Mignosa, Santo


Maker Name

Mignosa, Santo


Santo Mignosa was a much-loved presence and a significant post-war founding artist in BC - a celebrated Modernist clay sculptor, a dedicated educator, a potter, an extraordinary muralist, and a rigorous technician.
Born in Priolo Gargallo, Sicily, to a family that manufactured roof tiles and bricks, Santo was the youngest of eleven children. His Canadian career started in the late 1950s when he first taught clay sculpture at the legendary UBC Ceramics Huts, then, in the 1960s at the Kootenay School of Art, and then, for two decades at the University of Calgary. Early in the 1990s Santo returned to Vancouver where he engaged with the Shadbolt, Centre for the Arts, and the West Coast Clay Sculpture Association, taught for the Vancouver Academy of Art and finally for Art in the Country in Aldergrove. Throughout the 1960s and 70s his work was frequently exhibited and awarded in major international exhibitions. In the 1970s Santo was one of the few Canadian representatives in the International Academy of Ceramics. In 1980 his work was included in the historic exhibition, ‘Retrospect 80’, held at Robson Square marking the 25th Anniversary of the PGBC. In 2011 his work was included in ‘The Modern Eye” in Victoria, and in 2020/21 in the seminal exhibition, “Modern in the Making,” at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Curators - Daina Augaitis, Allan Collier, Stephanie Rebick) In 2020 Santo's work was installed in the window of the Craft Council of BC, in honour of his mentorship of BC ceramics.
Santo attended the Institute of Art in Florence graduating in 1954, where he was rigorously trained in ceramics and in anatomy, drawing and painting. He taught in Siracrusa before he immigrated to Canada in 1957. By 1959 he took up pottery at the UBC Ceramic Huts after meeting Olea Davis (founder of the Potters Guild of BC-1955) who became a supportive friend and mentor. He taught at the Huts until 1961, along with Thomas Kakinuma, another important founding ceramic artist, and alongside an extraordinary array of international artist-teachers that Olea organized for the Huts and the Potters Guild of BC. He also served on the Board of the Potters Guild of BC before he left Vancouver for Nelson. Santo taught between 1961-69 at Kootenay School of Art after artist/ instructor /founder of the KSA, - Zeljko Kujundzic, and before potter/instructor - Walter Dexter.
While at the KSA, in 1965 Santo facilitated Hal Riegger's first Raku workshop in BC - a 2-week "exploring" field trip (primitive techniques, including firing, use of glaze materials found in nature) at University of Notre Dame, Nelson. Santo believed one of his roles as a teacher was to encourage students to take any opportunity to exhibit and so he encouraged his KSA students to participate in the Annual Exhibition of Ceramic Arts held in Faenza, Italy. In 1966 and 1967, the KSA class, which included two Inuit students, won silver medals as the Best Overall School, determined by a jury of seven European artists. The accomplishment added further credibility to skills being taught at KSA, and to Santo’s dedication as an educator.
Throughout his career Santo was frequently included and awarded in national and international exhibitions; winning the Gold Medal at the Second Exposition International des Chef d'Oeuvres de la Ceramique Modern, Ostend, Belgium in 1959, and in 1962 the Silver Medal, and in 1966 another Silver Medal at the 24th International Ceramic Exhibition in Faenza, Italy. In 1967 he received a Canada Arts Council Senior Art Award.
Santo became a professor at the University of Calgary from 1969 -1989 teaching ceramics, sculpture, figure drawing and anatomy. In 1972 he took a Sabbatical and earned his MFA at Alfred University. In 1973 Santo was coordinator of a large international exhibition “Ceramic International 73”, for the International Academy of Ceramics, held at Alberta College of Art in Calgary. Later in 1973 his work was recognized when he received the Achievement Award from the Government of Alberta.
After retiring from teaching at the University of Calgary Santo returned to Vancouver and established his home and a large studio on Dollarton Hwy in North Vancouver. To integrate himself back into the clay community, he joined a clay sculpture class at the Shadbolt Centre in 1992 (Debra Sloan, instructor) and became involved the West Coast Clay Sculpture Association (WCCSA) an association founded by the Shadbolt sculpture students in 1993. For many years he worked with WCCSA holding a variety of workshops at the Shadbolt, or 1000 Parker, or in his own studio. Santo was knowledgeable in many ceramic and visual art technologies, and from 2000-2005 he taught at the Vancouver Academy of Art, and from 2006-2013 he held hand-building workshops, pit-firing, and wheel throwing classes for Art in the Country. In 2014 Santo traveled back to Italy and Sicily with his partner, artist Susan Gorris, and after that journey they started to write his biography, “Sea Salt, Lizards and Clay”, they asked Debra Sloan to write a foreword, and the book was published in 2021 with the help of Jo Blackmore at Granville Island Publishing.

First name


Last name


Career dates (start and end)


Date of Birth


Date of Death


Place of Birth

Siracusa, Sicily, Italy

Place of Death

Major Exhibitions

Many national exhibitions across Canada from the 1960s.
Many International exhibitions in USA, Italy, Japan and Eastern Europe.
- For complete exhibition record;
website; https://www.santomignosa.com
or 'Sea Salt Lizards and Clay'

Some BC exhibitions;
2020/21 'Modern in the Making, Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia,' Vancouver Art Gallery, Daina Augaitis, Allan Collier, and Stephanie Rebick.
2011 'The Modern Eye, Craft and Design in Canada 1940-1980, ' Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Allan Collier.
1980 ' Retrospect Ceramics 80,' PGBC 25th Anniversary


University of Calgary
Agricultural - Technical College
Alfred university, NY
Pall Mall of Canada
Government of Alberta
Art Centrum, Prague
Memphis Academy of Art
Township of Langley

Personal Website


Links to Further Resources

https://craftcouncilbc.ca › santo-mignosa
2020 Catalogue - Modern in the Making Post War Craft and Design in BC, VAG https://vanartgallery.vag.yourcultureconnect.com/e/modern-in-the-making
2011 - Catalogue - The Modern Eye, Craft and Design in Canada 1940-1980, AGGV
1987 -present - Santo Mignosa annual Scholarship, printmaking Dept. University of Calgary
1965 Two pieces - Mignosa in 'Modern Ceramics, Pottery and Porcelain of the World' by Karel Hettes and Pravoslav Rada, Spring Books, London. also included, Huyghe, and H. Ross.
1962 Mignosa, Kakinuma, Huyghe, Reeve wins silver medals - Ross, the gold - at Prague - Among 20 Canadians receiving awards - 3rd international exhibition. Mignosa's award-winning piece was "Mermaid".
1958 - Clayburn-Harbison award for hand-built ceramic sculpture "The Girl" at BC Potters' 10th (aka "BC Pottery and other crafts")


Debra Sloan

Date Created

April 30, 2022

Linked resources

Filter by property

Title Alternate label Class
Mignosa, Santo mark Maker Image