Lael Chmelyk is a ceramic and fiber artist living in Calgary, Alberta. Raised in Dawson Creek, Lael began making from an early age, joining a long line of obsessive craftsmen. Starting ceramic classes at the age of fourteen, she went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics with Distinction from The Alberta University of Arts in 2020. In 2021 she received a project grant from Canada Council for the Arts to develop a range of soda fired work to lower the environmental impact of the work. Chmelyk currently lives and works in Calgary.
Craft objects can act as a conjugate for ideas and concepts, and through their function, those ideas become a part of the everyday domestic experience. My functional soda fired pots have contrasting surfaces that create tension between geometry and organic patterns. Areas of quiet and overwhelm in the decoration invite touch and offer the user a moment of pause and intimate investigation. Referencing botany, I look to understand my place in the world’s classifications. I attempt to catch the user’s attention, to render them in the present through chance or rituals. The intent is to give one the chance to question the place of plants in beauty – but also the place of the environment in one’s values.
By using a soda kiln, I can allow for the kiln and its unexpected nature to share agency over the work. This also echoes the balance between control and chaos that we, as a society, attempt to force on our environment. My work illustrates this balance through moments of chance and instances of control in a duet with the kiln. This balance is central to the work and allows for the ornate surfaces to exist on the forms without overwhelming the experience.
In my fiber practice, I explore ideas of femininity and ideas of otherhood through quilting and natural dyeing. By translating concepts of the female body as a vessel through a matrilineal craft, I can question the status quo of what a woman’s life should look like. Quilting practices are historically centered around familial functions, but within that history, I question whether we motherhood and womanhood are inextricably linked.
FLEX Resident 2023/2021/2020