Neil: I like the anonymity. The name came from the Facebook site, not really wanting to be known for some of the things I put out there. The story about that came from an old 60’s spider man cartoon. I posted it on the Facebook site a few times. Dr. Noah Body who was the “invisible man”, so that is how it all began.
Mimi: That seems appropriate for Facebook
Neil: Absolutely, it is the alter ego, primarily for Facebook
Mimi: Is it your artistic name?
Neil: No, I go by Neil P. Doherty
Mimi: That is quite nice to have two names, whatever mood you are in
Neil: That’s true. I probably have a list of names I don’t know about!
Mimi: So, you’re from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada, is that correct?
Neil: That is correct, yes
Mimi: What is your favorite childhood memory in that time of your life?
Neil: I think just growing up as a kid. I think lately I reflect on youth and the time we had to do whatever we wanted to do, be it sit on grass and look up at the sky for hours on end. These days that time does not seem to be available.
Mimi: That must have been a beautiful place to grow up in
Neil: Absolutely, so my mum’s mom was my baba and gigi, the Ukrainian side of things and then my grandmother was my dad’s side. Both visiting their places, their homes, their yards, the landscapes, was kind of different because my mum’s side lived in the city, had lived there many, many years. It was a huge open yard, crab apple trees, a big garden a pine tree that my sister and I would climb and get on the roof and all that stuff. My grandmothers side was a big farm area with many houses, again, on the same plot of land that had been used for decades and just exploring that , it was the vastness , walking so far to railroad tracks , then peering down those for as long as they could go . It was neat growing up in that and having that experience.
Mimi: Is your family or some of your family still in Canada?
Neil: Yes, my sister Laura, she is married with three kids and lives in Ontario and outside of that the family has pretty much dissolved. My mum was the youngest child and she passed away a couple years ago and when my father died the family hit rifts with, you know who gets what and that caused a lot of static and tension, I have an uncle that is still in Winnipeg and a cousins throughout western Canada, an aunt and uncle who I haven’t seen since my baba died which was a long time ago, but they live in Vancouver somewhere. My father lives in North Carolina.
Mimi: So, everyone’s spread out a bit.
Neil: Yes, everyone is everywhere.
Mimi: So, you are a mechanical engineer by trade. Which came first, the interest in the art or the interest in engineering?
Neil: I think it would be both. As a young kid playing with a lot of Lego, Tinker Toys and just building things, taking things apart and trying to put them back together - sometimes not very successfully. Just being creative in that sort of realm, and always having a creative spirit growing up. In high school I was transferred to a high school with a fine arts program. I got the fine arts diploma through there; I had intentions to continue on but always had an interest in science and mathematics. In 1988, September 22nd I was in a mega car crash, not comatose but I was in the hospital for awhile and when I got out, my art did not depreciate, my grades were still great but all of a sudden my biology which used to be a 60 was now in the 90s, physics and calculus, it all went up. Something rattled one side of my brain; I guess that would be the left side, so the right side remained intact and the left side got shaken up and I am now on this fine line
Mimi: Well, I was going to say you seem very balanced with both sides actually.
Mimi: How interesting! So how long did it take to occur to you that the other side was more stimulated?
Neil: Again, just by being in high school and grades going up and having more of an appreciation for it. In retrospect, we always say, if we could change things , I have always wondered what it would have been like if I had just continued with the arts and had not pursued engineering at the time . I had Leo Mol who was a sculpture from the Ukraine who moved to Winnipeg at a young age, when his family moved there. I think I was in grade ten; I think this was after the accident. There was a letter of apprenticeship from Leo Mol requesting me to be interviewed as an apprentice for him, I turned around and told my mom “I’m not interested; I’m not going to waste my time with that, I’m going to pursue the engineering side of things.”
Mimi: Were there lots of Ukrainian families where you grew up?
Neil: Well Winnipeg is a multi-cultural melting pot; it is the hub of Canada. About twenty minutes away from downtown Winnipeg is the longitudinal center of Canada. There are Ukrainian, Polish, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese; you name it - little districts throughout the city. It is the only city that holds something called Folkorama. Two weeks out of the year they do a big folk festival. Basically you can go to an Italian pavilion and have the music, the drink and the clothing; you can go to a Thai pavilion, etc., so you get a bit of each heritage.
Mimi: So you have been to this I take it
Neil: I have been to it many times
Mimi: Do you have dual citizenship?
Neil: I do not. No, I am still Canadian. With work I am on a Visa doing the engineering thing. That is kind of a challenge. I’ve contemplated it and I would like to at least get the green card so that it would open some doors as to what else I could be doing.
