Debra and Ray are Nova Scotian ceramic artists who have been collaborating for close to thirty years to produce functional pottery and exhibition pieces. Debra received a B.Ed. from U of S, a BFA from NSCAD, and attended a one year residency at the Banff Centre. Ray earned a BA from the U of S, a B.Ed. from MUN, a BFA from NSCAD, and an MFA from Indiana State.
Some of their earliest collaborative works date back to 1992. In 1999, they established Lucky Rabbit Pottery in Annapolis Royal. From the beginning, Debra has been sculpting, painting and carving flora and fauna onto the pottery forms and tiles made and fired by Ray. A consistent topic of exploration for them has been the relationship between humans and nature, and this topic is clearly more urgent at this time.
They are the recipients of numerous awards and honours, and their work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at MSVU Art Gallery, the Mary E. Black Gallery and the Art Gallery of Burlington. Their work is included in permanent collections such as the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Art Bank, the Canada Council Art Bank, the Art Gallery of Burlington, and Toronto’s Gardiner Museum.
Debra and Ray collaborate by passing the work back and forth. It all starts with Ray, who rolls out the wet clay and throws vessels on the potter’s wheel. Deb models sculptures of birds and small animals, and attaches them to the damp pots. She embellishes the surfaces of the pots using a variety of processes, including painting and carving. Ray handles all aspects of glazing and kiln firing.
For this exhibition, they have worked with their signature mid-range porcelain, and have also experimented with brown and black stoneware clay bodies. Ray is by inclination an abstract artist, deriving satisfaction from the vessel form and clay surfaces. Deb works on Ray’s vessels by bringing in visual elements from her personal environment. She is passionately interested in birds and flowers, and often makes reference to historic pottery in her decorative style.
Collaborative artists’ statement
The two artists have been making pottery together for close to 30 years. Ray is the potter and kiln firer, and Debra is the decorator and sculptor. This kind of shared production is never easy, but it has also resulted in pottery magic. There are times when the two artists work as one to produce a single unique piece of work, which transcends what either could achieve independently. It is a bit like being in a two person band, or two dancers in a pas de deux. The success rests in many hours of shared effort and negotiation.
Debra – artist’s statement
I find joy and inspiration watching the visitors to our bird feeder. I have incorporated these amazing creatures into my work, reflecting a backyard world rich in the everyday magic of songbirds and garden flowers. Since we have examples from all the way back to our earliest ancestors, pottery is like a messenger from the past. With great skill and fluidity of expression, ancient potters portrayed a relaxed and joyful relationship with nature; respectful and celebratory. Years from now, after Ray and I are gone, what kind of world will our descendants occupy? What messages are we sending to the future with our pots? Will these ordinary birds seem exotic and unimaginable? Nature needs our protection now.
Ray – artist’s statement
I see my primary role in this collaboration as maker of pots. I throw forms on the potter’s wheel. The making of clay pots, with all of the challenges and historical precedents this entails, has been my main concern for my entire history as a potter. The collaboration has affected what forms I create, but generally, I just try to make what I understand to be beautiful forms. The adventure continues.