Magic of the pottery master

Acclaimed artist Walter Dexter coming to Metchosin

After two years of art school, internationally acclaimed ceramics artist Walter Dexter was ready to call it quits.

Frustrated by what he felt was too much of a focus on commercial art when he attended the Alberta College of Art in the early 1950s, Dexter had made up his mind to move on.

Fortunately, after seeing some of his work in a sculpture class, an instructor told Dexter he was good with his hands.

“He suggested I try pottery,” said the 76-year-old former Metchosin resident. “I took it for a year, and it took off from there.”

Dexter has earned international recognition for his innovative work with raku techniques and high-quality stoneware, including a silver medal at the International Ceramics Exhibition in Prague in 1962.

He has exhibited in Belgium, England, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Japan and the United States, and staged a one-man show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1994.

His works are featured in the permanent collections of Claridge Collection in Montreal, The Canada Council Art Bank in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, the Confederation Art Gallery and Museum in Charlottetown and the University of Alberta.

“To call Walter Dexter a potter is akin to saying Wayne Gretzky was a hockey player,” wrote the London Free Press. “Dexter is one of the legends of his trade, ceramic art.”

Of all the accolades he’s received, earning the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in 1992 stands out for him on a personal level.

“To be acknowledged with the most prestigious award for a Canadian artist pleases me the most,” he said.

Dexter has also taught at the University of Victoria, Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, Emily Carr College of Art, Vancouver Community College and the University of Saskatoon.

Dexter is giving a presentation at the Metchosin Community House, not far from where he had his studio for many years before moving to Oak Bay five years ago.

He plans on showing some of his most recent works and discussing the influences and techniques that evolved when he was forced to depart from his usual style because of health issues.

“I was quite ill four or five years ago, had several surgeries and was quite weak,” Dexter said, adding that he couldn’t throw the potter’s wheel as a result.

He started making large flat pots similar to bottles in shape, some as large as two feet tall.

“It gives me more of a canvass to work on,” he said.

Acclaimed potter Robin Hopper — who exhibits his work with Judi Dyelle at their ‘Chosin Pottery Studio — has been familiar with Dexter’s work for 35 years.

“I’m really excited to see what he’s been doing for the past five years,” Hopper said. “With all the difficulties he’s had with cancer, the loss of his wife, Rona, and relocating his studio, Walter’s weathered the storm and is putting out his best work.”

Dexter’s presentation, part of the West Shore Arts Council’s 2007 literary series, takes place Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Metchosin Municipal Hall, 4450 Happy Valley Rd.

Admission is free.

For more on Dexter and upcoming events, visit www.westshorearts.org.


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