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Carly Slade: Sculptor/Ceramic Artist

Details, details, details.  In the world of ceramic hand building, actually to be more specific, in the world of Carly Slade details are in her DNA.  Hours and hours and hours of time consumed by making quality not quantity.  And the end results are pieces that tell not just a tale of the secret engine within every community but the beauty in the presentation of that story.
To see additional work by this artist go to and to follow her on instagram CLICK HERE.

'FD&Oh Canada' by Carly Slade.  One of Slade's first pieces from a group show of MFA students at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

1.  Your work takes a look at the blue-collar industry with a miniature aspect ratio to it.  Is this a tangible metaphor since most workers pass through society as an invisible force that keeps society running?

 Yes but not invisible in a negative sense, I see beauty in their invisibility. They are the silent gears that keep our society running and we know they are working because we don’t notice them. By miniaturizing them I am also making the labour more accessible and approachable, the scale makes the objects precious just like their labour is. This precious scale also elevates my diorama of the everyday; I see my completed pieces as trophies or small monuments.

Slade's studio is organized so that not only can she see what she has available but within arm's reach and immediate access to make a fast mark and continue on with more details.  Photo © Aimee Santos

2.  You are very meticulous in your craft with multiple details in one piece.  Where did this work habit evolve?  And how has it changed over time?

 I can easily say I inherited my perfectionist (anal) tendencies from my upbringing. I grew up in the heart of oil soaked Alberta as the daughter of a tradesman. As a child I remember going into my father’s workshop to ask him for a simple box to house my Barbies, a week later I received a perfectly square, sanded and well crafted chest I treasured for years. My parents always appreciated a job well done and taught my brother and I to take our time and do it right. I was started on embroidery and crafts by my mother at a young age and I spent hours with her learning how to meticulously craft beautiful objects to her high standards of perfection. I take great pride in attempting to master my mediums and in my work I do so in homage of the labour I depict. Over time this obsession has grown to a curiosity of all types of labour. In my remaining years in grad school I plan on expanding my knowledge of mediums into woodworking and different types of embroidery. 

'Our Big Day' a performance piece in which Slade marries 'Clay.'  Photo courtesy of Carly Slade

3.  You did a performance piece where you married a block of clay.  Can you speak more about that project?

 My satirical 2009 performance “Our Big Day” was in response to the climate around me. At that time ceramics programs in academia were being cut in Canada and worldwide. It was following a panel discussion of the major galleries located in my large Canadian city (Calgary AB) where I was told that no gallery in town would show ceramics work that I had, had enough. This really angered me; clay is my love and a medium that deserves respect and protection. So I figured what better way to align myself with my medium than by marrying it! In a traditional wedding ceremony complete with a 4-tier porcelain wedding cake, flower girl and minister, I took the plunge, and planted myself directly in front of Ceramics, firmly stating, “Here is something that should be noticed, respected, and protected.”

 Some excerpt from our vows:

“I, Carly, take you Ceramics, to be my lawfully wedded husband,
To shape and to mould from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For complete, for cracked,
In shattered and in flawless,
To love and to cherish; from this day forward until erosion do us part.
I give you my hand, my heart, my patience.
I will moisten you when you need moisture, and wedge you when you have air pockets.
I take you to be my ally, loving what I have learnt of you,
And trusting what I do not understand yet.
I eagerly anticipate the chance to grow together,
Getting to know the vessel you will become,
And falling in love a little more every day I go to the studio.
I promise to respect you in your successes, and in your department closures,
To care for you after gallery rejection, and in admittance,
To nurture you, and to grow with you throughout the stages of drying.”
“I Ceramics take you Carly to be my lawfully wedded wife.
Before these witnesses I vow to love you, and bisque for you as long as we both shall exist.
I take you, with all your inexperience and skills, as I offer myself to you with all my glaze flaws and perfect rims.
I promise to take forms for you, to support your pieces,
To contain your sustenance, or cup your bottom in the loo…”

Detail shot from one of three pieces in 'Going Postal' by Carly Slade.  Photo © Aimee Santos

4.  In past pieces you incorporated clay around embroidery have you considered utilizing your miniature skills in clay to work around embroidery and combining the two into a solid piece?

 So far I have embroidered directly into clay, used traditional embroidery on fabric sheets and created 3D embroidered objects. I use materials in my work in whichever way best suits the finished piece. I foresee myself continuing the use embroidery of all types in my work for the near future and I am open to whichever order it comes in. 

Slade adds a miniature accurate bumper to her Canadian postal truck.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Canadian Rockies' by Carly Slade.  This originally started with a found piece of wood and grew into a mixed media containing ceramic, textiles and found materials.  Photo © Aimee Santos

5.  Artists are using Instagram more and more not just for an image sharing site but a networking tool.  Why do you use Instagram?

 Instagram is unique in that you get a glimpse into the artist’s studio and process. Since my work tends to be so time consuming it’s a great way for me to share my work more than once every few months when a piece is completed. I think that it is important for artist to have an online and more personal presence.

An overall shot of a piece from 'Going Postal.'  These 'envelopes' measured over six feet in size.  Photo © Aimee Santos