As gorgeous as Joan Bruneau’s pots are on their own, they’re not really complete unless they’re being used—a bouquet of holly branches bursting out of a flower brick; a cube of butter in a covered dish; a frosted cake as the delectable as the plate it sits on.
“It’s really important to me that my pots are used, not just looked at and pondered,” says Joan, whose show, Full Circle, is on display at the Mary E. Black Gallery. “I’m really after that connection with the audience. And, I believe that as someone continues to use a piece, it builds a history. You think, ‘Oh, the last time I took this out, we had a great dinner party.’ Or, ‘I always get this out when the entire family is gathered around the table.’”
Full Circle was created on the theme of the four seasons, with one flower brick, serving platter, dish and bowl for spring, summer, fall and winter. Wheel-thrown and made of the rich red earthenware clay native to Nova Scotia, the decoration, glaze palette and shape of each piece is inspired by the food and fauna of each season. Other influences include Joan’s surroundings in Lunenburg, where she has lived and worked since 1993, and her travels to other places in the world with a rich ceramic heritage such as Morocco or Holland.
“I love glazes and color and what they evoke,” says Joan, explaining that with the series of four platters, she used color to suggest flavor as well—winter white for salty, for example, or autumnal amber for savory.
The location of the Mary E. Black is ideal; Joan, a foodie, is hoping people heading to the Seaport Farmers Market will go a little further down the sidewalk to see the exhibition. Also intertwined in the work are the tenets of the slow food movement and the 100 Mile Diet—that seasonal food, grown locally and lovingly cooked, is meant to be savored and celebrated. And what better way than in a dish or bowl that is so beautiful, so carefully considered in its making, that it can only enhance the food contained within.
Another ingredient added to the Full Circle pot has been Joan’s teaching at NSCAD. A regular part-time faculty member with NSCAD’s ceramics department for more than 17 years, she believes her interaction with students invigorates her own work.
“Without teaching, I’d be working in isolation,” says Joan, who teaches wheel throwing. She has a BFA from NSCAD and a MFA from the University of Minnesota.
“Students always have an individual perspective and respond to assignments in completely different ways. I’m so inspired by that.”