Mimi: How long have you been doing ceramics?
Neil: Probably when you are in elementary school when they first give you clay, I just love playing with it and I guess my mom saw something in it because she planned it where I would go with this instructor Jordan Van Sewell who is still up there doing ceramics in Winnipeg. He taught a class of kids. I just really enjoy doing it. I kind of stopped during university. I picked up ceramics again in 2010, so there was a twelve year lapse where I didn’t do any ceramics or art for that matter.
Mimi: Where do you get your inspiration?
Neil: Everywhere. Sometimes from what things I see and sometimes they manifest themselves into these creatures , other times I have dreams where there are images, I wake up and scratch it on a piece of paper. A lot of times anything any one creates, their experiences and the feedback they are given, is inspiration, be it a canvas or music or ceramics.
Mimi: But you took to that.
Neil: I like the three dimensional aspect, I like the tangible; I can get my hands on it. I can make it something and with a two dimensional objects, it is kind of what you see is what you get, not that it is a bad thing but, you take a 2D object and if you could just peer around the corner and see what is right behind it, you know, that is where I really enjoy doing my ceramics.
Mimi: More compelling to you.
Mimi: What other mediums have you worked in?
Neil: I painted in acrylics… did a lot of that and that was very similar because you could control it. I just liked the way the texture of acrylics would play out when I painted with them. Similar to what I do with glazes where I can mix the acrylics together and get different colors that you wouldn’t expect to get. I am now trying to do that with glazes. Photography, I never really expected to be showing photos to people in galleries or selling them to anybody but I had a friend Shannon Bigler who suggested, he took several years of photography in school and when he saw my hobby, he suggested I show them and they have been well received so, it is something I do but not as much anymore. I’m trying to boil my niches down to just one, not painting and ceramics, photography and professional life.
Mimi: So you’re trying to focus?
Neil: Yes, trying to, yes. I think you get a better product if you are able to do that.
Mimi: Do you think that working in ceramics is your favorite then?
Neil: Oh yeah, it is like being a kid again, playing with Lego, you can create whatever you want out of it. I don’t even know if I should be saying that “L” word but , my apology, but yeah , you can create anything, it’s your imagination and a lot of things I do, I will have an idea in mind but in the end it’s completely different , it becomes an improvisational piece. The results are not always what I had in mind when I had this image, when I started, and sometimes it is like a sketch and it grows from that as you get your hands on it.
Mimi: So it’s still exciting.
Neil: Oh yeah, I think it will always be exciting, and there are so many things you can do with it.
Mimi: Do you think it is important to have a clean work environment or can you work when things are messy?
Neil: I like to start clean, I like to have a clean work space to avoid the clutter, not necessarily the distraction, I just like to have the space so you’re not worried about moving things around or it grabs your attention and you all of a sudden you start doing that instead of what you are supposed to be working on. When you work with ceramics things tend to get pretty messy or if you are making a large piece you need the room to put things in places that are not directly in your way but you can still look at them as you work the primary part of your piece.
Mimi: Your work has many delicate tendrils and extensions; do you worry about this when you are firing a piece? Will it come out alive?
Neil: I have been lucky I suppose. I have made several pieces where when I first started doing the tendril type things it was again what I felt, working and visualizing what I see. To actually try and figure out how you are going to put it in the kiln safely and then and move it. Now what happens, it is not necessarily planned but there is a lot more thought into how are you going to be able to handle this piece? Are you going to be able to manipulate it when you are glazing it? But still not interfere with that creative side. Things don’t necessarily have to be in a certain place you can just be free for all.
Mimi: Do you lose lot’s of pieces or not too many?
Neil: I’ve only had one piece explode in my kiln.
Mimi: Well, that is pretty good odds, isn’t it?
Neil: Yes, It is pretty lucky and you know it survived to the point that is sits out there and scares the pigeons away.
Mimi: So you utilized it!
Neil: The calculations of creating a piece that is hollow, everything I do is completely hollow, that takes a lot of thought. Not in the sense that okay, it is all going to be hollow, but to make it flow and to have maybe one hole or two holes in it.
Mimi: How do you decide that?
Neil: I guess it is through experience now.
Mimi: Does that give it venting?
Neil: Yes, it is essentially like a popcorn kernel with water in it, if you heat it up it is going to explode, same thing if it is pockets of air that is going to explode or crack. I guess now when I make them I have an idea of what it is going to look like and as I am building it, I am thinking, okay, how is this going to come together where it is still all hollow and still be able to breathe without catastrophic failure.
