Interview with Dalglish Winner Shane Weaver

Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre has recently announced this year’s winners of the Dalglish Family Foundation Venture Award. The award, the only one of its kind in Canada, aims to support entrepreneurship in craft and design.

This year’s winners are Anouk Desloges and Shane Weaver. Weaver is a ceramicist who works with digital imagery and has been part of Harbourfront Centre’s Craft & Design Artist-in-Residence program since 2013. We had the opportunity to speak with Shane to learn a little more about his work and where the award will take him.

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Shane Weaver. Mushroom Kingdom, 2015. Slipcast tiles from 3D-printed model, hand painted, glaze fired to cone 04. Image courtesy of the artist.

In your work you pull imagery from 80s and 90s video games. What draws you to the retro gaming imagery? What about it interests you in terms of ceramics?

I grew up in a small town and I spent a lot of time playing video games. I have always been drawn to these crude, pixelated images, which mark the beginning of gaming culture. Over the last 25 years gaming has reached a whole new level with its almost photographic imagery, but I am still so obsessed with the simplicity and flat, blocky colour of the pixelated images of the 80s and 90s. These original graphics have also just become so iconic that it’s hard not to love them! Since I started using these images on my work I was able to combine two things that I love and really make work I feel is a reflection of me. The countless hours of experimenting with new forms and patterns have been a constant challenge, which has really pushed me to critique my work both technically and conceptually.

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Shane Weaver. Orange Halftone Heart Cup, 2016. Porcelain, underglaze, laser etched pattern. Image courtesy of the artist.

How do you select your imagery? Does the object being made inform your selection?

When I first started using this imagery I was selecting images based on overall pixel size. I was painting on the images pixel by pixel into a grid that was a little smaller than ¼ inch per square, so this limitation helped in narrowing down the images I could use. I am very drawn to the heart image in particular due to its size and colour. Hearts in general are so overused in such a cutesy way that I find it interesting how I can change it and make it a lot more graphic as a halftone pattern on my newer work. Since I now use a laser cutter to etch out the patterns on my work, the shapes of the pieces themselves are greatly influenced by the limitations of the laser needing to cut on a flat surface. The patterns have then evolved from what they were on my older work to reflect a much cleaner design aesthetic to reflect the tightness of the new forms and the precision of the laser.

Can you explain your image transfer process?

In the beginning I was using a red clay body that I would then pour white liquid slip onto. Once I fired the pieces, I would silk screen a black grid pattern onto dress maker paper that I would then transfer onto each piece and fill in the image square by square. This process was time consuming but it allowed me to create full colour images. Over the past year I have been experimenting with applying patterns to my pieces using a laser cutter and I have also switched over to a porcelain clay body. I create the patterns in Photoshop and then I can use the laser cutter to etch through various colours of underglaze back down to the white clay body. This has allowed me to create much sharper images than before. This process however is also very time consuming and also very limiting when it comes to the shape of piece and the colour to be etched away.

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Shane Weaver. Halftone Dots in Blue Plate, 2016. Porcelain, underglaze, laser etched pattern. Image courtesy of the artist.

How has your practice changed since joining Harbourfront Centre as an Artist-in-Residence in 2013?

Over my three years at Harbourfront Centre my work has definitely changed with the equipment that I have access to, but also by having such an energetic and creative group of people to work with. My work has evolved into much cleaner and design-oriented pieces with less of a focus on production pottery. My time at Harbourfront Centre has given me numerous exhibition opportunities where I can experiment with new work and get a lot of feedback from my peers and the public. It has also made me change the way that I think about my work and where it fits, not only in the ceramic world, but the art and design world as a whole.

What is your plan for the award?

I am currently in the process of starting up a space in Toronto – 651 St. Clair Ave. West –that will consist of a studio, retail space, small gallery, and classroom. This will be a space for me to work and teach out of while at the same time be able to showcase and sell handmade craft and design. This award will be invaluable in starting up this new business venture by allowing me to purchase equipment and studio supplies while also giving me the confidence to start up my own business. I will be using this award to set up a space that in a few years will become self-sustaining and allow me to simultaneously pursue my future artistic goals. Thank you so much to the Dalglish Family Foundation for your generous support.