ShprixieLand Studios: Partners in Pottery and Play

ShprixieLand Studios: Partners in Pottery and Play

If you have seen the colourful pottery works of ShprixieLand Studios from Boswell, B.C. and thought, “How fun! How Playful! How Unique”, and wondered what the artists were like, well those same descriptors will ring true once you have met Heath Carra and Victoria Henriksen, also known as Shpriken and Pixie. Our first glimpse of these fine folks was when they contacted us wishing to contribute some pottery to our now defunct crowdfunding campaign. We loved their work and wanted to interview them, and despite not living far apart from one another it took awhile to meet up. So here we are, after tooth extraction appointments and date changes we have finally arrived at the base of their driveway, this last obstacle almost requiring four wheel drive for our over-weight and under-powered van Arty.

Heath (Shpriken) Carra and Victoria (Pixie) Henriksen

Like many people living in the Kootenays of B.C. (including us), Pixie and Shpriken relocated from a bigger city to forge a different way of life for themselves. After checking out fourteen homes through a Creston realtor, they found their scenic oasis overlooking the pristine waters of Kootenay Lake in Boswell. Pixie having come from art and design school and Shpriken a background in sheet metal layout, they discovered new opportunities for growth and a new learning curve for all that living in a rural area entailed, such as chopping wood for heating, raising chickens and pigs, and being the head fixer-upper for anything and everything. It also meant finding a way to earn an income, and although they acted on a whim to move, with no plans for work once they got there, it is, ironically, these urges of let’s give it a try that has lent itself well to their creative process and now successful pottery business.

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We learned from these two artists that their art work, like their lives together, are a weave of collaboration, friendship, fun, and propping each other up when needed. It was Pixie who was the ceramic artist arriving in Boswell with the design and wheel-throwing skills, and Shpriken, the mathematics minded handy guy who built her a pottery studio and fixed stuff up where needed. What he found through hanging around Pixie in the studio though is that his knowledge of sheet metal layout crossed over to hand-building clay pieces from slab layout design. From these beginnings their pottery lines have expanded with their imaginations, in many cases incorporating decals that they have made of images and phrases to be imprinted on their mugs, tumblers and rice bowls. You will see fun pieces ranging from adorable animal caricatures with happy sayings, to the risqué humour of their Educational Wildlife Mugs, a light-hearted series for the less prudish. And if you thought that doilies had gone out of style for your table-top accoutrements then wait until you see these designs pressed into a mug or teapot, creating an eye-popping effect. (At the risk of sounding less dudeish Shpriken proudly acknowledges his huge collection of doilies).

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The ShprixieLand Studio

The Shprixies note that although the merit of the artistry and decoration of a piece is important, the shape of the clay vessel must still be fully functional for day to day use. A visually appealing mug will be pleasing to the eye, but one that can be held in the hands with a steaming cup of tea or coffee will also engage the tactile senses, and some may argue even elevating the enjoyment of the beverage. Likewise, a piece hand-made by an artist, where their creative energies have lovingly transformed a piece of clay into a “friend” that speaks to you through the colour and texture of its glazes, the shape of the handle perfectly within your grasp, or the image of a cute owl bringing a smile to your face, will stir the soul unlike anything that a mass produced machine molded mug could ever do.

Enjoy our interview with these high-energy partners in pottery and please help to spread the word about them through social media, with nice comments submitted below for those so inclined.

Parsons Dietrich Pottery Fires Form and Function

Parsons Dietrich Pottery Fires Form and Function

Today we went to church. Or rather, it used to be a church, now it is a pottery studio/gallery and the creators we were meeting this day were Wendy, Zach and Devon, a family of ceramic artists and owners of Parsons Dietrich Pottery in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Prior to being moved to its current location by the previous owners, the little church had been abandoned and last used in the 1960s. As we walked through the front doors to the wonderfully displayed gallery, we thought what better venue to create and display artistic and functional ceramics than a building of unique architecture and a work of art on its own? While we waited for Wendy to finish up with some customers Zach took us on an educational tour of the studio; explaining the processes, equipment, glazes and function of their kilns, which include wood, gas, electric and soon-to-be soda-fired.

