Wynnie Tosetti wears Miu Miu bejewelled sunglasses, Great Western Garment Co. '70s denim vest, retro graphic logo Chloé top, & Gucci vintage monogram patent leather shoulder bag from our Fall 2022 womenswear collection.
Wynnie Tosetti (she/her) is a Brazilian-Canadian ceramicist and pottery studio co-owner who is debuting two sculptures at FAULKNER.
She dropped by our Gastown office, where she explained the significance of these works, taking up space, and the chemistry of glazes.
Wynnie, 27, was born in São Paulo, Brazil and raised in Vancouver. In high school, her mom enrolled her in a ceramics class at Emily Carr so she could try something new. “I fell in love,” Wynnie said. From there she carried this focus in ceramics at Langara College and later transferred into a BFA program at Emily Carr.
She eventually developed an intuitive style of large-form, warped abstract sculptures. She calls it “controlling the collapse” — a study in how far she can push her materials. “I work with movement, energy, and emotion,” she said. “Whether chaotic or calm, it’s like a dance back-and-forth between me and the piece.”
In 2021 she opened Báhoo Studios, a boutique pottery studio whose name is a play on the Portuguese word for mud, which is moving to Chinatown in October.
Firstly, what is the difference between pottery and ceramics?
Pottery is the craft of the utilitarian: a mug, a bowl, anything that is functional. Ceramics is the whole medium of anything to do with firing clay. I really fell in love with the medium of ceramics — not pottery — and there was a huge part of me that was trying to reject rigidity in pottery and crafts. The possibilities with ceramics are never-ending.
Do politics play a role in your art?
No, it’s not political. My work is about conversations of the mind, body, and soul. My art is my outlet and my safe haven. I am also very privileged individual, and I don't have to go up against a lot of political turmoil. The things that I've had to overcome in my life are mainly focused on that deep, emotional and spiritual mountain we all struggle to get over.
My work has a strong presence in the human experience, and more specifically the female experience. Some of my pieces talk about sexuality, and the colour choices within that can be seen as a very powerful feminist statement. Female sexuality from a woman's perspective and it’s raw? That takes up space. And it being on a white-wall gallery taking up space speaks for itself.
When it comes to female sexuality taking up space, it sounds like such a courageous move.
Yes. It's funny though because it doesn't feel like it right now with so much going on in the world. I do understand what you mean because that's my life: I’m gay, and even holding my partner's hand on the street it doesn't feel very safe even in the city like Vancouver. Existing as a woman doesn't feel safe all the time.
But it also depends on who is listening when you’re talking about female sexuality — whether it’s a glaze that looks like semen or a piece that looks like a vagina with glaze dripping out of it. Maybe that might shock some people, but it’s 2022! Who gives a fuck? We all have sex!
Speaking of glazes, how do you make yours?
I spend a lot of time looking for inspirational colour and texture combinations and then I check out different online forums for glaze recipes. My favourite is glazy.org. I also like Digital Fire because they break down every component so you can research glaze chemistry. Then you have your periodic table and you become a mad scientist — the master of the glaze!
These recipes are from all over the world, so if a recipe isn’t behaving the way you want, remember that where the minerals are mined matters. For example, they might have different levels of calcium, and that can change things. So you do a test and adjust. If it’s too runny, I’ll add something that's going to dry it up a little bit.
What can you tell us about the two works you’ve brought here?
This first one is about all the things that come with smoking: the energy from fire burning, the ash, and the inflammation. I tried to make the colour close to my skin tone, but it’s a little more gray. The ash sprinkled on top came from my family’s house on the Sunshine Coast. When you put ash in the kiln and combine it with certain materials, it acts as a flux and melts things. I wanted to see if it would just melt on its own. I’ve been working a lot with the self-destructive lately.
The second one is about vulnerability and opening up. It’s soft, quiet, and elegant but a bit colder. I imagine this gap as someone reaching into your chest. If you put your hand in and grab near the opening, it feels gentle and forceful at the same time.
In what ways are you involving sustainability within your practice?
I’m going to be honest with you, ceramics is bad for the environment. You have to mine every single material. The type of clay we use is dug deep from the earth and has to be processed in factories, consuming energy. All the ingredients we use like silicon carbide and silica have to be mined and produced in a meticulous fashion to create consistency within our pieces.
Everything comes from the earth, but the way we take the materials is not done in a sustainable way. Traditionally, ceramics is very low tech and now we’re engaging in high tech. My kiln has a computer on it. The act of burning alone creates emissions into the air because it’s consuming energy.
At our studio, we recycle all our clay. Anything that we fire, we smash into smithereens so it’s easier to put back into the earth.
We also try to source ingredients sustainably where we can. Through studying glaze chemistry, I understand what natural materials will produce. So instead of buying calcium, I’ll go to the ocean and collect shells from the beach, break them up, and use those. I’ll also use ash from my home. We’ve also collected ash from a wood-burning stove at a local pizzeria and received a few buckets of clay from the development in Oak Ridge.
The cool thing is that after they’re fired, ceramics are forever if you really take care of them. You can re-use them. Future generations can have these, and if you change your mind you can always smash it up and put it back into the earth. If you were to put one of these in the ocean, it wouldn’t leech any harsh chemicals. A fish can make it a home. That’s totally fine. It’s made of natural materials.
Learn more about fall pottery workshops, open studio, or a date night at Báhoo Studios. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.