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The Future is Now

After a school year full of new discoveries, honing skills and exploring techniques, the current crop of Kootenay School of the Arts students bring the sum of their toil to the public at their annual year end shows.
Metal work student Amy Fox and potter Kristen Young. BELOW: Fiber student Teyana Neufeld and jewelry student Lexie Owen.

It’s go time at the Kootenay School of the Arts. The air at the Victoria Street campus is filled with the buzz of sewing machines and pounding hammers, welding sparks and end-of-term excitement.

Over the next two days, students will launch two major exhibitions of their year’s work, and as deadlines loom there are plenty of finishing touches to be made.

In the third-floor jewelry lab, Lexie Owen is readying her displays for the graduate exhibition running at Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery.

Owen’s four-piece Albatross Series takes its name from the burdensome bird in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and features designs that are technically wearable, but heavy in context.

“They’re looking at HIV infection rates, piracy off the coast of Somalia, child soldiers,” she explains.

The works range from a chainmail choker to an almost-playful looking boat-shaped pendant (which becomes more alarming on closer examination, when one notices the plastic machine gun nestled inside it).

“I think jewelry is really the most intimate form of art we have, because we wear it every day without even thinking about it,” Owen says. “So to combine the idea of making a political statement with this really intimate thing you wear, I think really brings the message home to people.”

Made from a range of materials that includes both raw diamonds and Lego, each piece is also deigned without a clasp, requiring them to be slipped over a wearer’s head.

“They’re challenging to take on and challenging to take off,” she adds. “Just to make people think about them a little bit more.”

Like many students at KSA, Owen says she chose the program over one in her hometown of Vancouver because of its studio-based focus. In the main floor clay department, potter Kristen Young tells a similar story.

“I had checked out other schools but I wasn’t really interested in their programs because you don’t really get to get your hands in the clay very much until your third year,” the Edmonton native says. “That’s what attracted me to this program. You get to immerse yourself in it.”

Young’s work, also slated for exhibition at Touchstones, incorporates a wide range of techniques — some of which don’t immediately come to mind when looking at a slab of clay.

A wall piece made up of a series of quilted-looking panels and a glazed cake stand both get some of their painted patterns via screen printing, one of Young’s favourite new techniques.

“I can see myself really getting into screen printing,” she says. “My family raises bison in Alberta, so I’ve got pictures of a bull and a couple calfs, a Canada goose from Lakeside Park. I’m really excited to go around and take a bunch of photos and put them on clay.”

While she studied ceramics in high school, Young says coming to KSA meant relearning everything from the ground up.

“In high school you learn to throw bowls, and the teachers are fine with that and it’s easy,” she says, before going on to produce a bowl on a potter’s wheel in a matter of minutes.

“You come here, and your first assignment is to throw as tall as you can. You’re making mistakes and there’s failure after failure, and when you’re challenging yourself that much it’s totally different.”

The Touchstones show isn’t the weekend’s only student exhibition.

First year fiber students Teyana Neufeld and her classmates are among the undergrads producing work for the college’s year end show and sale, which runs on campus today and tomorrow.

First year students focus on weaving in their second semester, and Neufeld says much of their loom work will be on display.

“We did one entire warp [the threads that form a base for a piece of weaving] that we all used to weave a scarf,” she says.

“We’re going to be putting those all out on one wall just to show the variety you can get just on one warp. It was just this white rayon silk, and it’s amazing how different they all look.”

She’s also planning to show pieces from her other fiber classes, which include sewing and felting, including an offbeat response to one class assignment.

“The assignment was we had to make a purse, and I didn’t really want a purse, so I made a bra with pockets,” she says,laughing. “It’s my bra purse. It’s got pockets in the cups and on the sides, for when you go to the bar and don’t want to carry a purse.”

In addition to giving Nelsonites a look at the latest crop of KSA works, the exhibitions also give students a first run at a process they’ll go through many times in their careers.

“You have to submit your pieces, they can reject your pieces,” explains metal work student Amy Fox.

“You’re responsible for delivering them, picking them up, there’s insurance issues, that sort of thing... it’s what you do as a professional artist.”

While the Touchstones show doesn’t include the sales aspect found at the KSA exhibition, Fox says going through the process helped her make sales afterwards “and create some pieces I’m really proud of, which is more important.” In addition to acting as her first show, the grad showcase also landed her a second exhibition at another gallery.

The KSA year end show and sale runs today from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Victoria Street campus.

The KSA graduate exhibition also opens tomorrow, and runs until May 29 at Touchstones. An opening reception is planned for April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m.


About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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