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Wendy Parsons and Zach Dietrich have had their hands in the clay for over forty years now, and the road to their historic church storefront started in the 1970s when they met at university in Regina. A pioneering spirit then led them to a three year adventure in northern Saskatchewan building a log cabin, growing a garden and building a wood-fired kiln in a back-to-the-land lifestyle. The hard work was satisfying but the isolation of their homestead did not serve their needs for reaching the “outside” world with their pottery. So in 1980 they moved to Moose Jaw; first renting out the church basement for pottery production and then eventually buying the building.

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We’ve all heard the stereotypical concern of parents worried about their children going off to become an artist as opposed to getting a “real” job. Fortunately, their son Devon grew up without those preconceptions; his parents quashing any doubts by their own example, with Zach and Wendy finding early on in their careers a receptive public buying their work. They realized back then at these sold-out fairs that they could indeed make a living selling pottery. Apprenticing under his parents, Devon now has many years of pottery throwing and hand-building under his belt and is continuing to develop his own style.

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Zach, Wendy and Devon each contribute to the business in their own ways and with their own style and preference to form. Wendy loves to teach, and will provide workshops to supplement the pottery production. Her style lends itself to both the figurative and fun side as well as the artistic narrative side. She loves to tell a story through her pieces, and her ’roundel series’ exemplifies that quality. She had interviewed numerous farmers and learned of their stories of life on the farm, including hardship and perseverance in the face of daunting circumstances, be it from low grain prices, havoc-wreaking weather, or diseased livestock. These roundels tell their story. Her artistry also shines in her figurative pieces, whether on her own or in collaborated works with Zach such as on the cookie jars and tea pots.

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With tongue in cheek, Zach notes that his germanic heritage encourages pottery production…and more pottery production! Undeniably his decades of experience throwing clay shows in the yielding of many beautiful and elegant functional pieces of pottery, and he admits that he is gratified more by bringing well-turned pieces into the world than on other more time consuming works. But on occasion Zach has stepped away from his prolific specialty to indulge in other interesting projects, such as the series of tile wall pieces he created and framed in wood, or a school project where the children made tiles from start to finish and were then attached to a constructed wood bench.

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Devon enjoys specializing in the hand-building methods of clay including both figurative works as well as experimenting with different functional designs, such as his wave handle mug, a signature piece of his. Being science-minded he also takes on the task of testing out and mixing the different glazes to see which ones will be suitable for their clay pieces, both in consistency and colour. The three potters will also collaborate on work, helping to glaze each other’s pieces or decorating with hand-building to arrive at the finished product.

So when you are passing by Moose Jaw on the highway and you see the little white church of Parsons Dietrich Pottery, stop in to say hi to Wendy, Zach and Devon and take a look around.

Enjoy our video interview below and feel free to share on social media. Nice comments are always welcome too!

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

"Muscowpetung Sage Woman" - acrylic on canvas

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A. Menninger

Our featured interview with multidisciplinary fine artist and retired art teacher Ladd Fogarty of Emerald Park, Saskatchewan reminded me of the above quotes; our discovery of Ladd’s prolific teaching career and what he meant to his students, as well as his life-long passion for the arts and, like Picasso, an appetite for exploring multiple mediums. Although Ladd has been doing his art work for over thirty years now, it hasn’t been until these last eight years that he has truly taken on marketing his work as a professional artist. During the thirty years that he spent teaching students about the arts he fostered not only their creative gifts which led to their own artistic achievements, but he also forged enduring friendships with many of them.

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What is it that makes a great teacher? When we asked Ladd he mentioned not only patience, humour and a diverse skill base, but also the ability to draw out of a person their creative abilities that they never realized was inside of them. One such student was David Benjoe, who was an art student of Ladd’s at age 17 and doubtful of his artistic abilities. Ladd would say to him, “David, please don’t sell yourself short, art is another way to achieve what you enjoy in life”. Then, through Ladd’s urging he agreed to be part of an outreach arts workshop program for the elementary schools in the area, which he loved. This was his first introduction to leading in a classroom setting. He went on to become a teacher himself and is now on the verge of attaining his Masters of fine arts interdisciplinary. David concludes, “I can honestly say that he was the major influence in the path I took after we met way back in the 1990s”.

