This was a fun learning piece for me—in that I could play with the shape and learned from a new technique. The design came from something I haven’t tried since my NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) days. The design came from something I saw one night as I switched off the TV… just that split second before the screen goes black, there was a shape that caught my eye (the shape that is now the negative space between the handle and the spout). As soon as I was back in the shop, I began to sketch that shape—and lo and behold this is what came from it.
Originally I thought the design was going to be a bird—but soon a wing became a flipper and I knew it was going to be a seal or walrus—then the tusks came and I knew it had to be a walrus. I really wanted the teapot to have the feel of the walrus hide, so I had to think about the etch a lot. From the first drawings, the hind flipper had flipper nails, so the bone of the tusks was also used for these to balance the design. From the idea stage to now, the piece was to have all the qualities it has now when finished, so I am quite pleased.
As the teapot came together, after all the soldering was complete, I suddenly thought of my brother, Russell (Russ for short). Don’t get me wrong—my brother’s teeth aren’t that long—but something in the position of the head and the curve of the tusks made me think of him. When we were kids, my brother always hated anyone calling him “Rusty”. Being a younger brother, this was too tempting—and it became “Rusty bolts and nails”. This would always get a rise out of him—and the lifted hind flipper and raised head in “walrusty” are a reminder of this emotion. So I think deep down, I am still getting a dig in—but, for the record, it’s all in fun, brother!
Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.
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