If I could keep the work of only one potter, it would be examples by Wayne Ngan. To me, his work exemplifies everything a good piece of art should have; superior craftmanship, exceptional aesthetic, a solid pedigree, and wide acknowledgement of skill. Ngan’s pottery has all of these - the hand of a master is evident in all his work.
Wayne Ngan is a B.C. based potter who was born in Canton China in 1937. He immigrated to Canada in 1951 and by the late 1950s he was officially studying pottery at the Vancouver School of Art where he graduated with honours. It wasn’t long before he was recognized as a special talent and rewarded for his outstanding work. In 1983, he was awarded the Saidye Bronfman Award which “recognizes the exceptional work of individuals who have also made significant contributions to the development of the fine crafts in Canada.”
Establishing his pottery on Hornby Island in British Columbia, Ngan worked as a production potter for most of his life and studied deeply to perfect his craft. This was done through his total devotion to his art - including several trips abroad to study in Japan and China, and through intense study of Asian pottery through books and museums. He even built a Sung Dynasty kiln funded by a Canada Council Grant he recited in 1984.
One potter Ngan studied most closely identified with was Shoji Hamada. Hamada was a Japanese potter who received the title of Living National Treasure in Japan, in 1955, bestowed only on those artisans who have attained such a high level of mastery in their craft they were designated as the keepers of “important intangible cultural properties."
Hamada was a hugely influential figure in British Columbia pottery (which is an interesting story for another post), and although the two never met, Ngan often referred to him as “Shoji” as if the two were friends. Ngan studied the forms of Hamada pots and worked repeatedly to reproduce them to his satisfaction. He developed his own clays and glazes and decorated them with flourishes that are uniquely his, developing a style that is distinct among Canadian potters. The "Hamada-style" square bottle shown above is a good example of this.
Wayne Ngan’s body of work is impressive and his style is unmistakeable. His art perfectly captures the spirit of the Leach/Hamada tradition in BC yet his pottery is undeniably his. He has attained the highest level of mastery in the craft and his place in Canadian ceramics is unquestioned. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider him Canada’s Shoji Hamada.
I appreciate that there are, and have been, many fine potters that our country has produced - too many to name and several of whom I have pieces by and enjoy very much. Wayne Ngan's work stands at the pinnacle for me. His total commitment to his work, the consistent excellence of the work he produced and the sheer variety of form and glaze make it so very enjoyable. Thankfully he was a prolific artist and numerous examples of his work are out there to be enjoyed.
For more information on Wayne Ngan, visit his website here.
If you have one or more pieces of Wayne Ngan's work you will to sell please contact me here.
Studio Pottery Canada
Pottery enthusiast learning about the history of this Canadian art form and curating samples from the best in the field pre-1980.