Lydia Horne's ceramics are inspired by her family's homesteading life on Mira River in Cape Breton, Canada. She spends her time tending and caring for the land, aspects that are carried through to the careful crafting of her art. Each of her pieces are one-of-a-kind and completely unique. Her work exudes an air of calmness and whimsy all at once: it's a reflection of the life she has created with her family. We sit down with Lydia to learn more about how she approaches her art.
Marguerite St: Can you describe your family's lifestyle on Mira River? What does your day to day look like and what are some experiences you had growing up?
Lydia Horne: I feel incredulous every time I think about how I ended up here on an old homestead in Cape Breton. My childhood was spent in Taiwan and New Zealand, and in my teen years and most of my twenties, I called Toronto and Halifax home. The majority of my life was spent in cities, and it wasn’t until I got married to a man with a long familial history of country living and working with one’s hands that I began to appreciate such things myself. To live our lives more in tune with nature and its seasons, that our hands are not just for accomplishing tasks, but they can be used to help bring forth life and foster its growth: The planting of seeds and tending of vegetables and flowers, the feeding and caring of poultry and livestock.
"There is something about farming and homesteading that intertwines itself so naturally with art; it’s this potent mixture of hands, hope, labour, and patience that for me, parallels in so many ways, to the creation of ceramics and pottery."
MS: How has this landscape and lifestyle influenced the themes in your art?
LH: Most of the themes I illustrate on my pieces are inspired by this simple and slow life in the countryside, of tending to the garden, gathering flowers, barn swallows flying overhead in the summertime, the moon and bright stars in the dark countryside sky. Of course I’m only illustrating the idyllic side of this life, but only because I’m trying the convey a sense of innocent joy in my pieces, the kind of joy that does not leave you even in the hard times.
MS: I like the adoption of the phrase 'slowly created', it definitely speaks to a growing movement where people are valuing the little things in life instead of rushing past everything.
LH: I describe my work as “slowly created” because that is the nature of working with clay, it's all hand-built. And whether your work is hand-built, coil-built, pinched or wheel spun, they can’t be dried too quickly and unevenly or infuriating cracks might form. And because I don’t just create forms with clay, I also illustrate on them utilizing sgraffito or painting, that adds hours more to the process. Another very practical reason I adopted the term “slowly created” is because I have two young children and I’m a stay at home mom who homeschools, so I simply can’t create as much as I would like to. My family and household tasks must come first, but this lack of all the time in the world to create is actually a gift because it gives me ample time to ruminate on how I would like to decorate a piece in terms of themes and composition, and it forces me to be much more efficient and decisive with the little time I do have to create.
MS: One of the most unique aspects to your work is the visibility of the hand and all of the work that is put into each piece. Can you speak to the importance of these hand-built elements?
LH: When I first began exploring different avenues of art after my first little one was born, I was very drawn to the more illustrative side of art rather than “fine art” because I was fascinated by how different illustrators could draw or paint the same object or subject, and each person’s version could be so completely unique and recognizable as their “style” or artistic voice. So when I arrived at ceramic art, I wanted my creations, from its physical forms to the illustrations, to reflect my unique artistic voice and aesthetics. So all my forms are created from clay slabs which I have cut out using hand-drawn paper templates. Every line and curve of the form, and every sgraffito illustration is a direct reflection of what I drew with my hands. Even the negative spaces of the pieces show signs of my hand, scraping and scratching, hundreds of times over.
I think art is this really amazing manifestation of a person’s inner world, this flowing of the unseen into a physical object. Whether it is drawings, paintings, ceramics, fiber art, sculptures, music, or literature, people are drawn to art and creativity because it is all “hand-built”.
MS: You mention that you strive to create pieces that blend the old and new, pieces that are both nostalgic and modern. How do you accomplish this?
LH: Having moved around a fair bit at a young age has contributed I think, to a sort of eclectic sense of self, and by extension, a paradoxical aesthetic. I love both vintage and new, minimalistic as well as opulent and colourful, simple lines and fancy curves. I feel inspired by antique ceramics that portray a nostalgic and innocent time, but I also am inspired to create more modern forms of vases. So, in striving to amalgamate the nostalgic and the modern sides of my aesthetic, I think that my hand-drawn and slab-built vases are certainly modern in form, however this modernity pairs well with my illustrations of the nostalgic, innocent, and joyful scenes of country life. I’m not saying I have accomplished this, but it is something I’m constantly striving to sort out. If art is a physical manifestation of one’s inner world, what would my art look like?
MS: I notice that your motifs are all of women. Is this a representation of you and your life?
LH: My characters are all of women because compositionally I find women more appealing, and also, I wanted to illustrate the little common every day, joyful moments of life. I think that a woman embodies this concept of the common, hidden yet significant, very well. A split second of a woman in her garden, a split second of a woman riding her horse, a split second of a woman walking under the stars or surrounded by barn swallows, just these very mundane and hidden scenes that colour our lives with innocent joy.