"Protecting Purity" - birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

“Protecting Purity” – birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

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The diversity of Ladd’s artistic media came about from various avenues and influences. He attributes personal desire in determining whether he feels like painting at the moment or working with his hands on a 3d object, which may involve acrylic paints, clay, wood, glass or soapstone. It depends on what story he is trying to tell; it could come from the potters wheel or the painting easel. As an art teacher he also had to learn about and present a multitude of mediums for his students to experiment with. His early exposure to art included his mother who was an opera singer and musician and still plays the violin to this day (Ladd also played in a dance band for about 12-15 years until losing a finger five years ago). His grandmother was a painter and his grandfather played the piano. His father happened to be a carpenter that became a master wood-turner in his retirement and was a great teacher for Ladd.

"Parallel Worlds" - acrylic on canvas

“Parallel Worlds” – acrylic on canvas

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Within the wood and clay pieces that Ladd creates you will see striking designs of geometry, figures and symbols; the clay pieces adorned with acrylic paints adding a lustrous finish. For wood he will use accoutrements such as acrylic paints, stained glass, soapstone, buffalo bone, porcupine quills, as well as stones such as turquoise, pipestone, magnesite and jet black. With already the richness of the wood itself to catch your eye, be it maple, birch or cherry, the additional colours and design add a beautiful touch. Ladd notes that when he is working with wood or clay he uses more symbolism and has a tendency to explore more abstract concepts.

"On The Way To Puskwakau" - acrylic on canvas

“On The Way To Puskwakau” – acrylic on canvas

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To Ladd his paintings relay the inspiration he gains from his natural surroundings as well as the experiences of the people who are a part of it. Ladd has a deep connection to First Nations people and their culture and his work reflects that. One such piece is “Muscowpetung Sage Woman”; the painting featured at the top. This piece was created as a donation to a charity auction to raise money for shelters for women and children of domestic violence. It is a personal piece that shows a woman and child, his adopted First Nations daughter with her daughter, looking over her shoulder to an old woman picking sage, a symbolic gesture of acknowledging her ancestral roots. It represents part of the healing process for a difficult time that she was going through.

Turquoise on birch

Turquoise on birch

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We finished up our interview with a tour of the family home to video Ladd’s art work on display; the house itself a part of his artistic handiwork. We had the pleasure of getting to know Ladd’s wife Liz and their daughter Kaitlyn as we sat down to a lovely lunch that they prepared. A stroll through the yard and garden (where we gratefully accepted some veggies for the road) capped off a wonderful day with the Fogartys.

Enjoy our interview with Ladd and please share his interview on social media. If you are inclined to leave a nice comment for Ladd please submit it below.

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

"Kayak"

You know the type, a guy that seems to be able to do it all; fix anything, create anything, with the only limitations being that of his own imagination. Meet artist Jeff Morris of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, a man with a vast imagination and seemingly no limitations to his creativity. When we arrived at his studio and gallery a few miles north of town we thought we were interviewing Jeff Morris the artist, but what we found in addition to that was also an inventor and explorer; a Renaissance man of sorts.

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Jeff Morris has always liked to create things, starting off as a youngster with the basics of a hammer, some wood and some ideas. It seemed like a logical choice then that he go into carpentry after high school, giving him the satisfaction of building functional wood structures and earning a living. And although he enjoyed it, he wasn’t able to unleash the creativity that was brewing inside of him, so he decided to transfer his wood construction skills into his artistic side and put the fun back into functional. The result has been not only beautiful and innovative wood pieces, but also Jeff’s expansion of creativity into other mediums.

"Lava Table" - wood construction

“Lava Table” – wood construction

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When we spoke with Jeff about what drives his art he kept coming back to his thirst for learning and discovery. Always experimenting with different techniques and having no shortage of new ideas, his curiosity is endless and is reflected in the variety of media he has his hands in such as concrete, wood, photography, painting and pottery. While he was giving us a tour of his spacious studio and workshop he also pointed out other inventive projects, such as the drum set he made from used propane cylinders; see video HERE, as well as the new musical instrument he made from the inner workings of a piano. If whiskey and slide guitar are more your style then check out the whiskey tumbler and glass slide that Jeff made from a whiskey bottle; see video HERE.

