Meet the Crafters: Oakleaves, Native Creations

April 14, 2017 | Halifax Crafters Society

Nancy Oakley of Oakleaves, Native Creations is preparing for her first Halifax Crafters market, although she has been crafting for what “seems like forever”.  Nancy creates stone polished, smoke fired, traditionally and culturally inspired pieces of ceramic art. We can hardly wait to see her stunning wares in person! They are as beautiful and inspiring as Nancy’s favourite quote, “she is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands, and a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again”  – JM STORM

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What is your process?

I prefer to handbuild but a majority of my pieces are thrown on the wheel. Just before the pieces are ready for the bisque fire, I polish each piece with a stone I have been holding on to for the last 25 years.  After bisquing they are then smokefired using fir tips, seaweed or sawdust to give it a beautiful smoky look. I then add sweetgrass, an aromic plant used in native American culture for purification or black ash splint basketry to finish off each piece.

What is your background/How did you get started?

I have been creating most of my life. I began traditional native dancing at a young age and learnt beadwork and regalia making from my mother who was a seamstress. I would also help my aunt and uncle, well known Mi’kmaq basketmakers in their shop. In high school I fell in love with photography and went to and graduated from the Institute of American Indian arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a AFA in photography. This is where I got my first taste of pottery. After moving to Nova Scotia, I studied at NSCAD taking courses in photography, pottery, weaving and silversmithing.

Why do you do what you do?

I do it because I love it. Art gives me an outlet to express myself and to keep me sane.

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When you’re not selling at Halifax Crafters, where can I find your work?

This will be my first time at the Halifax Crafters market. I am excited to be part of this show, and look forward to many years with them.

You can find my work at different stores around Nova Scotia: Glooscap Heritage Park, Truro; Flight of Fancy, Bear River; Cape Breton Center for Craft and Design, Sydney; Lyghtsome Gallery, Antigonish; and the Wagmatcook and Eskasoni Cultural Centers. I can also be found at Irocrafts, in Brantford, Ontario and the Mashantucket Museum in Conneticut.

You can also contact me through Instagram or my Etsy page.

What inspires you to create?

My Mi’kmaq and Wampanoag native heritage inspires me. I like to incorporate traditional ideas, materials and art forms into my pottery.

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How do you begin a new project?

I get inspired with new ideas, usually in the middle of other projects. I begin to wonder what if I do this or add that and eventually it takes a life of its own and a whole new creation or series is started.

Where do you do your work?

I have a small studio in my home, but projects tend to overflow and take over the rest of the house as well.

What kind of music do you listen to while you work?

The blues are my favorite, but Jazz is slowly taking over. Great music to work to.

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A place you love?

Anywhere near the water.

Favourite time of the year?

Summer. I spend the summer traveling all over with my 6 kids. I love being on the road with my family, experiencing life and creating memories. We will be driving back to Santa Fe, New Mexico this summer so that I can take part in the Seeds show in August.

Three things you need in order to create?

Besides supplies, the 3 things I need the most are inspiration, motivation and good music.

What’s your favourite way to procrastinate?

I’ll get back to you on that.

A film or book you love?

Ever After, cause who doesn’t like a happy ending.

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