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Maker Stories

Collaborations, amazing art-in-neighbourhood community projects and more - Royal Bison vendors are always up to some rad stuff in and around Edmonton. Pick a story and read all about it: 

  • Chinatown Greetings • Emily Chu / Shawn Tse / Ray Dak Lam
  • Science + Business = Art • Mao Projects x Chris Savage
  • Style twins • Meghan MacWhirter x Meghan Gould
  • "Sick ceramics” • Material Culture x Alyson Davies

Chinatown Greetings: Neighbourhood life through art

Chinatown Greetings is an artist initiated community fundraiser centering in Edmonton's Chinatown. Through a limited run of illustrated poster scrolls, founders Emily Chu and Shawn Tse plus artist Ray Dak Lam hope to show Edmonton's Chinatown area more love through the power of art. 


100% of the proceeds from this artwork will go towards funding more arts-initiated events in Chinatown, and to ultimately raise awareness and encourage more foot-traffic to the community. Chinatown Greetings is one of Royal Bison's community tables this fall 2021 season! 


CHECK OUT CHINATOWN GREETINGS AT THE FALL 2021 ROYAL BISON ONLINE FROM SEPT 10-12, 2021.


 Q: What is Chinatown Greetings? Who is involved? Sounds like this is a bit of a collaboration!


A: We are an artist initiated community fundraiser centering Chinatown, using art to bring more appreciation and support to our city's heritage neighbourhood. Chinatown continues to face many challenges. We hope to show Chinatown more love through the power of Art. This project is organized by Emily Chu and Shawn Tse. It is made possible by the support and talent of local artist Ray Dak Lam. 


Our first mission at the soft launch (Royal Bison, Sept 10-12) is to gather support from artists and Chinatown supporters all over the city for this fundraiser. 100% of proceeds will go towards funding more arts-initiated events in Chinatown, to ultimately raise awareness and encourage more foot-traffic to the community.


Q: How did your collab come about? Did you meet in person, or online? How did you decide to work together?


A: In some ways, this project naturally formed from other community projects between Emily and Shawn (and the rest of the team at aiya哎呀). Remember those Chinatown prints from the last Bison? Well, this project is an extension of that! Proceeds from Emily's prints were collected into a "Chinatown Art Fund", which allowed us to hire local artist Ray Dak Lam to create a large illustration to celebrate the Chinatown community, and also create this fundraiser! 


How did we work together? After Emily's sketch sessions, aiya哎呀 and Emily met in her backyard to discuss ways to use collected funds. And from there, Emily and Shawn organized this project little by little over the phone, with babies babbling on both ends (we also bonded as new parents). 


This IS a collaboration project, and we are building a network of artists who wish to work with Chinatown. Emily engages with her art network to work on creative, while Shawn helps as a cultural liaison to engage and bridge ideas with the Chinatown community - Ultimately navigating ways to build a healthy relationship between Artists and the Chinatown community for sustainable long-term work.


Q: What are your mediums of choice?

We try to not put any limitations on creativity. We wish to work with artists who have a desire to bring community care and positive impact to Chinatown. In this case, we asked Ray to bring in his memories and appreciation of Chinatown into the illustration. Ray has his own special connection with Chinatown, which was very important to us when choosing to work with an artist.


Here is what Ray had to say about Chinatown: 

"Growing up as a child of immigrants in Edmonton, South Chinatown was a vital community to my family. My great-uncle was the owner of the Mirama building and that was where our family gathered every Chinese New Year. It was also a place for weddings, dinners, and dim sum lunches. I remember as a child exploring the shops on the ground level, watching the koi in the indoor pond, and running through the halls of the building. Part of my childhood was also spent at the daycare in the South Chinatown area, and Double Greeting WonTon house is a restaurant that we frequently still visit."

Q: What are you making together?

Our project is actually more than just products. First of all, we are printing scrolls of Ray's artwork, to give to businesses in Chinatown to display on their storefronts. We want this image to capture our pride in the neighbourhood, and to celebrate Asian culture and the heritage of Chinatown. We will also be selling a limited run of scrolls/posters to the public. It's kind of a buy one, gift one type of fundraiser. There will be 100 scrolls gifted to Chinatown businesses, and 100 limited edition scrolls sold to the public. In addition, we are also making stickers, pins, buttons, and other goodies. 100% of proceeds will be donated back into community initiatives. 