"Raver" - Assiniboine clay

“Raver” – Assiniboine clay

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Jeff admits that his projects are not based on the path of least resistance principle, and he likes it that way. Rather his methods are based more on his quest to satisfy his curiosity and the inherent challenges that come with it. For instance, buying clay for pottery is not too costly, but his discovery of a clay source along the Assiniboine River while he was out kayaking led him to hand dig and haul out a lifetime supply of clay; an enormous physical task. After testing out the initial few hundred pounds of clay with a couple of local potters and then researching the correct combination of additives to make successful pots, he now uses only the Assiniboine clay for all of his pieces.

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

One of the great messages that we took away from our visit with Jeff was that creating art, or any other project, does not have to involve expensive supplies that can stop you before you begin. If a person has a creative urge just waiting to burst from within them, just a little extra work using re-purposed or scrap items or even paints from a building supply store (Jeff’s not-so-secret supply), can get anyone started. In many cases Jeff’s creativity and innovation has lent itself to just providing the materials themselves for the project before the work on the artistic piece has even begun. Although the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” may apply to finding a solution through lack of financial means, for Jeff it means a necessity for trying new, unconventional, or historical methods that stoke his curiosity and that gives him a satisfaction of having taken the road less traveled to discovery. When asked if there were other mediums that he would to like to explore Jeff mentioned glass blowing but that it is quite a pricey endeavour. We don’t doubt that one day, somehow, Jeff will find a way.

Enjoy our interview with Jeff and this glimpse into his artistic life. Feel free to share his story on social media and email, with nice comments submitted below always welcome.

Potter Valerie Metcalfe Turns the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Potter Valerie Metcalfe Turns the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

If you haven’t figured it out by now then I will just come right out and say it. I love art! I love everything about it. It constantly amazes me how human beings can take something we may perceive as having little importance and turn it into a wonder of my world. It makes me laugh, smile, ponder, sigh… and be in a constant state of awe. It is because of these feelings and emotions that studies have shown that art (not unlike nature), when we have it in our lives can actually boost our immune systems and make us healthier. But don’t take my word for it, check with Google. Luckily for us there is an endless supply of very talented, emerging and veteran artists right here in Canada for Gary and I to interview and get an immune booster at the same time. It is no wonder then that neither of us have been sick since ArtsQuest began. One such veteran artist we had the pleasure of visiting was potter Valerie Metcalfe of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Once a week or so you can find Valerie down on Corydon Avenue at The Stoneware Gallery and The Stoneware Studio where she may be firing some of her work, teaching some students or helping out in the gallery. This isn’t just any gallery. It has been in existence for 38 years in its current form and is one of the longest operating co-operative’s in Canada. And Valerie, only 4 years out of university with a fine arts degree, became one of the studio members who purchased the business from the original owner and turned it into a pottery paradise for both makers and appreciators of pots. She has been there ever since. This opportunity gave Valerie something that most people only dream of; to do something she loves for her entire working career.

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It is because of people like Valerie and what their art does for me that I can easily sing the praises for why you should ditch the Corelle and start collecting pieces of art to drink, eat and cook from. When you choose to drink from a vessel that was made of clay, a gift from the earth, by an artist such as Valerie you will have a different experience. It is not hard to go and spend a few bucks on something that will hold your coffee, but when you spend your hard earned dollars on handmade pottery your decision to purchase becomes more mindful. As it happens, there is an honest to goodness connection with something that is so beautiful you can’t take your eyes or your hands off of it. I can tell you, it is the difference between just getting the job done and bliss. Sound kooky? Give it a try.

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When I first spotted Valerie’s work it was really a matter of happenstance. I was on Instagram and was admiring the work of another artist who, unfortunately for ArtsQuest, lives in the UK. I had noticed that Valerie had commented on some of Woodbug1’s work and so I went to see what she was up to. What I found were some pieces that took my breath away and I had to know more. Luckily for ArtsQuest, Valerie Metcalfe is an artist living in Winnipeg which happened to be one of our artist interview tour destinations.

