Nina van Niekerk
Erin Callahan St. John
I am a full time professional artist who works in clay. In the 15 years since I was introduced to clay, I have apprenticed, graduated and received funding to create one of a kind pieces and developed production lines. I studied with Isabella St John, potter of 45 years and my aunt, at Blue Moon Pottery before attending the Textiles Studies program at The College of the North Atlantic. Then at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University I majored in Ceramics with a minor in Art History. Grants offer an opportunity to focus solely on my career as an artist. My job as a production potter develops my technical skill which supports my artistic practice. I am an active member in the art and craft community and make work based on wildlife and folklore in Newfoundland.
This past year I have been working in porcelain decorated with typeset to make every day functional pots hosting Newfoundland sayings. Stemming from a residency on Fogo Island (2014) with Tilting Recreation and Cultural Society where I was surrounded by heavy Irish accents and history. After reading Tilting by Robert Mellin, I was in awe of the drive to preserve and restore Tilting. Tracing roots back 400 years to the first Irish to arrive in Newfoundland, this struck a chord. The language caught my attention and I started transferring the words I heard onto clay, setting language in stone.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when i was four. Started drawing when I was three.
2. What mediums do you work in and why?
I Work in clay, textiles and I draw. Drawing was my first instinct.Years later I started making work in clay. I made a sculpture for a boyfriend in highschool. Clay was just as natural for me as drawing and I started working for my aunt in her clay studio, Blue Moon Pottery. I started as a production potter using plaster molds and talking to visitors in the store and explaining the process and techniques involved in clay.
3. How do you get ideas for your artwork?
Observation. Travel. Newfoundland has so much raw beauty to express. Looking out of my studio in Quidi Vidi I can draw from the historical surroundings and wildlife.
4. What other artists influence your artwork?
My Mom, she used to draw and paint, until she had children. When I was growing up my dad was a textiles artist, a weaver and his sister Isabella St. John a ceramic artist who has been my mentor, partner and studio mate. Outside the family, Gerald Squires influenced my work greatly. Teaching me how to draw and paint, and appreciate the history and natural beauty of Newfoundland.
5. What are the “big” themes in your artwork?
Newfoundland folklore, language and the fishing communities where I’ve been fortunate enough to have a studio. The Battery; Blue Moon Pottery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University Pier 1 campus, and currently Quidi Vidi Village Plantation. The human body also inspires my work.
6. What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist working in Newfoundland & Labrador?
Fortunately, growing up in an art oriented family I had access to a studio, and family that understood and supported the risks involved in becoming as artist. The number one challenge I have is paying off my student loan.
7. What is the best thing about working as an artist in this province?
Everyone seems to be involved in the arts in one way or another and having the support of the local public makes this a career worth pursuing.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Student loan paid off, with my own studio and house outside the city with annual round the world trips for residencies in Japan, China, India and South America.
9. If you werenʼt an artist, what would you be doing?
Fundraising or administration.
10. If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
That everyone had the opportunity to make art.