The Animation of Clay: Pauline Doyle’s World

She calls them her ‘ladies.’ Some are towering, pear-shaped women with warm hearts, while others remind me of stout, no-nonsense church ladies. I also see coquettes, with daintily upturned chins and sloping shoulders. Most of the ladies are adorned with richly hued florals or bold stripes and others are softly watercolored. At first glance, two appear to be blushing wallflowers…timid, with hands clasped behind backs, until one’s eye travels downward and sees they are wearing tights and a pair of kicky heels. A couple are bursting with joie de vivre. One can only imagine their chapeaux. Women like them, too. At an exhibit, I once heard a Rubenesque woman say they have the shapes of real women. It’s true. And, grouped, they look like they’re having a hen session. There is no denying their feminine propensities . I’ve wondered about that. How can something made of clay be brought to life so

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successfully that it seems to have personality, be animated? Watching her work, paddling coiled vessels into being, I have come to realize that an intense, intimate, creative process imbues these vessels. Simply put, these pieces are not separate from the person who makes them; she literally transfers her own personal energy into her work and the results emanate presence and are alive. Meet Pauline Doyle, magician. Masks, visages, tiles, sculptures, objects, and vessels are also part of her repertoire. She’s familiar with just about every means of production, decorative technique or type of firing. Slips, underglazes and glazes run the gamut from bright hues to muted tones. Her pieces all have this uncanny sense about them; they bubble and hum with energy or silently appear to be watching you. Pierre Trudeau looks right back at you and “Tyger! tyger! Burning bright….”

‘Pauline’ means ‘small,’ not diminutive, but small as in humble. The name one is given has currency. In many cultures, names are given to endow an infant with certain qualities, in other cultures, it is as if one is already named and that someone just reaches up and plucks it down, for names, with these peoples, are thought to be pre-ordained. Any which way, her name fits. Pauline moves and acts with an inborn sense of humility. No, there is no implication of weakness, but the possession of real humility. She’s nimble of mind and strong in body, in fact, she has a Black Belt in Shotokan karate, as does her daughter. Surely, Pauline’s background in theatre must also affect her verbal and physical expression and sense of fun. “I’ve been told I’m original, but I don’t try to be,” Pauline says. In response to  questions about how her style has evolved over time, she said, “I think my work has slowly become more refined in the technical sense. I like to work on pottery forms now; when I first started in clay I was mostly interested in figurative forms. I also enjoy exploring glazes and other finishing techniques…for example I’ve just recently learned to Pit fire my ceramic pieces.”

As  artist-in-residence at The Port Moody Arts Centre, she is in charge of “technical aspects of the studio,” in addition to creating her own work. “For example, I fire all the work for the classes and open studio,” and “make all the slips and glazes and order all the needed clay and glaze making materials.”  She also helps “teachers and staff with special requests for the studio or their classes and helps organize and lead fundraisers and exhibits for the ceramics studio and arts centre.” Add to that, teaching adult and children’s hand building classes, too. Pauline is currently offering a variety of classes for all ages, according to the centre’s Winter/Spring calendar, including a four-day “Family Clay” course, taught during Spring Break in March and April and, for adults, “Coiled Pot” and “Human Faces” classes. “Children — so perfect — can be ground-breaking, ” she says, marveling at their ability. “So many times, I think, ‘I wish I could repeat that.'” All this, in addition to oversight of the Open Studio days and evenings.

I, myself, marvel at Pauline’s organizational ability: creating her own work, teaching all ages, managing and running the ceramics arm of the arts centre. She also had a solo show last November. Manage she does, though, and even has sights on the future, explaining she wants to explore “high fire and mid-range glazes.” As well, Pauline “wants to work with slab built forms trying to made hard durable ceramics look or seem soft.”

