Labour of Love: Ann Randeraad, Clay Artist
Written by: Jillian Kent | Photography: Cory Bruyea
Clay Artistry is a fluid thing – it’s kinesthetic and engaging, drawing the artist in and demanding their full investment. It’s about diving into the clay and really getting your hands dirty as you try to find the shape that it was meant to take – dare I say, the story it’s going to tell. In fact, it’s that very thing that drew Ann Randeraad to the art form in the first place – knowing that no matter how long she worked at it, there were always going to be surprises, new things to learn, more pieces to make and another story to tell. It was something that she could invest herself in fully, heart and soul – and she was more than ready to do so. Her gallery, located at the end of a narrow country drive off County Road 10 in Amaranth (just outside of Laurel) is full of wonderful pieces, each unique in their creation and gorgeous to boot. Whether it’s one of the quirky sculptures, or the stunning functional ware, I guarantee one visit to Ann’s showroom is all you need to find something remarkable.
As you walk around the showroom, it is hard to choose, and it might not just be about the art. Just when you have narrowed down the choices, you’ll get distracted by the sound of the lemurs on the other side of the divider! Yes, I said lemurs. Having raised lemurs for more than 25 years, they are a source of both enjoyment and inspiration for Ann, and you will find raku lemur sculptures among her other pieces. Of course, Ann is never short of inspiration or new ideas. Clay leads to endless possibilities and each and every kiln load has a little “something new” in it – a new form, a new technique being tried, or simply a new glaze being tested.
Ann’s pieces are so unique because she has been using a specific firing method for some time now: wood firing. After wood firing in other kilns for many years, Ann built her own wood kiln three years ago and fires almost exclusively with wood now. Not many potters or clay artists fire with wood as it is a demanding and labour-intensive method. Unlike electric or gas firing, it takes a team of people to fire the kiln, making it a community event. Other potters and artists join in by renting space in the kiln and taking stoking shifts. In the wood firing community, kilns are named; Ann’s fast fire kiln is named “Ila”, after her creative independent grandmother. At 65 cubic feet, “Ila” takes fifteen to eighteen hours to fire up to temperature – 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two parallel fire boxes under the wares and stoking takes place every few minutes. That means loads of wood and loads of man hours, but thanks to this particular kiln atmosphere, live flames and a blend of high and reduced oxygen, a wider range of colours and glaze details are available than with other kiln types.
Yes, it’s extremely time consuming, but the process is so engaging and the results are sure to fuel the next layer of learning, the next kiln load or body of work. Ann definitely loves creating with clay and says it never really feels like work. In fact, she doesn’t know how she could possibly do anything else. Clay is a part of who she is – and we’re thankful for it, otherwise these pieces would never exist.
While pottery and clay art may not be particularly easy or quick – it takes a lot of time to succeed at it, and a lot of steps to bring any project to completion – it is something that Ann believes anybody can learn if they have the passion to do so. It’s really the same thing with anything that you truly love doing. Live by Ann’s motto “Don’t worry what everyone else is looking for, and just create for you”. Don’t make a pot blue when you want it to be green, and don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid of failure. Love what you’re doing, and you’ll find all the other people in this world that will love it too.
After all, that’s all Ann did, and look where she is now.