Maker of the Year 2018: Kalika Bowlby
A ceramic artist from Golden, B.C., honours the magic in the little moments.
Kalika Bowlby may have been born a potter. That’s not to say the winner of our Maker of the Year award hasn’t also worked hard on her craft. She studied ceramics at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson and the Alberta College of Art and Design (where she graduated with distinction and was the recipient of many awards and scholarships), and she honed her skills post-graduation with a stint as artist-in-residence at Red Star Studios Ceramic Center in Kansas City. Running her own studio, first in Nelson and, since 2015, in Golden, B.C., where she now lives, has offered plenty of opportunity to discover new depths in her ceramic work.
But first, she was just a kid with some clay. Playing down by the creek, she’d collect mud from the bank and fashion her own pottery projects—Bowlby’s mother still has a collection of pinch pots her daughter made as a young child.
Her connection to nature and respect for her material haven’t changed. “It’s still kind of mysterious that you start with this malleable material and end up with something so stone-like that can’t be made back into its original form,” she explains. “It’s transformational.”
The simple, functional pieces she crafts from this magic material are intentionally unfussy (“a goal of mine is to make work that’s kind of quiet,” says Bowlby) but deeply thoughtful, bringing in subtle contrast and texture that references the natural world. Her Seastone collection evokes the lapping tide at a rocky shore—a custom stone-like matte glaze makes the mugs smooth as a worn pebble in your hands. The objects in the Nest collection are glossy, like they’ve been dipped in candy coating, but the base of each bowl or cup reveals the raw red clay beneath. The Facet dishes—each angle hand-cut with a wire cheese slicer—feature a palette inspired by the Bowlbys’ kitchen garden.
“At one time, my work was more decorative, but I was always attracted to minimalist design…I just felt insecure about it, that it wouldn’t be interesting to people,” Bowlby explains. As it turns out, she couldn’t have been more wrong. As judge Kelly Deck writes, “Each bowl, cup or jug is so inviting to use, and thus each one inspires a certain ritual in the daily employ of its function.”
In a world that can be loud and busy, Bowlby creates little reminders to pause. “I make objects meant to be used every day: that’s the cup they drink coffee out of every day or the bowl they eat lunch from,” says Bowlby. “They sort of set the stage for everything else that happens in life. I think that’s a special thing.”