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Valerie has years of experience in the art of making fine pottery. She is highly skilled in technique and form, which her work and her students can attest to. Her clay of choice is porcelain because it is more pure than any of the other clay bodies which gives it its signature white colour. It has a delicate and graceful appearance once fired and finished, but at the same time it is one of the strongest materials used for making pots. Valerie loves the pure and rich colours that come from glazing and painting porcelain and she finds the result to be very similar to what one would find in nature. While we were there she demonstrated for us how she throws a large plate or platter. This is some tricky business, let me tell you. There are so many stages involved with getting it right and this is all before it makes it into the kiln. Valerie makes the process look like a well choreographed ballet. My immune system was fully boosted by this time. The forms, the colours, the decorations, the embellishments and every other little detail that goes into each beautiful piece Valerie makes comes from within her, and is her contribution to a beautiful world.

We invite you to watch Valerie’s video interview and encourage you to help spread the word about her and her work through social media and email. Thank you! PS: We love comments.

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

"Greystokes Cottonwoods"

“Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting and using wild materials for food, medicine, construction, art and craft. Whether it’s a wild botanical like devils club, shed antlers, pine cones or mushrooms, the gathering of found materials provides wildcrafters a means to generate a living direct from nature.” ~Don Elzer~

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

The above quote from Don Elzer therein lies the first clue to the life he leads. It is one of stewardship to the lands he roams, loves and protects, collecting materials for his own use and commerce but like all healthy relationships his connection to the Earth is one of give and take, and then give some more. Through permaculture principles he advocates for, and engages in responsible harvesting practices of plant species; tread lightly, take only what you need, replenish and propagate, then repeat.

"The Prophecy" - full and detail

“The Prophecy” – full and detail

We met up with mixed media artist Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest Wild Tea Plantation thirty minutes east of Vernon along Highway 6 in the Monashee region of British Columbia. We had already been following Don’s initiatives on Facebook for quite awhile now, but when we sat down to chat with him we were amazed by all of the wildcrafting irons that he had in the fire.

"Tree Whisper" and "The Tone"

“Tree Whisper” and “The Tone”

Don’s art work is one extension of his wildcrafting. Found materials such as antlers, birch bark, feathers and naturally harvested clay are just a few items that lend themselves to Don’s sculptures in symbolic, spiritual and storied interpretations. His paintings may be a mix of acrylic paint, pastels and crayons which seems to create an almost 3d effect through the contrast of glossy and matte finishes. They depict memorable scenes, places once been and of stories yet to unfold.

"Monashee Moon #1"

“Monashee Moon #1”

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If wildcrafting is the hub of Don Elzer’s wheel of life, then the many spokes borne from that are not only his art work, but also initiatives such as:

-Teaching Permaculture Design and Wildcrafting Courses at his Wildcraft Forest.
-Offering wild tea blends, herbs and potions at the Wildcraft Forest Apothecaeri.
-Social enterprise through his Watershed Intelligence Network.
– The Shelter Revolution. Tiny House building, sales and workshops with off-the-grid applications.
Author and Publisher

Don may wear many hats but through all of these labours of love lies a common thread: a deep connection, appreciation and relationship to nature.

"Dreams of the New Sacred Land"

“Dreams of the New Sacred Land”

So you see, it matters not whether you are looking to appreciate nature through a sculpture, a painting, a soothing and medicinal tea, or a hands-on practical education in wildcrafting to further your stewardship on Earth, a visit to Don Elzer’s Wildcraft Forest will awaken your senses.

Enjoy our interview with Don Elzer as you peruse his art work! Comments and sharing through social media and email are encouraged and welcome!

Pinching Pottery the Willo Treschow Way

Pinching Pottery the Willo Treschow Way

Hand-built Mugs by Willo Treschow

When you haven’t eaten in a while you don’t realize how hungry you are until after the first bite. This clearly describes how I felt when we stepped into Willo Treschow’s studio after many months of interview drought. We discovered Moving Mountains Pottery on one of our walks in Slocan, B.C.; the place we now call home. Willo has a lovely space where she spends most of her days creating and living her passion.

