I built my first coiled pot in my grandma’s studio in Montreal when I was three years old. She claimed that my innocence and playfulness had become part of the pot, which made it priceless, so I let her have it. By the time I was four my dad had his own studio and I watched intently as he and my sister Lilly threw the clay on the wheels and turned it into beautiful shapes. It seemed like magic to me and I wanted to do it too but my dad said I had to wait until I was five to throw. So on my fifth birthday I woke up knowing this was the day. And sure enough, true to his word, my dad took me to the studio and I threw my first pot. I’ll be six next year and making pottery is still one of my favourite things to do. The glazing is fun too and my grandma and I are perfecting a red glaze, my favourite colour.
There are many blessings in my life and one of them is a childhood sprinkled with visits to my grandma’s house in Montreal, a home that is more studio than house. The place was full of stamps, stencils, glazes, jars and more jars full of glazing materials, a slab roller, banding wheels, kiln and of course pottery wheels. Rules were few and play was the order of the day. I built many bowls and cups there without ever realizing I was actually learning how to make pottery. Fast forward to this moment in time — I am 15 and we have our own pottery studio in our house. This is where I escape to rediscover the playfulness of my childhood and to continue to develop my skills. Opening the kiln is a family and friend affair — we celebrate each other’s latest creations and sometimes wail at a pot that disappoints. But I would not trade this experience for anything. I cannot imagine my life without pottery. And I hope that my pots bring pleasure into your lives as well.
When I am in my studio working, it does not feel like work. Yes, it can be physically demanding at times, particularly when I am centering 22 pounds of clay, and it can be creatively demanding as well, particularly when a vessel seems to want more than just a basic glaze. How did I come to see it this way? When I was eight, I asked my mother if I could learn pottery.
At that time pottery classes for children were not available where we lived so Mom convinced the Potter’s Guild to allow me to participate if she accompanied me at every class. I was happy when I centered the clay for the first time. My adult life took me in other directions but by then my Mom had her own studio and I look forward to throwing pots on visits. After more than 30 years of potting at a rate of about a week a year I opened my own studio. I soon found myself moving beyond the basics. If a three-pound bowl was good, why not five pounds, ten pounds, and on and on it went. Glazing became alchemy. Why not two glazes, slightly overlapped or adjacent? Why not three? What about high fire, low fire? Texture, overglaze, underglaze. With every kiln opening I am learning something new. Sometimes my pieces went too far, sometimes not far enough. But the most gratifying moment is when a customer connects to a piece and wants to own it. My hope is that my pots will become favourites in my customers’ daily lives. So although I still make huge pots, I find myself gravitating towards everyday dishes, mugs, vases, fruit bowls and noodle bowls. To have something that is beautiful but also useful — what could be better?