M. EMILY CARR
signed “KLEE WYCK”
3 ins x 3 ins; 7.6 cms x 7.6 cms
Gerta Moray writes that “the comforts of material affluence” were never to be something that Emily Carr would experience. Lack of money was a chronic condition for the artist.
Moray writes, beginning in 1924: “In her search for ways to eke out a living, Carr turned to craft production, taking up rug making and pottery as media through which her interest in native imagery could find a market.” Carr signed her pottery “Klee Wyck” which meant Laughing One, a nickname bestowed upon her by the First Nations people of Ucluelet.
Carr admitted to being conflicted about appropriating native designs and symbols for her pottery. Moray notes “the greatest reward it brought was probably the excuse it gave her to spend time studying and working with First Nations designs.”
Carr writes about her experience extensively in her autobiography Growing Pains. She foraged for the clay, loaded it into a pram and trundled home with it. There she built up her objects by hand and lost many to shrinkage during the firings. She describes every moment of the firing as “agony, suspense and sweat.” Carr recalled “The small kiln room grew stifling. My bones shook, anticipating a visit from police, fire chief, or insurance man. The roof caught fire. The floor caught fire. I kept the hose attached to the garden tap and the roof of the kiln shed soaked.”
While she aimed to produce these pottery pieces in quantity as the venture was a commercial one, given how difficult it was for her to make them and how few survived the firings, it is not surprising that so few of these objects remain available to present day collectors.
Emily Carr, The Complete Writings of Emily Carr, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, 1993, page 439.
Gerta Moray, Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr, UBC Press, Vancouver/Toronto, 2006, pages 277-280.
Private Collection, Ontario
Department: Canadian Fine Art