Empurror: Monika Šalkauskas

The Alberta Craft Council’s exhibit at cSPACE offers exposure for emerging artists and craftspeople

Let us share in conversation about fine craft, community; and ways they are intertwined. The venue to facilitate our discussion, is the Alberta Craft Council Gallery & Shop at cSPACE at the former King Edward Public School. 

Who is the Alberta Craft Council? The craft council informs us that, “The Alberta Craft Council is the Provincial Arts Service Organization that develops, promotes, and advocates for Craft in Alberta.” 

They maintain locations in both Calgary and Edmonton. 

The Calgary craft council gallery at cSPACE typically features rotating exhibits that offer exposure to emerging artists and craftspeople. 

In addition to exhibit artists, there are opposing walls in an alcove of the gallery labelled “Spotlight” that feature separate artists, often showcasing experimental methods of production. 

This December, the retail space will be expanded into the gallery to house craft works produced by approximately 80 Alberta makers; 17 of these makers are new to the space this year. 

Why prompt this dialogue? 

This is a story about generational objects and knowledge. Items deemed generational have long been passed from owner to owner treasured for qualities, be they rarity or resilience. Furniture, glassware, ceramics, textiles, beadwork and jewellery are some traditional examples. Heirlooms passed on hold resonance from the past, augmented with each interaction, and beginning with the makers’ hand. 

What is Craft?

Definitions are tricky. One might better start by answering, “What is the craft movement?” 

The craft movement fosters communities of craftspeople dedicated to forwarding and honing skill in their craft. Often, their processes take root or inspiration from historical or ancestral production processes, but creativity, imagination and problem-solving are also present. 

The Alberta Craft Council posits that craft is “the creative mind-hand making of unique objects, primarily in a range traditional craft materials such as clay, glass, wood, metal, fabric and fibre, and natural materials (also, more recently involving new materials and processes such as creative recycling of plastics), primarily in small quantities, primarily by one accomplished person or a small cluster of skilled individuals, working primarily in a studio setting, with a focus on both intellectual and technical innovation and mastery; often with a strong emphasis on personal expression and/or cultural content; in a wide range of object forms that can be functional, ceremonial or religious, expressive, visual, sculptural, or some combination, primarily for appreciation by, and for sale to, quite sophisticated customers, collectors and institutions, primarily motivated by cultural values.” 

A lot to take in, I know. The craft council also acknowledges that the definition is constantly evolving. 

The Craftspeople 

You will find work by junior and senior makers who have achieved high levels of ability in their areas of interest. We are encouraged to visit and recognize their accomplishments. 

The Alberta Craft Council educates us about a small sample of the artists we might encounter: Franklin Acevedo has conceived and rendered colourful housewares, from 3D visualized to 3D printed. His work aims to “celebrate the imperfect and encourage curiosity.” 

One of the new material artists mentioned above, his process of using Cad file design with 3D printed elements are incorporated by the craft council for the first time. 

Brook Bampton is a Métis person who says he is “reconnecting with traditional and ancestral creative processes from both lines of ancestry and integrating those traditions into my own work.” “Brooke is inspired by the liminal space between past and present: the translation into experiential, visual and physical forms.” 

Hellen Beamish produces fused glass works that are informed by her experience with textiles. The work allows her to “explore her unabashed love of colour, form and capturing the delight of dancing light. She is currently exploring multiple complex techniques before the final slumping.” 

“Karen Cantine is an internationally recognized metal artist,” and member of the Royal Academy of the Arts. 

The Edmonton-based artist’s work features finely crafted and superbly designed silver jewellery, boxes, chalices, and tea sets. 

“Leah Kudel is a multi-disciplinary artist and designer with a studio practice based in glass.” 

She is owner operator of Suspended Studio Edmonton. On display is glassware patterned with abstract, almost floral shaped colour swatches. 

Erik Lee’s work “is informed by the visual language and design sensibilities of the Plains Cree.” His work pays tribute to historical form of traditional beadwork while he “strives to innovate and bring new directions to Indigenous design.” 

Lee states, “Plains art and adornment are very individual forms of expression. Every piece is a statement piece, the statement being, “Here I am!” ” 

Jordan Munro “finds inspiration in her rural upbringing in Alberta’s Yellowhead County.” 

“Her art bridges the gap between rural life and creativity, inviting viewers to appreciate the connection between nature and art in a simple yet profound ways. 

“She blends function and aesthetics seamlessly, crafting items from pickle crocks to coffee mugs.” 

“Monika Šalkauskas is a fabric dollmaker in Calgary. She emigrated from Germany almost 30 years ago, and her fanciful characters reflect this origin with their old-world vibe of history and culture.” 

Her work, “honours vintage materials, giving everything a historical background, and recycling are important themes in Monika’s upcycled doll artwork.” 

Deanne Underwood produces window-like needlepoint prairie scenes; her “needle and wet felted wool pieces are full of vibrant colour and texture, depicting a wide range of Canadian landscapes with a special focus on Alberta and Saskatchewan.” 

These are only a selection of the unique makers whose work is on display. They are part of a wide-reaching circle and I encourage you to get acquainted with the community. 

Jill Nuckles and Corinne Cowell operate the Alberta Craft Council Gallery at cSPACE; both are experts in the field, and accomplished craftspeople themselves. 

Intertwined Communities 

CSPACE houses a rich ecology of the creative arts. 

The west end of the second floor is home to the Alberta Craft Council Gallery & Shop; 60 per cent of any sale passes directly to the artist. Resident cultural contributors that share the floor include Studio C Collaborative Art Centre; a public art gallery created by Prospect Human Services, and textiles artists Natalie Gerber and Anneke Forbes. 

You, too, are part of this story; and individually we can help foster growth of crafting communities. 

Consider the value of honouring heirloom creations that can be both useful, and beautiful. 

The Alberta Craft Council Gallery & Shop is located at 1721 29 Ave. S.W. 280. Open Wednesday-Friday 11 a.m to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.