Willo Treschow at Moving Mountains Pottery Studio

Willo Treschow at Moving Mountains Pottery Studio


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Isis Kneeling Relief

Isis Kneeling Relief

Willo’s life has always revolved around art in one form or another. Depending on the circumstance’s of a particular time in her life she may have been working on painting or textile art but pottery was always in the back of her mind, like a pot on a shelf waiting to be fired. The first time she touched clay in her school art class she knew it was to be her primary portal to expression.

Spiral Teapot

Spiral Teapot


Copper Manganese Raku Bowl

Copper Manganese Raku Bowl

The potters we have interviewed thus far have used a wheel for creating things with spherical tendencies but there are also components of hand-building that are required to finish off a piece. Not to say that she is not experienced on the wheel, but Willo is a hand-builder through and through. When I asked her what the most challenging piece she ever created was she told me about a time in college when she was required to make four cylinders exactly the same size. After about forty-five attempts it was then and there that she undoubtedly knew she wouldn’t be making any identical sets of anything in her career as a potter.

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Willo also enjoys creating pictures and vignettes as clay relief. One of her favourite things to do is find an old black and white photograph, turn it into a clay relief, and play around with different glazes; imagining what the scene might have looked like at that moment in time. Hand-building gives Willo the freedom to create with wild abandon. She says her imagination cannot be reined in and there isn’t anything she is cautious about trying. After all, she says, “there is no right or wrong when you create art”.

Please join us as Willo shares her enthusiasm about her passion for hand-building pottery. We love comments and would appreciate it if you help us spread the word about Willo Treschow and her art through social media and email. Thank-you!

Art and Soul with Franziska Cody

Art and Soul with Franziska Cody

It has always appealed to me to be surrounded by things that are handmade and created from someone’s imagination and desire. Gary and I don’t own a lot of fine art and craft but what we do have is very special to us. My brother is a woodworker and for our wedding gift he made us a gorgeous cherry and black walnut two person table and chair set. It is so wonderful to sit and share a home cooked meal and talk about our day at this table. It is one of the highlights of our time together. Simple yet so rich! Art is so much more than something pretty to look at. It is a connection to other people; to their dreams, their passions and it is a connection to life. There is energy in handmade art and craft that we will never experience from an object manufactured by a machine. This partly explains why we are not committed to those things. They fill a space on the wall or a place setting at the table but lack the connection to the human spirit that we can only get from something handmade.

Franziska Cody, potter and owner of Art and Soul Pottery

Franziska Cody, potter and owner of Art and Soul Pottery

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Gary and I bought our first two pieces of pottery on our interview tour up through Northen British Columbia. Telkwa artist Franziska Cody is a potter and the owner of a charming working studio and gallery called Art and Soul Pottery. We arrived to find Franziska quite literally up to her elbows in clay, working her wheel and turning out an order of mugs. There was wonderful soothing music playing, the kind you would expect to find in a spa, and the space felt comfortable to walk around in as we glanced through the gallery.

Bird Feeder

Bird Feeder

Franziska has been a full time artist and business owner since 2009. It all began when she decided to immigrate to Canada after meeting the man who is now her husband. Because of the immigration process she was unable to work so she dedicated her time to doing what she loves; art. This was when she discovered clay and found that she had an affinity for it. One thing lead to another and soon she was in business full time. It hasn’t always been as easy as all that but her and her husband live a simple lifestyle which affords them the freedom to do the things they love.

Gary and Corinne's Travel Mugs

Gary and Corinne’s Travel Mugs

While we were in Telkwa we bought a couple of Franziska’s travel mugs. Besides being handmade pottery, it was the design, the earthy colours and the appropriateness with which they fit for us that made our buying decision easy. I had never seen travel mugs like this before and so I was curious about Franziska’s approach with clay. I asked her whether or not she was trying to see how many functional things she could actually replace with a clay version. She explained to me that she finds clay to be very fragile but versatile and it can be turned into something of strength once it is fired. She said the nature and characteristics of clay are not unlike the nature and characteristics of human beings and this is one of the things that appeals to her about the medium. She finds herself pushing the limits of clay. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t; for Franziska it is all about the process and the discovery of what is possible for the clay and for herself. Franziska spends most of her time creating functional pieces like pots, plates, mugs, bathroom accessories and even sinks. She hopes to one day step further into the realm of the spontaneous but for now she loves making things for people who she knows are using her pottery in their everyday life.