Following Royal Bison, the products will also be available through an official launch later in September. On launch day, we invite the public to come into Chinatown to purchase/pickup goods from this collection. They will be able to walk through Chinatown and see all of the scrolls displayed in storefronts. There will also be a "scavenger hunt" via social media to take photos at various points of interest in Chinatown. The winner will receive a prize pack of amazing local goods made by Asian artists, including: Emily Chu, Prairie Poly, JYJ Ceramics, Yu-Chen Tseng, Hop n Flop, and more!


Q: How does collaboration build community with this project?

We wish to build a network and directory of Chinatown supporting artists through this project! We already have strong support from many artists and community members, but we wish to expand that directory. We want to show Chinatown lots of love, as they have faced many challenges - A recent article shared that the district has lost nearly 30% of it's businesses during the pandemic. We wish to use the power of art to connect, bring awareness, but also spread appreciation and love for the neighbourhood. It is urgent, and this project helps to build onto our network of artists who wish to be involved in the future of Chinatown. 


Q: How does collaboration build and grow your own individual studio practices?

Collaborations keep us accountable, and also inspires us to continue working towards these mutual goals. As well, community work is challenging and requires openness for diverse perspectives and on-going negotiation. Artistically, we challenge and inspire each other and I think that has a ripple effect (I'm sure the public can pick up our excitement about Ray's artwork, haha). 


Q: What was the biggest surprise/neat thing about working together?

I think we've both learned so much from each other over this past year. There are always new things to learn about Chinatown. There's a growing movement of art projects happening in the community, and just keeping up with the always-changing district. We have both connected each other to new cultural and artistic communities, hence growing our overlapping network. But I think the biggest surprise was initially finding out that we are both new parents - to 2 boys about 6 months apart and we hope to share and celebrate Chinatown with them and the next generations too.


Q: Any fun studio stories/music you were listening to/inspiration taped up on the walls/social media accounts you were looking at as you worked?

Nope. But Shawn did share some amazing documentation of Beijing and Cantonese Opera, from his filmed footage pre-pandemic when groups would practice at the Chinatown Multi-Cultural Centre! Emily has mostly been listening to R&B about heartbreak on Spotify - What's new?


Science + Business = Art: Chen Kun x Chris Savage



Artists Mao (Kun) Chen and Chris Savage both started out in post secondary education in very different fields from art and design - one in science and the other in business. Are we ever glad they found their way to art and ceramics! Read on to hear the duo's collaboration story and spy these multi-layered ceramics:


CHECK OUT MAO PROJECTS AT THE FALL 2021 ROYAL BISON ONLINE FROM SEPT 10-12, 2021.


Q: Tell us how you became a maker/artist/designer/craftsperson:

We both started out in post secondary education in very different fields from art and design, Mao in Science and Chris in Business, but naturally gravitated towards it and began to pursue it in our studies independently of one another. It eventually brought us together and brought about the collaborative works we make.


Q: What are your mediums of choice?

We work together on ceramic objects that are both functional and sculptural, blending our respective backgrounds in painting and drawing.


Q: What are you making together?

Currently, we are on a two month residency together at Medalta, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, working on our series of collaborative ceramics for some upcoming projects :)


Q: How did your collab come about? Did you meet in person, or online? How did you decide to work together?

We met while completing our MFA’s at the University of Calgary, we began to make the collaborative ceramics a short time afterwards and it has become a significant portion of our artistic practices and lives.


Q: How does collaboration build community for you?

Collaboration builds community, for us, through the opportunity to be active in the community through events, like the Royal Bison, and the residency experience we are currently doing. We are fortunate and grateful for these experiences as we really value, and are inspired by, getting to meet other makers and ceramics enthusiasts. 


Q: How does collaboration build and grow your studio practices?

Collaborating has allowed us to share certain tasks of the creative process, while also maintaining and developing our individual preferences. We are constantly talking and sharing ideas about the process, which has allowed us to grow as we take risks and continue to explore ceramics. 


Q: What was the biggest surprise/neat thing about working together?

We think it is quite neat that despite our very different working styles we find a way to make objects that, to us, feel like cohesive works in the combination of the styles.


Q: Any fun studio stories/music you were listening to/inspiration taped up on the walls/social media accounts you were looking at as you worked?

Mao usually likes to listen to loud electronic music in the studio and Chris generally prefers a good audio book to listen to. We rotate who is connected to the speakers in the studio :)


Style Twins: Meghan MacWhirter x Meghan Gould


 Becoming digital friends on social media, two Meghans (Meghan Gould and Meghan MacWhirter) discovered complimentary styles and respect for each other's style and craft. Deciding to make their ideas come together IRL, a bright and quirky collab was born. After all, two Meghans making ceramics can't be wrong, now can it?


