Kaitlyn Brennan, BFA '10 | Ceramics

“I think it’s easy to feel envious of others' successes, whether it be acceptance to shows you also applied to, grants you didn’t get, or because someone is making really amazing pots. I’ve realized that’s silly, we’re not in competition with one another, we are all just working to make the best pots we can and exploring ideas and themes that matter to us”


Photo provided by Kaitlyn Brennan

AUArts: Who is Kaitlyn Brennan?

KAITLYN BRENNAN: I live in Ottawa, Ontario with my wife and two sons. I completed a BFA in Ceramics at Alberta College of Art + Design (now AUArts) in 2010 and a Post-Baccalaureate in ceramics at the University of Florida in 2011. I've completed residencies at Medalta in Medicine Hat Alberta, Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge Montana and participated in Pentaculum at Arrowmont School of Art and Crafts in Gatlinburg Tennessee. I make functional earthenware pottery that are super textured, very colourful and covered in drawings.

AUArts: What have you been up to since graduating from AUArts (ACAD at the time)? 

BRENNAN: Since graduating, I've had six different studios and my work has really come a long way. When I was at AUArts I was all about atmospheric firings and letting the kiln control my surfaces, my pots were shades of browns and yellows. Like a lot of BFAs, I work a day job and make art as a second job. Six years ago, I took a job running a paint-your-own pottery studio — the kind of ceramics we made fun of in the ceramics department. It turns out it was one of the best paths I could have taken for my work. I was surrounded by 72 gorgeous underglaze colours every day. Evenutally, those colours gradually started making their way onto my pots and now my work is very colourful electric fired earthenware pots. Recently, I ditched the retail environment and decided to follow through on an idea I have had since the first kiln I helped build. I'm currently an apprentice brick and stone mason with a company that does restoration work and I love every minute of it! It is surprising how useful my art degree has been, many of the skills I developed as a student have really aided my growth in the company. I expect when I reflect on my pottery in a couple of years, I will see the impact this career change has had on my practice as well.  

AUArts: What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment so far? 

BRENNAN: Definitely, creating and organizing "New Clay Conference" which took place in May 2019. I was frustrated with studios constantly bringing in the same couple of artists over and over and their unwillingness to bring in a younger artists or female artists. I decided to do something about it. At the conference, we had three amazing demonstrating artists, panel discussions, a big studio tour and almost 100 people attended from 10 provinces and territories. And I’m crazy enough that I’m doing it again this year! This time with four demonstrating artists including two emerging artists who are still in grad school. I'm so proud and excited for this year’s conference because I'm bringing in one of the people that has had a huge impact on my ceramics path, one of our demonstrating artists for 2020 is former AUArts faculty, Katrina Chaytor. 

AUArts: What setbacks have you had along the way and what did you learn from them? 

BRENNAN: For a while I had my studio in the milk house of a dairy barn. Unfortunately, the barn suffered a fire and my studio and kilns were destroyed.  I learned that stuff can always be replaced and that sometimes things happen, and you just have to keep moving.

AUArts: How have you been challenged to see the world differently?

BRENNAN: I am a queer artist and a mother to two boys who have two moms. 


Photo provided by Kaitlyn Brennan

AUArts: In your opinion, why is art, craft, design, and creativity in general, so important to the world today and our future?

BRENNAN: We have a material that provides a platform to reach large audiences. We can do something with that voice. I'm so proud of the worldwide ceramics community for recently raising $50,000 for relief efforts in Australia through Clay for Australia

AUArts: What inspires and motivates you? 

BRENNAN: Honestly, other potters. There are so many talented artists doing so many amazing things right now.  Every time I attend a conference, exhibition or even scroll through Instagram, I'm blown away by what I see. The new ways people are able to use this material to do new things and the way they can express their own style and ideas in something as commonly made as a mug is incredible. I think it’s easy to feel envious of others' successes whether it be acceptance to shows you also applied to, grants you didn’t get, or because someone is making really amazing pots. I’ve realized that’s silly, we’re not in competition with one another, we are all just working to make the best pots we can and exploring ideas and themes that matter to us. I love seeing the amazing things my peers are making, their successes encourage me to keep at because like me they’ve also had some pots epically fail on the way to the great ones.

AUArts: What do you believe are three personal characteristics that contribute to success as an artist?

BENNAN: I think they’re different for everyone, three that are true for me are:

  1. An inability to say no to more projects, shows, responsibilities, etc. I overwork myself and run on zero sleep at times, but it has almost always been worth it. 
  2. It’s a good and bad characteristic but I really really focus on what I’m doing. It’s great because I can get so much done but super bad because I forget what else I'm supposed to be doing. You can have a conversation with me when I’m working and I'm likely to forget it if it wasn’t about whatever I was working on. 
  3. I'm inquisitive and always want to know more. I really seek out opportunities to keep learning as much as I can because I want to know and understand more.

AUArts: What media are you into right now? 

BRENNAN: Audiobooks! I love them. I likely wouldn’t get through more than a physical book or two a year, but with audiobooks I get through closer to 100. Ones I like and have listened to multiple times: We are Legion (We are Bob) and the other two books in the Bobiverse trilogy by Dennis E Taylor. The main character is Bob a software tech that is brought back as the AI consciousness in a space exploring probe that can self-replicate clones of itself that are all slight variations on Bob’s personality. It’s super nerdy but super interesting. 

AUArts: When and where are you happiest?

BRENNAN: In my home studio. I don’t get as much time in there as I would like so when I do, I cherish it. My studio is nothing fancy it’s the unfinished part of our basement just off the laundry room. When I’m in there everything else going on disappears and I can focus for a few hours on making pots and whatever audiobook I'm listening to. When I can’t get in there often enough, I can feel it, I really need that studio time all by myself.    

AUArts: What would you like to be remembered for? 

BRENNAN: I’d like to be remembered for being a hard worker and a good person who was always there for my friends when they needed anything. 


Photo provided by Kaitlyn Brennan

AUArts: Any advice for recent AUArts graduates who are just starting out?

BRENNAN: There is no one path you must follow to be an artist. It could be an MFA and teaching, residencies and apprenticeships, or anything else that works for you such as having a full-time day jobs and making art part-time. Take the opportunities that are right for you, don’t worry about what other people are doing and what you think you’re expected to do next.  

AUArts: What’s next for Kaitlyn?

BRENNAN: 2020 is going to be a busy one for me. I was selected to be included in Ceramics: the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration Volume C  and I will have work in a variety of shows in Canada in the United States throughout the year.  I'm also running the second New Clay Conference in Ottawa May 22-24. When I'm not busy with that I will try to get through a big list of ideas and techniques I want to explore in my studio.  


Photo provided by Kaitlyn Brennan


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