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We invite you to watch Franziska’s video interview as she talks more about her pottery and the life that she loves. Please leave your comments and help spread the word on social media. It is much appreciated! Thank you.

Judi Dyelle and Robin Hopper – Purveyors of Fine Pottery

Judi Dyelle and Robin Hopper – Purveyors of Fine Pottery

Elegant and refined; bold and colourful! Are these the descriptions of Judi Dyelle and Robin Hopper’s pottery, or their respective personalities? Perhaps they are a bit of both! We had the pleasure of meeting up with these two experienced, award winning artists and teachers at their home in Metchosin, B.C.; also home to their studios and gallery at ‘Chosin Pottery. Our approach along their horseshoe shaped driveway wending through the forested front yard gave us a glimpse into the natural setting that they not only call their home, but their inspiration! The incredible gardens and architecture throughout their property were created by Robin and inspired from a Japanese design; the feat quite aptly named the “Anglojapanadian” garden.

Judi Dyelle

Judi Dyelle


Robin Hopper

Robin Hopper

Before we started the formal part of our interview, we sat with Judi and Robin at their dining room table to get acquainted. We were surrounded by a world of handmade furnishings, both functional and decorative, including the mugs we sipped our green tea from. Robin was talking about how much research, trial and error went into actualizing the perfect mug. Considerations to examine were: Is it too heavy or too light? Does it cause me to dribble? Are my fingers comfortable? Do they get squished or are they too loose causing slippage? Is it top heavy and tippy? These questions and more were carefully scrutinized before arriving at an aesthetic form with the proper function; and sure enough, there was something so much more gratifying about the “feeling” of my mug of green tea and knowing what went into making it and who made it. We didn’t realize then that this topic was a preamble to Robin and Judi’s interview and their thoughts about not only the historical cultural importance of pottery, but why it should be of present day cultural importance.

Judi Dyelle

Judi Dyelle


Robin Hopper

Robin Hopper

Judi is a potter with a passion for Oriental ceramics! Her extensive studies in art school combined with studying for a year and a half in Japan had not only added to her collective experience for teaching pottery across Canada and the U.S., but also her love for it! She enjoys working mainly in porcelain, preferring to use it as a very fine and delicate clay body incorporating piercing, cutting and textures into her work. She notes that porcelain is an amazing substance; fragile while working with it but once fired in the kiln is stronger than ceramic and does not chip easily. She also demonstrated the rich “bell” sound one of her bowls made, revealing another sense that reaps the artistic rewards (Play ‘Porcelain Song’ below). Judy notes that the form of her vessels are unequivocally first priority, with the finishing process such as glazes secondary and used to accentuate the piece. She does not paint her work and for that reason the glazes she develops are very important in order to embellish the form of the vessel appropriately.

‘Porcelain Song’:

Judi Dyelle

Judi Dyelle

Make sure to click on Judi’s images below for a closer look:

Robin’s foray into pottery was more like a trial by fire when we was three years old! His introduction to clay happened during the bombing of London in World War II when the shells would crater the land and displace the sub-surface clay upwards, giving him an endless supply to play and work with. Well after those beginnings and his ensuing art school training in his late twenties, Robin traveled and taught pottery around the world on most of the continents and has had his creative hands in many mediums and endeavours ever since. Authoring six books, creating educational DVDs based on those books and designing a world class garden are but a few of his comprehensive pursuits outside of the many hours of “pushing clay around.” His initial art training was in painting and drawing and it has always been at the core of his ceramic work. His latest interest draws on those skills and involves glaze paintings on a porcelain-like substrate and then firing it in the kiln giving it a wonderfully vivid and textured effect, as seen below.