CHECK OUT MEGHAN MACWHIRTER and MEGHAN GOULD AT THE FALL 2021 ROYAL BISON ONLINE FROM SEPT 10-12, 2021.


Q: Tell us how you became a maker/artist/designer/craftsperson!

Both of us have always been artistically inclined and both of us have gone to art school to pursue art in our careers. Meghan G. is currently a student AUArts and Meghan M. recently graduated with an art degree from the University of Lethbridge. Both of us found our love for ceramics while in school!


Q: What are your mediums of choice?

Both of us work solely in ceramics and fibre!


Q: What are you making together?

We are making cute and colourful earrings and wall hangings using ceramics and pom poms. Something cute for both your ears and for your home!


Q: How did your collab come about? Did you meet in person, or online? How did you decide to work together?

We became friends through Instagram and realized we had a similar art style and a love for a similar aesthetic and thought we should make something out of it! We have been talking a lot online and we have met up a couple of times to work on this collaboration together in person.


Q:  How does collaboration build community?

Competition has no place in the ceramics community, and instead of two Meghan’s working in ceramics being in competition with one other, we only have feelings of love and support for each other. Collaboration builds a community in which it is safe and fun to learn from each other, rather than take away from each other.


Q: How does collaboration build and grow your studio practices?

We both learned additional skills and tricks from each other, and we learned how to communicate with each other regarding our collaboration. We both work alone and from home, so working together and learning how to communicate our ideas, and dividing the workload was crucial in this project!


Q: What was the biggest surprise/neat thing about working together?

We just love each other’s work so much and to be able to see our ideas come together and have a physical product in front of us is truly magical! We are really proud of what we’ve made together and would like to keep it all for ourselves.


Q: Any fun studio stories/music you were listening to/inspiration taped up on the walls/social media accounts you were looking at as you worked?

We watched New Girl while we wrote this. And, of course, we are obsessed with each other’s Instagram accounts and found great inspiration in each other’s work!


"Sick Ceramics": Material Culture x Alyson Davies



Artist Alyson Davies and ceramicist Genevieve Ongaro grew up hanging around soccer fields in Ardrossan, Alberta. Years later, a very different set of activities would bring them together, a collaboration melding Alyson's painting and drawing onto Genevieve's handmade pots. Read on to find out what hours of YouTube jazz compilations (Alyson) and binge-watching Drive to Survive (Genevieve) in the studio did to their work! 


Check out Material Culture at the Fall 2021 Royal Bison ONLINE from Sept 10-12, 2021.


Q: Tell us how you became a maker/artist/designer/craftsperson!

Alyson: It couldn't be helped, I was a weirdo kid that excelled at craft time at girl guides and well here we are.

Genevieve: I completed the Bachelor of Design program at the UofA and I’m currently a full time designer, but I took a pottery class 4 years ago and fell in love with hand-building! 


Q: What are your mediums of choice?

Alyson: Painting, Ceramics, textiles, I like to jump around

Genevieve: Ceramics :)


Q: What are you making together?

"Sick ceramics”! Genevieve built the forms by pinching and coil-building, and Alyson applied her wonderful drawings/paintings to the clay canvasses with underglaze.


Q: How did your collab come about? Did you meet in person, or online? How did you decide to work together?

Alyson: I watched Genevieve play soccer for a million years

Genevieve: We’ve known each other for a long time and I’ve wanted to have her paintings on my wonky pots for many moons! I'm obsessed with Alyson's style and nabbed one of her large paintings for myself recently. 

Q: How does collaboration build community?

2 cool people from Ardrossan making cool stuff and bringing it to the world, very community.


Q: How does collaboration build and grow your studio practices?

Alyson: I used to work in an artist collective, through grad school I was solo, working with Genevieve relit the fires.

Genevieve: It can push you outside your comfort zone, or just allow your work to really come alive in a different way. 


Q: What was the biggest surprise/neat thing about working together?

Alyson: Getting to peek into another artist's practice.

Genevieve: Having my magical vase dreams become a reality. 


Q: Any fun studio stories/music you were listening to/inspiration taped up on the walls/social media accounts you were looking at as you worked?

Alyson: I listened to a bunch of those 10 hour long jazz compilations on youtube and the back catalogue of Regina Spektor.

Genevieve: I watched a lot of “Drive to Survive” on Netflix which is a little off-brand but #drama