Sandra Ledingham: Founder’s Interivew

In 2015, the SCC is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In 1975, fifty-seven Saskatchewan artisans organized themselves into a determined force with a single voice and a common purpose. That purpose was to promote and raise the profile of Saskatchewan artisans, improve the quality of work produced, and facilitate communication among the membership. Each of these people donated just $5 to this cause and the Saskatchewan Craft Council was born. You can read more about our history here.

Our board members and staff have come together to conduct interviews with as many of these founding members as we can, in celebration of this milestone. We are interested in these founders’ thoughts around why we came into being and their insights for the future.

Sandra Ledingham


Sandra Ledingham just received an Honorary Lifetime Membership from the SCC, as she has been a member since its inception in 1975. Her career has hinged on both practicing her art and teaching ceramics and design to others. The professional ceramic artist is based in Saskatoon, and has. She taught Art Education and Clay at the University of Saskatchewan; developed and headed SIAST’s Ceramic and Design Department at Woodland Campus in Prince Albert, was Art Educator at the Art Gallery of Prince Albert (Mann Gallery), and taught in the Concordia University in Oregon. Her ceramic practice has been continual throughout the years, with participation in national and international exhibitions. She was a founding member of the 5th Street Studio in Saskatoon, as well as AKA Artist Run, which was Saskatchewan’s first artist run centre. She served on the board of the Sundog Handcraft Faire in 1976 and recently was on the Saskatchewan Craft Council Board from 2013-2014.

What compelled you to throw your $5 and yourself into creating a new organization dedicated to supporting craft?

  • Identity and connection to a newly emerging national/international movement in craft. This awareness was brought forward by Wayne and Norma Morgan (Wayne was director of the Dunlop Gallery in Regina). Saskatchewan’s small group of clay people  & craftspeople were a tight little circle, all pondering, dreaming & floundering together, often with social lives intertwining. So the idea of having a single voice and platform for idea sharing, marketing, showing and travelling with our work was awe inspiring.
  • In 1978  the World Craft Council Conference in Kyoto Japan sent 100 of us Canadian craftspeople & craft thinkers to experience ‘Craft East & Craft West.’ An indelible inspiration! Amongst this Canadian crew were pivotal folks such as John Chalk, Robin Hopper, Les Manning and many others. This experience gelled the concept of Craft as a ‘profession’ with history, integrity and honor-ability within North America.
  • 1975 also brought the founding of SUNDOG Renaissance Fair to Saskatoon and the founding of Saskatoon’s 5th Street Studio

What are you most proud of over the last 40 years?

  • My mentor Marilyn Levine at the University of Regina when asked, “How do we make it in this biz?” she said, “Just keep doing it!”  Here we are, the SCC is 40 years old and had the vision to  purchase its own premises and the tenacity to keep on keeping on. I am still building a  career as a ceramic artist and growing and learning in this endless field of clay. Interestingly, it continues to mystify me, not the reverse.
  • A teaching career in the Ceramic Arts is rare privilege that challenged me and allowed learning from an amazing array of students that presented  themselves. Also in 1975, a forward thinking & daring crew in Saskatoon bought an old church and founded 5th Street Studio (Carrie Shapiro, Tom Severson, Danny Shapiro, Marie Lanoo), primarily a clay studio which assisted many of Saskatchewan’s potters to “catch the bug.” In 1975, I moved to Saskatoon to teach in their studio. From them I learned: don’t underestimate Saskatchewan’s potential. They queried me “Who are the great ceramists of North America? Phone them and invite them to present workshops in our (humble)  studio.” With much trepidation I called: Paul Soldner (USA),  Robin Hopper, Joe Fafard, Vic Cicanski , Marilyn Levine, Jack Sures, Sally Mitchner and others.
  • Saskatchewan Legislature Legacy Commission “Multis Gentibus E Vires,” a permanent  clay sculpture installed in the Rotunda of the Saskatchewan Legislature Building in Regina (2012) on the 100th Anniversary of our Legislature.

What has disappointed you?

  • Marketing is a major stumbling block for most artisans & artists. A pursuit = of international opportunities (both in the researching of and securing  of opportunities) is fundamental. The SCC is at the beginning of a much needed retail gallery. We need a large presence dedicated to the material arts.
  • The presence of  paintings within the SCC dilutes a strong , dedicated, proud and loud statement! Fine Arts (paintings and traditional sculpture) have an abundance of museums, galleries, pop ups, venues, cafes, etc for markets. We need to stand defiantly on the grounds of  “We know who we are and we are not going away.”
  • A more significant vehicle for involvement within the SCC.  A loss for this organization who could tap into the vast knowledge/expertise & successes of career craft artists.
  • Education in the Craft Arts. We are not reaching the vast audience we could be. Lets bring a docent program to our Exhibitions? There is expertise amongst the SCC’s members to “walk and talk about the works” and an audience of interested parties: leisure groups, newcomers, school art programs, seniors, marginalized teens, etc.

What are your hopes for the future?

That the SCC continues to strengthen our understanding of “quality craft;” to entrench marketing both internationally and locally; and to find ways to educate on the above.

What are you doing to celebrate Craft Year 2015 and our 40th anniversary?

  • New Zealand Collaboration 2015  Invitation: I am inspired by the World of Wearable Art Exhibition in Auckland and the work Lindsey Embree and Arnfinn Prugger are attempting in Saskatchewan.  I’m jumping on board!
  • Cuba:  All travel for me explores  the History of Clay – its importance, its practices and its stories
  • Mexico: Explorations of  “craft” within the civilizations of this culture. Building a network for making and showing and sharing there.
  • My studio in Saskatoon: Make,  make and  make. This marks the beginning of a studio practice only,  concentrating on “making.”
  • Design:  To continue my investigation into this fascinating field through the history of design and making, with a critical eye.

Any other thoughts?

I  have a deep reverence for the History of Ceramics, this fierce and pivotal material of clay that has shaped the making of the civilization that we live in on earth. Fascinating!

“Life is short / Art is Long.” That should motivate all of us!