British Columbia·Photos

Slice of Life: Local photographer showcases East Van artists at work

In early 2018, Mike DiPietro started a photography project called Seasons of East Van. In this photo essay, he features the artists who work out of the Slice of Life studio in East Vancouver.

In early 2018, Mike DiPietro started a photography project called Seasons of East Van

Mike DiPietro has been photographing local artists as part of his Seasons of East Van project. (Seasons of East Van)

When I embarked on a photography project in 2018, I had no professional experience to rely on, but early on I was lucky to come across the Slice of Life art studio and gallery in East Vancouver and was accepted by its community of artists.

Since 2016, the gallery has aimed to offer exhibit space to locals at accessible prices.

My photography project called Seasons of East Van is mostly focused on clothing. The East Vancouver neighbourhoods are filled with interesting styles and a truly unique look, and, in my time here, I have always been fascinated with these streets and the people who frequent them. 

During the first months of fumbling around the neighbourhoods with my camera, I met a few of the artists who work out of Slice of Life studio and gallery.

Matt DeWetter sits in his new workspace at Slice of Life. (Mike DiPietro)

One of my earliest introductions to Slice was with Matt DeWetter, who, after I took his photo, invited me to come see the studio.

I had walked by the space a number of times and was always curious what was inside but had never had the courage to wander in.

Matt DeWetter has one of the most interesting workspaces at Slice. (Mike DiPietro)

Slice of Life is located just off the corner of Commercial and Venables, a quieter side of Commercial that is slowly starting to get more foot traffic. 

With their large happy-face sign, the studio is definitely a spot that sparks curiosity.

Felipe Morelli and Andrew Oliver stand under the iconic Slice smile. (Mike DiPietro)

Matt toured me around and told me about some of the artists in the space, the diversity of their art and the freedom they have to create. 

Andrew Oliver talks about large painting techniques. (Mike DiPietro)

He told me they had a show coming up and, if I was interested, I could come and take photos and meet some of the artists. I felt like part of the community that day, even though we had just met.

Felipe Morelli works on some sketches at his desk. (Mike DiPietro)

A few days later, I was introduced to Sheena Botelho and Ben Knight, the founders of Slice.

Ben Knight and Sheena Botelho are the founders of Slice of Life. (Mike DiPietro)

Like most of the people I meet in the neighborhood, I had already photographed Sheena on the streets and Ben at the local skate-spot, and we talked about my project, Slice, and potential collaborations in the future. 

Natasha Broad sketches at the front desk. (Mike DiPietro)
Wolfgang Neufeld works on a new piece in his office space that he shares upstairs. (Mike DiPietro)

I had the opportunity to sit with many of the artists and talk about their individual journeys, processes, inspirations, art, and most importantly, their experience at Slice of Life.

Sheena Botelho relaxes out back on the mini ramp after spending a few weeks rearranging the space. (MIke DiPietro)

Each artist mentioned their appreciation of their community at Slice, that they feel inspired by everyone who creates art around them, and that they are always learning new skills and techniques from one another.

The balance between collaborating and individual style is what I think makes both the process and the product great.

Ben Knight works on some pieces for an upcoming show. (Mike DiPietro)
The youngest resident artist, Elk Neufeld, talks about edible plants and what it means to be an artist. (Mike DiPietro)

The community feel definitely comes from the approach of the founders.

Sheena and Ben have been able to grow Slice of Life into what it is today by allowing a diverse group of artists to share a space in an interesting neighborhood and create their art, in their own way.

Elk and parents Wolfgang Neufeld and Natasha Broad are a resident artist family at Slice of Life. (Mike DiPietro)
John Lennig has been painting signs for over 50 years. (Mike DiPietro)
Tools of the trade. (Mike DiPietro)

I don't think there is another gallery in the city with such a wide range of artists. From four-year-old Elk Neufeld who sold pieces in their April gallery showing, to John Lennig who has been hand painting signs for over 50 years, each of these artists has a unique style, philosophy and approach to making art.

Madelaine Mongey throws clay in her workshop. She is always testing new recipes and methods. (Mike DiPietro)
Madelaine Mongey checks her freshest creations coming out of the kiln. (Mike DiPietro)

It was an amazing experience to take a closer look at the tools and techniques they use to create their work and have conversations about their methods, ideas and inspirations.

Alex Sizov sits and thinks at his workspace. (Mike DiPietro)
Will Phillips works on a new piece while sharing thoughts about science. (MIke DiPietro)

There is always so much going on at Slice; life-drawing sessions and pottery lessons, clothing swaps, upcycling, yoga in the studio or skateboarding in the back.

Slice's smiley face stickers are always available. (Mike DiPietro)

They truly have found a way to build this gallery into so much more. It is welcoming, diverse, and unique — representative of both the art and the East Van neighbourhood.

Kalvin Valko sits in front of some new designs in the scrap corner. (Mike DiPietro)
Denise Fort sits up in her workspace. (Mike DiPietro)
Chigusa Ogawa teaches stitching and patience. (Mike DiPietro)

This is a place to tinker, discover, converse and create, and I encourage anyone who finds themselves in the neighborhood to stop in and check it out.

With some recent changes, they've been able to keep their gallery doors open and all are welcome to wander inside and discover this unique place.

Claire Hansen is one of the newest artists at Slice. (Mike DiPietro)
Meghan Buckley works upstairs in her space. (Mike DiPietro)

Slice of Life is hosting an open house to feature its artists on July 20 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Meghan Buckley's colourful clothing and patterns on display in her workspace. (Mike DiPietro)

About the Author

In early 2018, Mike started taking photos in the East Van neighborhoods to highlight the changing clothing and culture on the streets. He has collected over 2000 photographs through the seasons which can be seen at www.seasonsofeastvan.com.

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