Boreal Birds collaboration brings potter and painter together

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Helen Croissant and Bonnie Bailey are collaborating on the Boreal Birds show at the One the Avenue Gallery for November.

The exhibition at On the Avenue Gallery on Central Avenue for November is bringing two local artists together under a common theme.

Boreal Birds, which held a reception on Saturday, featured the paintings of Helen Croissant and the pottery of Bonnie Bailey.

Croissant works in acrylic and watercolour and Bailey creates fired pottery, to which she has added bird embellishments for this project.

Bailey said the show came together because she loved a painting Croissant did of a Heron. She was contemplating creating an exhibit around boreal birds and asked Croissant about collaborating.

“She jumped on board so here we are,” Bailey said.

“We kind of connected right away,” she added.

Croissant said the collaborations help both artists’ work get wider exposure.

“To do something like this also gives you a better chance of showing more of your work, rather than just what’s on the wall,” Croissant said.

“I find they’re a nice compliment,” Bailey said.

Croissant said she came to birds as a theme a natural progression of her work.

“Over the years I’ve done different things,” she explained. “I’ve been seriously painting since about 1983 or something like that, but not enough to sell a lot or to really get into it. Then when I retired, I settled down into it.”

Bailey lives in Prince Albert but previously lived 25 kilometres east of the City before moving. Croissant lives in Candle Lake, so both artists have plenty of access to local birds and wildlife, like Herons, to use as inspiration for the exhibit.

Croissant said Herons are mysterious creatures, and that’s one reason she began featuring them in her art.

“They’re spooky,” she said. “I remember slipping along in a canoe and if you can get up close enough to get some good pictures, it’s ‘wow’ because they see you coming. They instinctively know you’re there and they’re gone.”

Her art also comes from her work as a photographer and she takes birds or paths full of birds from the photograph.

Bailey said her pottery accentuates well with the birds because it is coloured to resemble an evening sky.

“I am inspired by the boreal skies,” she explained. “Of course, when you live out of town, you get to see those spectacular sights away from the city lights, and this particular process of pottery is always a surprise, but I know a few tricks to get certain colours.”

Both Bailey and Croissant said they would collaborate again if they had the opportunity.

“I would love to if Helen would, Bailey said. “I think we make a nice partnership, but we’re always open to what’s next, so who knows.”

Croissant explained that her work is very personal and she does not know what could become her next muse.

“Today it’s some birds,” she said. “I once went through a bunch of old buildings. I’d like to go back to that. I have lots of pictures of bridges. I would like to do a series of bridges … I don’t know where I’m going, as long as I can still paint I guess.”

Bailey said that she follows a similar process in finding a muse.

“I just do one or two of these pit firings a year, and I usually have a good idea of what I want to do with them and where to go from there,” she said. “They’ve been wall pieces in the past where I did moon and sky vignettes again,” Bailey said.

She added that one theme that will likely return is the boreal theme.

Boreal Birds officially opened on Nov. 1. The official artist reception was held on Saturday. The show runs until Nov. 30.