Isa Sevrain in purple hat

Isa Sevrain

I am a ceramic artist who makes hand-built mosaics and mixed-media art installations. My approach to everything I create artistically is through dance: when I draw I dance with line; when I paint I dance in colour; and when I work the clay, I dance with its mass. Movement fascinates me because it becomes an expression. And I plan to keep on dancing.

I live in Victoria, B.C. in Canada but I am from a traditional French village near Bordeaux in southwest France. My childhood was infused with the culture of the village, gossip, old stones, accordion “flonflon”, Strauss waltzes, and carnival in August. When I was a child, a painter gave me the most beautiful book I had ever seen, an illustrated Japanese story-book. I think it was the main inspiration of my childhood, an encouragement to believe in the power of expressing my heart.

A classical French education in boarding school led me to rebellion, rock’n roll, cinema and dance. In 1982 I found myself in the “big” city of Bordeaux. I started to go to the mime school of Philippe Bizot. For the next five years I worked with different theatre companies and I took jazz and African dance classes. I added travel to my insatiable curiosity to meet more and more people. In 1987 I was working in Switzerland, saving to go live in the Caribbean for a while, but after meeting some Quebecois, I bought a ticket for Montreal. Arriving in December, I questioned my sanity. But I know now it was meant to be. In retrospect, moving to Canada has been one of the best things that has happened to me.

After moving out west, I traveled between the Gulf islands and the Yukon. In 1992 I stopped in Nanaimo and took courses in fine arts at Malaspina College with Ian Garriock, Iris Church, and later with other artists including Tony Onley in watercolour, Heather Spears in life drawing, Carole Ray in lino cut, and ceramic with Ian Nattras and Deb Taylor. I also continue to go to life drawing classes which is my favorite way of learning.

At the beginning of my exploration of ceramics, I used standard tiles as a medium for drawing, as one would use a canvas. The durability and functional aspects of this medium were attractive to me. Little by little, I became tempted to find my subject matter in the raw materials themselves. I hand-crafted and painted ceramic tiles for my mosaic art. The clay thus added a dimension to these researches: draw a line in the clay, touch it and hold it actually, explore the world of form with it. Initially malleable, the clay in the drying process becomes more fragile. Once fired, its rigidity fixes the movement in space and time like an arrêt sur image, a glimpse of eternity. In my work, I try to distill the emotions that are inherent in movement: I dance with the clay, sometimes complying with its nature, sometimes managing to impose my desire for movement. I use colours to provide a great variety of effects and to bring harmony. The application of grout between each piece of ceramic connects their forms. As a last step I paint on the grout itself, which gives the effect of fresco.

My work is infused with a sense of humour and playfulness which I hope to share. Mosaic contains many elements of life; it is an architecture that allows more to be built on, and on, and on.


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© Isa Sevrain 2014

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