Rennie, Bill (William)


Maker Name

Rennie, Bill (William)


Bill (William) Donald Rennie was born January 13, 1953 in Surrey, BC.
Bill was a distinct multifaceted character whose aesthetic and activist objectives were enacted through architectural clay constructs as descriptive vehicles for his world view. Those of us who have long admired Bill Rennie’s work and practice believe that he made significant contributions to Vancouver’s artistic and social histories, and hitherto has not garnered the attention and wider audience that it deserves.
Bill achieved a degree in Education at UBC, and then a Diploma from the Vancouver School of Art in 1976, where he studied mainly with Sally Michener. Bill established studios where ever he could find a place to live and work in the downtown core of Vancouver, and became very involved in Artist Run Galleries like the Pitt, and the grunt. He lived a subsistence lifestyle his entire life, but successfully curated shows, sold, and exhibited his own work.
Bill’s work captured the patronage of curators and gallerists who understood what ceramics could offer to the contemporary art world. Hiro Urakami of the House of Ceramics (1972-78) Glenn Alteen, former Director of the grunt gallery, Ron Kong, the 1990s curator of the now defunct Canadian Craft Museum, and Liane Davison, former curator at Surrey Art Gallery (SAG)). His distinctive vision also captured the public’s attention and in the 1980s /90s he was often featured in newspaper articles.
In 1997 The Canadian Craft Museum (CCM) held a solo retrospective of Bill's work, curated by Ron Kong. It was one of the most successful shows ever held at that venue. CCM closed in 2003.
Liane Davison (SAG) was a particular champion of his work, and exhibited it at several times. She retained a major work for the SAG collection. In 2019/20 that piece resurfaced at the Playing With Fire exhibition held at MOA. Curator Carol Mayer included Bill's work in a survey exhibition featuring installations from 11 BC clay sculptors from the 1960s to 2020.
Bill had many axes to grind - housing, gay rights, cultural ignorance, and he curated or participated in many exhibits supporting Gay and Lesbian /gender rights (the expanded inclusion of LGBTQ /BIPOC still to evolve). Bill's work and performances were theatrical and provocative. He was an activist /artist. He volunteered for ; Vancouver School of Art – Treasurer.President, Student Society - 1978-80 . On the Board of Directors – Pitt International Galleries - 1984-89. and from 1991-1997 An advocate for ACE - Artists for Creative Environments, and1996-2004 Advocate for CORE – Artist Live Work Co-op. He wrote an essay, the "Democratization of the Arts” about art funding, particularly in BC was (and remains) at a national low. It became the Pitt moto. Artist and lifelong friend, Jeannie Mah, called him a “thinker and a fighter.”
The EDGE, the live/work complex on Alexander Street was completed in 1998, and Rennie lived and worked there for the rest of his life.
Today Bill 's often roughly finished works would be lionized in the current culture of ‘sloppy craft’, or post-disciplinary craft, or ‘de-skilling’. Bill’s work from fifty or forty years ago demonstrates a route taken somewhere in-between technical virtuosity and expressivity. Bill did not follow any contemporary art trends, nor admire those he called ‘Art-Stars’, and he loathed art-speak. He harboured outrage about what he perceived as injustice. He could be scathing, but those held in friendship would usually encounter his kindness and his loyalty. (What Jeannie Mah called the thorn and the rose.) According to curator and friend, Ron Kong, Bill's last performance was to playfully cast roses about his care home.

First name

Bill (William)

Last name


Career dates (start and end)


Date of Birth


Date of Death


Place of Birth

Surrey, BC

Place of Death

Studio location

Major Exhibitions

For exhibition record see 'Realms and Havens, Bill Rennie'. by D. Sloan
2019/20 Playing With Fire, Ceramics of the Extraordinary, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Carol Mayer, curator, catalogue
2008 Mobile Structures: Dialogues Between Ceramics and Architecture in Canadian Art - Surrey Art Gallery , Liane Davison, curator
2005 'Surrey Scenes' - Surrey Art Gallery
2004 'Hot Clay – Sixteen West Coast Ceramic Artists' Liane Davison, curator, Surrey Art Gallery – catalogue
1999 'Ivan the Terrible Style - Russian Churches', CraftHouse, Craf Council of BC,
1997 'Byzantine Bill, Wholesales Away' Pitt International Galleries
1997 'Bill Rennie – Clay & Architecture' Retrospective, Ron Kong Curator, Canadian Craft Museum
1988 Bill Rennie. Walter Philips Gallery, Banff, Alberta
1986 'Byzantine, New Churches' Gallery of BC Ceramics
1984 First Prize – Clay Sculpture 84, Potters Guild of BC
1983 Maker’s Showcase, Circle Craft Co-op, Robson Square
1981 'Ceramic Sculpture – Valerie Pugh and Bill Rennie' Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, curated by Greg Bellerby, catalogue
1981 Ceramics 81 – Potters Guild of BC annual juried exhibit
1980 Retrospect 80- 25th Anniversary Exhibit, PGBC catalogue, Robson Square, catalogue


UBC Museum of Anthropology
Surrey Art Gallery
Bronfman Craft Collection – Montreal
Western Front Lodge, Vancouver
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Banff Art Centre, Alberta

Affiliated organizations

Links to Further Resources

2022 Realms and Havens. Bill Rennie - Romance versus Reality in Architectural Marvels. D. Sloan
2015 Jeannie Mah ,” Bill Rennie: Byzantine Bill, the Rennie-sance, the Bill of Babylon!” Eulogy, Potters Guild of BC – June 2015 Newsletter
2007 An Open Book, Surrey Art Gallery ]Bill Rennie- A Thinker and a Fighter '- Jeannie Mah
2007 An Open Book, Surrey Art Gallery 'Not Far From Gold' -Sally Michener
2007 An Open Book, Surrey Art Gallery 'Where I was Brought Up, 6949 Harris Road ' Amy Gogarty,


Debra Sloan