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Winifred Shantz Award goes to ceramics faculty Lindsay Montgomery

November 8, 2018
By Katharine Stein

Lindsay Montgomery, practicing artist and assistant professor of Ceramics in the Studio Arts department at Concordia, has been named recipient of the 2018 Winifred Shantz Award. The Shantz award, presented by the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, is given each year to an early-career ceramics artist, who submits a project proposal with their application that the $10 000 prize money helps fund. For her project, Montgomery will be doing a residency at Medalta, a historic ceramics production facility located in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Katharine Stein got in touch with Montgomery for a quick conversation.

What was your initial reaction when you found out that you won this award?

I was really excited because it’s something that I have applied for for many years. It’s an open national call every year for emerging ceramic artists, and you have to have a course of study outlined that you want to embark on: a residency, or a workshop, or travel to do some more research for your practice. You only have ten years out of your last educational program to be eligible for the award and I would have only been eligible for one more year after this so I was really excited because I’ve really worked hard and spent a lot of time on these proposals over the years.

It’s a big award for ceramicists and people working in that field.

Yeah exactly. There’s a few prizes in Canada that are sort of medium-specific, like the RBC award for painting, and this is sort of the ceramics equivalent. It’s presented through the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery which is great because they usually have a purchase part of the award where they purchase a piece for the museum collection, so that’s a really exciting aspect of being a winner as well.

What does it mean to you to receive this kind of recognition for your work at this particular moment in your career?

It’s great because I feel like as I was coming up in school I was admiring a lot of artists that were further along in their career. It seemed like people who had been out of their master’s program for seven or eight years, in my eyes, had hit onto something really special with their practice that really feels like it’s their own. I feel like that’s been happening for me in the last couple years. I’ve been doing this long enough and put enough time in that I feel really confident about my practice. I’m proud of the work that I’m making and I feel like it’s my own. So it feels really amazing to have recognition from my peers and from the field at this moment when I’ve gotten to a certain place with my work that feels really good.

On that note, can you talk a bit about your practice more generally and give a sense of how it’s evolved in recent years?

Now that I’m teaching at Concordia, I’m dealing with students and my own practice in a much more multidisciplinary way I am not just making ceramic objects, which I did for years, but I am much more of a contemporary artist that brings politics and deeper meaning into the work. I work in a way that includes a lot of collaboration and performance and historical research.

I really don’t see a big distinction between my studio practice, my teaching, and the research work that I do. They all work together to form this one big balloon of ideas and activities that makes up my whole career.

I try to reach different classes and sectors of the public to educate people about why art is important and why craft is still a critical thing that we do in society even though technological advances have made it not really necessary in a commodity sort of way.

I want there to be a positive understanding of our material culture because we have so much rhetoric right now about why objects are bad and why we shouldn’t make things and I think artists get themselves into these feelings of guilt and hopelessness about it all when really those two things shouldn’t be equated.

People who are trying to make art and bring deeper meaning to people’s lives shouldn’t be lumped into the same category as consumer products and things that are going to end up in a landfill.

What do you think it was about your application and your portfolio this time around that caught the eye of the jury?

There’s so much luck and so much circumstance that’s involved in getting these awards. You have to hit on the right proposal in front of the right people at the right time, and in my experience it’s always been that you have to continue to ask for these things and refine your way of asking over years. It’s a practice, just like making art.

I had just finished a residency that I did this past summer in China, so a lot of the work that I used for the proposal was from that experience. I think it helped to show the jury that this is part of my practice, to travel to different locations and embark on these sort of intensive research and creation periods.

Tell us about the project that you’ve proposed to do for the award.

I really wanted to go to a residency, because I think that residencies have always been an amazing opportunity in my career to meet other artists from all over the world and work collaboratively and have exciting discussions that I don’t necessarily get from my own work now that I’m not a student anymore.

It’s really exciting to go to Medalta because the technology that they use at that residency is very close to what I do in my studio in Toronto. I just feel like I’ll be able to go there and make a lot of work really quickly and continue to try and investigate these kinds of burning questions that exist in my research that have to do with the places where craft, performance and ritual intersect, and how that generates meaning for people.

And there’s also a workshop element to it?

I’ll do a two-day workshop while I’m there. The technique that I use for a lot of my work is called Maiolica, and it’s a painting technique from the Renaissance that a lot of people that work in ceramics find very intimidating. I really like giving workshops to show people that it’s actually quite an easy technique to learn and use in the studio. It has so much potential for providing this historical connection to storytelling and narrative and allegories. It’s really a rich place to think about how to convey a message through artwork today.

And the narrative and storytelling aspect is a really big part of your work as well, right?

For sure. I would say it’s the most important thing, this idea that craft objects allow us to do things like convene with our dead ancestors and visit cultures that are no longer with us and learn about their values and what life was like for other cultures at other times. All of that is so rich with potential for communication. That was really what I fell in love with looking at historical ceramics and why I ended up focusing on that in my educational background.

I think people are really hungry to tell stories. We see that everywhere in culture – that has to do with social media and this golden age of television that we’re having. I like to exploit that drive that we have within us to talk about important political issues and other things that we’re not thinking about enough.

Visit Lindsay Montgomery's website to see more of her work, the Department of Studio Arts to learn about Concordia's Ceramics program and The Clay and Glass Gallery to read about the Winifred Shantz Award.

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