fashioned glass, garnish with grapefruit zest.

Serve with a guarded look.

Follow Lysanne Web: Instagram: @latelierLarose

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