Mimi: How long does it generally take to finish a piece?
Neil: It really depends on the detail and the size, not that the larger (the piece) it takes the longer it takes, sometimes it is the smaller ones that take a lot longer. On average I would say about fifteen to twenty five hours… that is before glazing.
Mimi: Do you know what colors you are going to use beforehand or do you decide after the piece is fired?
Neil: Most of the time it would be beforehand, but again, I am now trying to experiment with glazes. I am trying to do that with test tiles as opposed to actual pieces. I have contacted several people trying to figure out how to do gold or a pink chrome glaze. I have a piece up here , “Holly The Giraffe”, I want it to look like cotton candy , shiny cotton candy but with chrome , a reflective surface , no one can tell me how this is done so I’ve been reading recipes and trying them out and still working on it, so that is something I will try and attain one day. That will be the secret formula.
Mimi: That is the scientific side.
Neil: Yes, it absolutely is. So, most of the time I have colors in mind but that is not always the colors I end up using , because the piece changes from start to finish , maybe what I thought should be bright, now is darker.
Mimi: So, so you mix glazes together to get the colors that you want?
Neil: Yes, I try; I mean it is not the same chemistry as using paint because the glazed react.
Mimi: Yes, so you don’t actually know what is going to happen if it is a color you haven’t used before.
Neil: Right, exactly. I try now to use test tiles, make little notes and get into the more scientific side of things.
Mimi: Do you find that part interesting?
Neil: I do, again this is the quest for the pink chrome!
Mimi: The elusive quest.
Neil: It is.
Mimi: You’ll get it, I’m sure you will get it, I’m sure you will get it.
Neil: I hope so.
Mimi: What do you think your favorite ceramic piece is that you have done?
Neil : I think all of them , I enjoy them all , I can’t pick one and say: “this is my favorite, this is the one I like most”. I think everything I create , I have the ability to smash it all together if I don’t like it and that’s not to say that I haven’t smashed pieces when they are finished . I don’t do that anymore but, I guess depending on my mood and certain pieces, where I was in life, it may have sentimental value for certain reasons.
Mimi: Are you as attached to them when you are finished? Or are you more attached to them when you are in the process?
Neil: I try and care for it and nurture it like a child as I am making it because it is delicate, it is very fragile and the way I set these things up, isn’t always easy. Putting longs necks of clay out in the open, they don’t have the structure to hold them together; you have to be thinking about it, you know I’ll go peer in on them as they are drying out.
Mimi: Do they get propped up as you are working on them?
Neil: Some of them, sometimes gravity is your friend and sometimes it is your worst enemy.
Mimi: Now, tell me about the erotic art festival and your piece in it.
Neil: Well, I submitted three pieces and… that was interesting as well because I had these pieces in mind with no idea or thought to submitting them to the festival and two of them are very similar, they are very long swooping figures or forms, I visualize serpentine, snake like with human features like hands clasped or long hands, long fingernails pressed against, praying hands if you will, and that was just an idea I had in my head. I just like the flowing lines, because I would be sketching this thing and I just wanted to do something like it. The third piece was my first true attempt at the human figure and the face. The figure turned out quite well, the face I am not happy with but it was my first and it is going to take a lot of practice to perfect it. In the end I had a friend that suggested that I enter them and two of them were accepted, the two swoopy pieces were accepted, so I was happy with that.
Mimi: So was that an interesting experience?
Neil: It was a cool event to be part of I think.
Mimi: Did you see some good work?
Neil: There was some incredible work, there was some very creative work and then there were some things, you know, not everything turns everyone’s boat. I left there inspired to do more.
Mimi: That is very good. So, if they have it again next year do you think you would submit?
Neil: oh absolutely, they will be doing it again and I will be submitting some pieces and I hope I am entered again.
Mimi: If you were asked to do a ceramic sculpture of yourself, what would it look like and what would you be doing?
Neil: Immediately I thought of just a block. (LONG PAUSE) That is a tough question, because I think that every piece that I do has a little bit of me in it.
Mimi: That is a good answer
Neil : Well , that’s what it is I think, I’m looking at my pieces (Neil glances at some of his works) and again everything that I do there is something about me in them . That is the very same thing in painting and photography; I see what I want other people to see. Sometimes this is dark or a little morose, well maybe that is where I was at the time, so that is a reflection of me at that time. Everything I do has a little of me in it , but to do one piece that is just me , I think that is a lifelong project and that is more like a collection of things as opposed to one .
Mimi: Now are you ready for this question?
