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Best of the City: Victoria ceramic artist contemplates space in work and life

Frequent trips around Canada’s north have inspired Samantha Dickie’s work
Madrona Gallery director Michael Warren and ceramic artist Samantha Dickie stand with some of Dickie’s work at the gallery. Dickie has a fondness for the easily accessible nature of the West Coast and Canada’s North. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)

As both a ceramic artist and feminist, Samantha Dickie has a profound appreciation for space.

Her passion for art started with functional pottery studies and a degree in Women’s and Indigenous Studies at Trent University in Oshawa in the 1990s. For the next 20 years, she would commit herself primarily to large-scale abstract sculpture installation.

Moving to the Yukon following a three-year clay program at the Kootenay School of the Arts and two residencies in Alberta, Dickie went on to present a solo exhibition at the Yukon Arts Centre, receive a Canada Council grant, set up her own community arts studio and run the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat Society.

“I (just) say ‘yes’, within the context of also needing to parent, but I say ‘yes’ as much as possible,” she said.

During a residency for her very first solo exhibition and five months after the birth of her first child, Dickie toured her work to public galleries in Nanaimo, Campbell River, Edmonton and Dawson City. Part of a collective in Whitehorse at the time, she did a two-part outdoor photo shoot in 2004 with large sculptures that she let degrade over winter.

Fashion company Louis Vuitton took notice of the project in 2019 and commissioned remakes of two components as permanent exhibition sculptures for its flagship store in Boston. A store in California is also commissioning Dickie’s same work for a hotel in Kauai, Hawaii.

Last December, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria decided to adopt 11 sculptures from Dickie’s 2019 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Burlington for its permanent collection.

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After her second child was born, Dickie settled in Victoria and started fresh, designing her house to accommodate a full-size second floor studio that includes a gas and electric kiln and glaze room.

Originally from Toronto, she wanted to escape the bustle of cities and takes pleasure in the contemplative nature of West Coast living, which often incorporates such reflective practices as hiking, meditation and yoga.

Through numerous paddling and hiking trips done in Canada’s north, some lasting as long as 60 days, Dickie has come to appreciate the stillness and vastness of nature and compares its abundance of space to that of her work.

“That’s where we get the feeling that our lives are relevant and irrelevant and that dichotomy is super interesting to contemplate, conceptually and actually.”

Her feminist values have been reflected in her work since her time at Trent. She created a collection for the Italian Cultural Centre of Vancouver’s Gendered Voices exhibit that explored modern notions of feminine being, and consisted of 11 figurative and abstract forms that were rough and gritty by design.

Claiming space as a feminist when she was younger, Dickie now yearns as a mother for quiet space and a sense of pause, which she finds through the spacious outdoors.

“That quality of nature is relevant in my work in the sense that I’m not trying to capture that classical sense of beauty or replicate exact forms by nature, but the experience of finding pause that many of us seek and crave and go to within nature, to kind of take a breath from the fast-paced tech world that we are completely absorbed by.”

Dickie strives to appreciate life in the moment and direct her attention to the depths of her ceramics. She is fully dedicated to clay art, striving to preserve the rawness, roughness, timelessness and organic essence of clay in reference to the earth.

She finds installation work provides a more experiential exhibit for the viewer, with some collections containing thousands of components that she mass produces. Following exhibitions, her works are often broken down into smaller groupings or individual pieces to be sold.

She is a proud member of the Fired Up! British Columbia Ceramics collective, which focuses on contemporary works and clay and was started over 30 years ago by ceramic artists Robin Hopper and Judi Dyelle.

Prior to the pandemic, Dickie taught at the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts and offered an annual workshop at Camosun College. She believes her success with younger artists was a result of her frequently engaging in public gallery work and larger-scale projects.

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Dickie was pleasantly surprised to be nominated as best visual artist in the annual Best of the City celebration and was highly curious about who the nominators were.

She has upcoming shows at the Victoria Art Council gallery in September and Fortune Gallery next February, and has been commissioned for commercial settings in the U.S.

To learn more about her work, visit

For more stories from our annual Best of the City publication, click here. You can also find the special publication online here.

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Still Point and Written on the Body on display at the Art Gallery of Burlington in 2019. One of Samantha Dickie’s series caught the attention of fashion company Louis Vuitton. (Photo by Alexandria Nelson)
The Gesture of Grace, at the Art Gallery of Burlington in 2019. Dickie’s exhibitions can contain up to several thousand components and create immersive experiences for viewers. (Photo by Cathie Ferguson)
Your Body is a Battleground, created for the Italian Cultural Centre of Vancouver in 2019. Dickie studied at Trent University and the Kootenay School of the Arts and has moved around B.C., Alberta and the Yukon. (Photo by Cathie Ferguson)