Robin Hopper

Robin Hopper

Make sure to click on Robin’s images below for a closer look:

Both Robin and Judi commented on their fascination with ancient cultures that used pottery for their everyday needs, with various cultures still utilizing their pottery-ware today as an integral part of their lives, be it for practical or ceremonial purposes; usually both. Judi relates how in Japan and Korea these simple ceramic dishes bring on a beauty of their own through the ceremony of eating and gathering of family and friends. This fundamental appreciation for food and family does not harmonize with our fast-food and throw-away culture in North America. Robin notes that he has followed the history of pottery which has followed the history of humans; clay being a necessary part of ancient cultures as they produced items for eating out of or for cooking with, many times the vessel being created for a specific food or dish. These were not mass produced factory items with no personal connection, they were cherished pieces tied irrevocably to the family’s social structure just from the act of making them with their hands, or knowing who did. It is Judi and Robin’s hope that North American society can adopt such heartfelt customs once again, bringing back to the family table not only the family, but a less instant way of life and one closer to the the earth, and clay!

Join Robin and Judi in their gallery as they “turn” us on to pottery! Please share with social media and feel free to leave a comment below!

Island Stoneware – A Different Spin on the Wheel

Island Stoneware – A Different Spin on the Wheel

Cindy and Darryl Lentz were first introduced to us through King’s Point Pottery in Newfoundland. It was suggested to us that we should go see their “operation” and hear their story. Island Stoneware formerly known as Right Off the Batt Pottery is where you will find Cindy and Darryl and they are located right off the Confederation Bridge on Prince Edward Island.

Owner Cindy and Darryl Lentz of Island Stoneware

Owner Cindy and Darryl Lentz of Island Stoneware

Darryl and Cindy had careers in the Canadian military and transitioned to pottery of all things. Neither of them had any experience in entrepreneurship. Cindy took a weekend course in pottery prior to leaving the military and fell head over heels. Once she retired from the military she thought she would try her hand at a business in pottery but discovered it wasn’t as easy as all that. Eventually Darryl retired as well and decided to help Cindy in whatever capacity he could, which later included throwing pottery on the wheel. And soo….in the past five years they have gone from a 2300 square foot pottery production facility to a 7600 square foot production facility. They employ potters and non-potters and have successfully contributed to the local economy in PEI.

When we interviewed Cindy and Darryl we didn’t talk about their pottery in the sense that it was their artistic passion, or the more common inquiries about what drives and inspires that passion, it was about how they came to create a thriving business and their passion for bringing beautiful, affordable and functional handcrafted pottery made in Canada to the middle income earning people.

I was fascinated with their thirst for innovation and constantly inventing new and creative ways to save time and energy to get more out of what they already had. For instance, they wanted to be able to supply several retail places in the same area without duplicating the product lines, so they took a look at their pottery lines (which there were three along with three glazes) and just by removing the designs and leaving them plain they could now increase what they could offer by three new lines. They then removed the iron oxide pigment from the red glaze and created a white glaze which gave a bunch more combinations. The retail locations were able to stock different lines from one another which gave them the ability to offer variety from each other. This is great for Island Stoneware, great for the retailers and great for the customers.

Click on the thumbnails below to see a large image.

Cindy and Darryl clearly understand the idea of “Win, Win, and Win”. I think they are an outstanding model for small scale manufacturing businesses in Canada. They have clearly demonstrated that we can have manufacturing in our own country that can be supported by other local businesses and people here in Canada. What is also unique about their endeavour is the fact that they are thriving in the Maritimes. I personally don’t think that this is some big revelation or miracle success story, but what I do see is two people who found what they love to do and are doing it where they love to be. I think this is a viable solution to relying on large scale industry to take care of our futures. It is because of people like Cindy and Darryl and their example that we can learn to create our own thriving micro-economies right in our own backyard, wherever that may be.

If you ever find yourself in PEI stop in and take a tour of Island Stoneware and meet Darryl and Cindy, or perhaps sit in and participate in one of the hands on pottery classes. In the meantime check out our interview with Cindy and Darryl Lentz below and be sure to leave your thoughts behind in the comment section.