Neil: I don’t know, you will have to ask.
Mimi: The grand finale question. You are asked to do a display of your work floating on small blue rafts on a quiet lake the display would be at night time only illuminate by floating lanterns . Your water exhibition needs to be cohesive, what kind of work would you make for this project?
Neil: I think I have recently been trying to follow these flowing lines, the study of natural lines in nature, waves have lines. Incorporating a dark sexy width into a piece like that, large, very large…
Mimi: What color?
Neil: Well it is dark, so, I think it would be a rainbow of colors but leaning to purples and reds, oranges to light greens and blues depending on how it flowed, maybe higher up brighter colors down to darker colors that would blend in with the water and the rafts…
Mimi: So many rafts holding one large piece perhaps?
Neil: Yes, or several of them dancing together.
Mimi: And now I would like to know what you have upcoming?
Neil : Upcoming , well upcoming , after my accident , I broke my shoulder , I have had a lot of time to think of ideas , I have been frustrated that I can’t do anything . What I tried to do, my arm was not willing to cooperate, so I would spend a lot of time sketching ideas or just locking them in my mind of what I am going to do next. I have ideas for larger pieces and since I have moved to a larger space, I have tended to grow as the space got larger. Now I have visions of doing larger pieces, several feet, I would also like to get into the metal casting aspect. I have had several ideas for a long time; I think some pretty cool art installations.
Mimi: Would you combine ceramics and metal together?
Neil: I have thought about combining ceramics and glass to start with. I do have a piece in mind it is (currently) titled “The Cock Train” which may include metal as well as glass and definitely ceramics. I have been thinking about some fountain like pieces and just larger installations. Maybe not the goal of every artist but me personally is to become more recognized, to be able to do larger installations where they are permanent installations. So, I have those goals, then just trying to find the time with everything else that I do, to make that happen.
Mimi: Very good! I am excited to see that work
Neil: Well I am excited to get started
Mimi: Yes, it sounds like you have lots of ideas stored up in your head
Neil: I do, I do
Mimi: So Neil, this has been pleasure learning about your work
Neil: Well, thank you Mimi.
Mimi: I look forward to the things in the future
Neil: Me too
Mimi: Thank you.
Neil: Thank you.
I used thin cut pork chops, bone in for flavor
1 cup green sauce
2tbs. of jerk spice
6 large 2 inch chunks of fresh pineapple
Sauté pork on stovetop in olive oil and dry jerk spices
Add ¼ cup of stock, (whatever kind you like}
Add green sauce and pineapple chunks
Put in pre-heated oven at temp of 360 for three hours
You may need to add more stock, green sauce and salt and pepper
Pull out of oven and serve over coconut rice and condiments
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
1 tablespoon onion flakes 2 teaspoons ground thyme 1 teaspoon dried parsley 1 teaspoon ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon garlic powder 2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons dried chives Directions: 1 Mix together all the ingredients. 2 Store leftovers in a tightly closed glass jar. 3 It will keep its strength for over a month.
1 bundle of Cilantro (about 1-2 cups)
1 stalk of celery (include leaves if you have it)
1 head or garlic (about 11 cloves)
4 green onions (scallions)
1 bunch of fresh thyme (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup of water
pinch of salt (optional)
2-3 shallots (optional)
2 pimento peppers (1 banana pepper or 1 Jalapeno )
*Food processor or blender.
1-2 cups of rice
2 tsp of butter
1 clove of garlic -minced
2tsp of fresh ginger –minced
1 cinnamon stick
¾ cup of coconut milk
Chicken stock to boil the rice
1 tsp of sugar
½ tsp of good salt
¼ tsp of lime zest
¼ tsp of pepper or to taste
¼ cup of shredded coconut –optional
Melt butter add ginger, garlic and cinnamon stick, sauté, stir in rice add chicken stock, coconut milk, sugar, salt lime zest and pepper cook until rice is done.
1 medium sized dry coconut kernel
1 tbsp. of minced chadon beni/cilantro
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. of salt
2 minced chillies
1. Over open fire or grill, roast coconut kernel.
2. After, grate in blender.
3. Add chadon beni/cilantro, chillies, salt, garlic and mix thoroughly.
1 lb. of grated pineapple
1 1/2 tsp. of lime juice
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 cups of water
1. Place pineapple in bowl and add water till pineapple is covered; boil until soft and drain.
2. Rub pineapple though a sieve.
3. Combine sugar and pineapple (1/2 cup of sugar to 1 cup of pineapple) in saucepan and boil till jam consistency.
4. Bottle in a sterilized jar.