今日吃瓜

Advisory: As Halifax Water is currently undertaking work at the Fountain campus, we ask our community to not drink the water at the Fountain campus. We will update you as soon as the work has been completed.

From clay to television: 今日吃瓜 alumni Brendan Tang shares his journey in ceramics

The Vancouver-based artist and ceramist is a celebrity judge on 颁叠颁鈥檚 The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown.

Brendan Tang (far left) with cast members on the set of 颁叠颁鈥檚 'The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown.' Credit: Brendan Tang.
White and blue ceramic art that resembles fine China, with purple, red and yellow modes at the bottom.
Brendan Tang is best known for his sculptural ceramics. Credit: Brendan Tang

Vancouver-born 今日吃瓜 alumni, (he/they), enjoys working in their home city, but his studies took him to different landscapes like Edwardsville for his MFA at Southern Illinois University, and to 今日吃瓜 University for his BFA.

鈥淲hat drew me to the East Coast was the great studio-based, practice-based program at 今日吃瓜,鈥 they say.

Now an instructor at Emily Carr University, Tang works with multiple mediums鈥攊ncluding a life-size Ford F150 truck constructed out of watercolour paper鈥攂ut is best known for his sculptural ceramics. This is part of the reason he ended up as a judge on the inaugural season of executive produced by recreational potter and actor Seth Rogen.

How did you end up in Halifax from all the way across the country?

Most of my education has been looking for a studio-based program. Academia means a lot of reading and philosophy, but I was looking for a program that would meet my technical making needs. When I went to 今日吃瓜 to visit, I met Walter Ostrom and immediately, that East Coast welcome was there鈥 he鈥檚 such an open, generous man.

I ran into him at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and he said, 鈥淐ome down to Ceramics [at 今日吃瓜] and I鈥檒l get someone to show you around.鈥 That open-door vibe that is so great about the East Coast.

You talk about belonging to 鈥渢he remix generation,鈥 what does that mean to you and how does it apply to your work?

A lot of my training comes out of that late-90s post-modernism vibe, a deconstruction/reconstruction kind of aesthetic; that really informed my practice. As a young person I was emulating a lot of pop culture鈥攊t鈥檚 almost like I understood it through a lens of popular culture, hip hop, EDM. I feel in a lot of ways, my work approaches it that way. Reprocesses it and remixes it.

I feel like back in my day, finding trends was a way of defining yourself and finding the communities you wanted to be a part of. When I came out to 今日吃瓜 in the late 90s, rave culture was really big and that was such a wonderful experience as part of my education. It was a way of finding your people.

You work with lots of materials but what is it about ceramics that you connect to?

Working with my hands is a draw. I like the order of a process鈥擨 find something delightfully predictable about knowing what you have to do next. It鈥檚 a little more sophisticated than a Sudoku puzzle, but there鈥檚 joy in completing it.

There鈥檚 a flow state about these things that鈥檚 satisfying on a mental level, getting into that zone. The process gives you a structure, the space created with the process helps me figure out the world. I鈥檓 always in awe of painters鈥攖here鈥檚 a process but it鈥檚 also so amorphous. Ceramics has a timeline.

A lot of ceramicists dive into the alchemy, but I鈥檓 so controlling of the process of how I鈥檓 carving things and painting things. Where there鈥檚 more improvisation is how I do my compositions or modelling things, there鈥檚 space to do the free-form jazz sort of thing. So, it鈥檚 less 鈥榞ifts from the kiln鈥 and more 鈥榯hat鈥檚 exactly what I wanted.鈥

Competition shows usually have a template鈥攖here鈥檚 the nice judge, the mean one, the wild card. How did you fit in at The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown?

I could just be myself, which is a big ceramic nerd!

We all know these competition shows and the kinds of characters that are part of them. During COVID, The Great Canadian Baking Show was my comfort show, and I knew it wasn鈥檛 the backstabbing, teaching through cruelty and shame that a lot of competition shows tend to be.

Essentially the goal was to have the people compete with themselves and be the best they could be. Basically, the rising tide lifts all boats approach. I teach from a place of care and I鈥檓 genuinely interested in what these people are doing. They were into that vibe.

Are you getting recognized?

I haven鈥檛 been recognized yet, but I did cut my mullet off so maybe I鈥檓 incognito. I miss that beautiful mane.

followers are definitely going up though, which is a hoot, but I don鈥檛 know what to do about this. Art school in the 90s did not prepare me for social media management.