Pauline believes that “creating in clay is an ideal way to slow down and enjoy life.” Born Pauline Landberg in Aberdeen, Washington, she moved to Canada when she was 14. She has lived in Port Moody 22 years, has “three nearly grown children, a lovely husband and an old dog named Sophie.” Her sons are accomplished musicians and her daughter likes filmmaking. Pauline herself has a degree in theatre from the University of British Columbia and, at one time, she wanted to be a comic. She is still interested in the idea of combining stand-up comedy with movement. I can appreciate this, as she is playful and lighthearted, rating high on the Fun Meter. As far as her involvement in ceramics, Pauline started working with clay as “a hobbyist but, after receiving a grant to take ceramic courses at a college/university, I haven’t really had the chance to look back.” For over four years, she attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design, western Canada’s premier art school, focusing on Ceramics in the Fine Arts Program.

For enjoyment in day-to-day life, she likes to do “a bit of gardening, reading, watching TV and movies, listening to music and travel.” When asked which artists have inspired her, she cites her father, Debra Sloan, Akio Takamori, Anne Hirondelle, Rudy Autio, Chuck Close, and BW Finley, who taught at the arts centre, at one time, and now lives in the United States. A sense of community is important to Pauline and she is very invested in the idea “because people feel they can explore without competition or ridicule — be allowed to make mistakes. In some settings it’s otherwise.” She wants to work to “create a good community-centred studio and wants to work on my art.” She is well on the way, as The Port Moody Arts Centre just rehired her for an unprecedented third term as artist-in-residence.

When asked how mentoring has affected her own development as an artist, Pauline reflected, saying, “you’re inspired by other people or it brings you back to the reason you’re exploring this art form to begin with.” About her approach toward a concept or series, she says “look for inspiration or try to draw what you see — try to actually, really, literally — and usually gets something that goes beyond…see deeply.”

As I thought of Pauline, I was struck by the fact that she immigrated to Canada, just as I had. I wondered if location had any effect on her art. In Canada, there’s a pressure to imbue one’s art with a Canadian identity. Pauline addresses this attitude by saying that “if you’re in Canada, isn’t it already Canadian art?” She said, “Artists should be allowed to create and not be concerned about the nation-state.” About this medium, in general, Pauline summed it up, saying, “There are so many avenues one could take when exploring the ceramic art form. Pottery forms or figurative sculptural forms or installation work and more…I have been working in clay for over twelve years now. I’m still learning and enjoying.”

About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
This entry was posted in Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, Home and Garden, Video/Photos/Slide Show and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Animation of Clay: Pauline Doyle’s World

  1. Connie Thoreson says:

    Hi Jan, I really enjoyed your article about Pauline, and of course the photos!

  2. Jan says:

    Oh, Connie, thank you so much! It’s good to get feedback…xoxo

  3. Eric Boyd says:

    Well written Jan. Poetic and informative and a wonderful snippet of insight into an obviously skilled, creative and passionate artist!
    I’m envious of her ability to do so much in the community and still produce such a large volume of thought-provoking lovely art.

  4. Jan says:

    I, too, am amazed at what she is able to accomplish, Eric. She must be wired completely differently than me! Thanks for your comments; it was a pleasure to write….

  5. BW Finley says:

    You write wonderfully well: you’ve captured Pauline exactly and the visuals prove your assessment of her creative spirit. Thank you, she deserves every word you’ve printed.

    • Jan says:

      BW, I am so glad you like it! I’ve heard so many wonder things about you from Pauline, Gary and Otto and your influence in the Open Studio remains. Yes, Pauline is quite the gal and a very dedicated artist. I felt grateful for the opportunity to write about her.

  6. Michelle Mathias says:

    Pauline’s work is indeed unique and beautiful. It is good to see that someone is writing about her pieces. When I began reading this review, I first thought the descriptions were about BW Finley’s pieces. (BW, as Pauline’s mentor has influenced Pauline’s work, but Pauline’s work definately stands on its own in originality.) I can’t wait to see what Pauline will make next.

    • Jan says:

      Thank you, Michelle. Yes, indeed…I agree. That’s part of what my blog is about: giving space and voice. While I have yet to meet BW or see her work, I often here of her in the Open Studio. It will be fun to see what Pauline creates and I look forward to seeing it when the time comes!

  7. Eliza Au says:

    Hi Pauline,

    It was great to read about your work. I really liked learning about your history – I didn’t know you were born in Washington or you had a background in theatre! Lovely animation of your work!

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