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Tánsi - Welcome to my site

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I've been working with clay since the late 1980s. I have an Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics and I love working with clay, mixed mediums, digital works as well as utilizing traditional First Nations art processes.
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About Me

I am a Manitoba Cree (urban), born in Kamloops, BC and raised in Vancouver's downtown eastside, an area that used to be referred to as "skid row." I come from a family of thirteen children and was pretty much raised in complete poverty where the only "visual art" we had hanging on the walls of our home at any given time was a probably a calendar. My interest in art began at a very early age. I used to spent quite a bit of time looking at the collection of the Vancouver Museum which was located at the corner of Main & Hastings streets. I also recall forgoing breakfast in order to paint in a kindergarten teacher's class before school started. I left home at the age of fifteen and supported myself working as a chambermaid and a office cleaner. In 1989, while still working as a chambermaid, I began painting store-bought ceramics and within six months was planning to sell my work at a local Native Arts & Craft Fair in Vancouver. I was short of funds and decided to make my own pots. I bought a small amount of clay from the Carnegie Centre located at the corner of Main & Hastings and with no instruction, (except for a documentary video based on the life of Pueblo potter, Maria Martinez), began production using implements I gathered from my kitchen. I spent the next couple of years researching Ancient and Contemporary Pueblo-style pottery and reproduced those images onto green ware and hand-built pots.

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Formal Education

In 1992, I applied and was accepted into the Fine Arts Program at Langara College. After completing the program, I applied and was accepted into 2nd year at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design where I graduated with a BFA degree in 1997. In 2000, I moved to Regina, Saskatchewan to attend the University of Regina's MFA program in Ceramics where I graduated with an MFA degree in 2003. I returned to Vancouver right after the Fall semester in 2002 and believe me when I say it felt real good to finally be back home.

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Community Work

In the past, I have been involved with the downtown eastside community and have donated a ceramic memorial bowl and two large hand-painted banners pertaining to the Native women who have died as a result of substance abuse and violence in the area, three of whom are my older sisters. I am very concerned about the loss of hope I witness and strive to make changes where ever possible. I have also organized the Inaugural First Nations Awareness Day Event at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design which took place November 20th 1995, as well as the 2nd Annual First Nations Awareness Day Event which took place on January 16th, 1997. I felt that the event was very important to have at the school because of the overwhelming ignorance I and other First Nations students have experienced from a number of non-Native students. The event allowed us to share our visions and experiences. Both events were very successful and we received many extremely positive responses from people who attended. People expressed their gratitude for being given a first hand opportunity to witness first hand the diversity of First Nations cultures while also becoming aware of the sameness of First Nations experiences. I feel that these events encouraged the First Nations students attending Emily Carr to feel a great sense of pride in our cultures. In addition to the two First Nations Awareness Day events, I initiated and organized the first ever First Nations Alumni Art Exhibition in 1998, where 44 First Nations artists had works exhibited in the Concourse Gallery for two weeks. I enlisted the help of Matthew Jacobs (photographer) and Todd Baker (graphic designer) to put together a super poster for the event and must say that it was a pleasure to work with both of these talented alumni.

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While in Regina, saw and experienced quite a bit...kind of felt like Saskatchewan was 50 years behind the times...in comparison to Vancouver, that is! Racism and racist attitudes are quite pronounced there, which I think is really quite unfortunate. It definitely was not a city where I felt "at home" at! There were just too many instances where I found myself on the receiving end of some racist remark, some look of disgust, or some comment where apparently I couldn't be trusted. Since Regina is also a University town, I found it very difficult to make and keep friends because as soon as the year ended people would pack up and move away. I kind of gave up making friends after the second year because it became too painful. I wish I could get back in touch with Marlo...a Metis girl I met...she was a bit older than my daughter and we met and became friends in a Cree language class. I hope she is doing well. She deserves all the best that life can give her! One of the best things I managed to do while in Regina was to raise enough funds to gift eleven First Nations Scott Collegiate high school students with $155 each. There were no stipulations placed on how they were to spend the money. I wanted them to know that the money was raised as part of a community effort. I had made a number of ceramic bowls and decided to offer them for sale at my MFA Opening with the intent of donating the funds to First Nations high school students. People actually lined up to buy with works! I was stuffing cheques, and cash in the pockets of my sweater all evening long. It was quite a success! I made sure that the students became aware of this and I also wanted them to know that this gift was a community effort...that people cared! I was not prepared for their reaction and I definitely got back more that I gave. The experience is something that I will never forget.