Interview with Vancouver based Ceramic Artist, Heather Dahl

Who are you?
I'm Heather Dahl of Dahlhaus Art, based in Vancouver, Canada.

What do you create?
I mostly work in clay, making utilitarian ceramics that's inspired by my love of pattern, colour and mid-century modern.

What are some of your tools, materials and processes?
I have 3 main processes that I work in - I have been throwing on the potter's wheel for 21 years so I do a lot of wheel-throwing. I began working with a mold-maker and learning how to slip-cast my most popular forms about 7 years ago so I have production molds and a casting table in the studio for creating multiples of my own designs. And then the rest of my tools are really low-tech, ones I've made myself or been given. I handbuild my Herringbone Plates and impress the pattern using a simple foam sheet I cut out. For the most part my 2 hands are my best tools.

What inspires you?
When I first started 'dahlhaus' my original concept was to link my painting practice to my ceramics so I took colours and shapes from abstract paintings and pulled them onto the ceramics, repeating them and creating patterns.  As time went on I began to look at pattern - wallpaper and fabric, but also old 50's mugs that had patterns on them, and that began to influence the ceramics. I made a shift to create a simple, colour-blocking range of work over a year ago with the hope to highlight the patterns and because I was more interested in a simple, Japanese aesthetic.  

Where is your studio?
My studio is at the Mergatroid Building, which houses abut 50+ artists and makers from Vancouver. There are 3 co-operatives: a woodworking co-op, a glass-blowing co-op and a ceramic co-op, of which I'm part. My studio space is about 400 sq ft (just under) and then I am able to share kilns with about 7 other ceramic artists. The community here is fantastic.

Where did you study ceramics?
I started out at a community college taking ceramics and painting before enrolling in their 2 year diploma program that took me about 3 years to finish as I was working part time and then also taking academic classes for my degree. I then transferred to Emily Carr University (which was ECIAD at the time) and finished up my BFA with a major in ceramics and painting. There were a few years I made ceramics out of community centres and didn't have a studio practice but in 2007 I decided to see if I could make my dream of being a full-time artist a reality. 

When are you most productive?
I work best early in the morning or late at night. I get a little distracted mid-day - that feeling of running out of time and having too much to do always gets me.

Why ceramics?
I often ask myself this - it's one of the hardest mediums to really make it in. I often think back to the first couple of years I spent learning ceramics. I was naturally proficient at the wheel and had the sensibility to work with the material - not everyone has that automatically. And in a way, I fell in love with how clay can be transformed from a lump of earth into a beautiful object that can be used and held onto for years.  

How did you get your start?
I often credit Room6 with giving me my start. I had an idea for a show in 2006, the year before I launched 'dahlhaus' and I pitched it to Megan, who had recently opened Room6 in the Cove. I thought the store would be a great spot for a ceramics show and I made a series of work that incorporated some of my painting ideas as the design. The process of working with a shop, trying to find the right price for the work so that it was worth it for both the store and myself, finding out who liked the work and what pieces they liked were really formative in how I set out to create the 'dahlhaus' brand. I've always felt really grateful that Megan took a chance on me and my work from the beginning, when the work wasn't totally resolved or refined in any way.  

See more of Heather's work here and shop the range online. Shipping available North America wide. 
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