Carly Slade

Artist Statement

I grinned eagerly as the heavy weight of change slid out of my small hand and onto his counter. Pat reached under his shop register, retrieving a calculator just in time for my coins to quiet down their spinning staccato symphony. He quickly divided my allowance (and couch findings) into one dollar piles, tapping into the calculator as he added the stacks and divided by five cents. He smiled as he turned the calculator face towards me, seventy-eight. Greedily I took the small plastic bag from his hand and spun around to kneel on the floor and collect my treasures, seventy-eight five cent candies. Seventy-eight delicious Sour Soothers that were sure to ruin my diner this night, as well as a few times a week, every week, from the time I was old enough to cross the road alone until I grew up and moved away from home. As the years passed and I went home to see my parents I would often cross the road to visit Pat at the corner store for more of those candies. Pat was there every day, no questions asked, no holidays taken. I think he had kids, two sons maybe? I don’t know his last name.

The years wore on his face and on his store, the shelves became sparse, and the interior dingy. But thinking back now, maybe it always was that way. The naivety of childhood often glosses over the reality. The store has changed now, a fresh coat of paint, new renters, and fancy yuppie bistro tables outside. I called my brother who lives across the street to ask if he knows what Pat is doing now, he doesn’t know.

There is impermanence about the lives spent in these buildings, and the precarious nature of the working class. My work investigates the gendering and ownership of labour and space. I create egalitarian worlds in which all types of labour are celebrated equally, where embroidery and woodworking can stand shoulder to shoulder; where craft and labour are respected for their integral part in the functioning, and fulfillment, of modern society. I grew up in Alberta, Canada. A world of big sky and big oil, at a time when oil prices were high and unions were strong. I recreate those places of blue-collar work, typically spaces where I as a woman do not fit in, regardless of my many years working in those fields as a carpenter, concrete worker, and shop manager. My scenes center on meticulously created ceramic buildings that have been made to scale using Google Map images. Sourcing my references this way allows me to be a voyeur of these spaces from the safety of my studio, and is reminiscent of the outsiderness I felt when I worked in those spaces. This technology also allows me to travel back in time, in some places up to seven years, to choose the specific moment in that space’s history to depict the building. Once a site is chosen I render it three dimensionally in two-point perspective. This fun-house effect hinting that something about this charming little world is not right.

My found materials are sourced from local construction sites, thrift stores, and sometimes even the road side. The ceramic buildings and the materials used to construct their bases share a similar narrative of place, and patina of use. I soften my buildings with embroidery, while showering them with tender attention to detail. Cross-stitched patches and carefully embroidered highlights take over the building like a growth. The buildings then become “mine”, allowing me to place them in a romanticized world where the working class dream is sincere, and I can return to the untarnished world view of a child; a place where Pat’s two boys are provided for and he’s still just across the street.

-- Carly Slade


Carly Slade grew up in "Big sky Alberta", Canada, and spent her early working life in the trades, from carpentry to concrete she is most at home in a shop. Her work is heavily influence by her childhood spent in a blue-collar home, where work ethic and craftsmanship were highly valued. Using a mixture of materials from ceramic, to embroidery, to industrial building supplies, Slade creates dioramas of labour sites. Through a feminine and whimsical lens, her work celebrates the labour and systems that keep our modern world running while questioning who is allowed into those spaces.

Slade received her BFA in Ceramics from the Alberta College of Art and Design (2010), and her MFA in Spatial Arts from San Jose State University (2016). Her work has been exhibited throughout Canada and the United States. Her work is included in the permanent collection at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. She is currently the Ceramic Artist in Residence at the Lawrence Arts Centre, in Lawrence, Kansas.

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