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.

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.

Sandy Christensen’s Clayful Characters

Sandy Christensen’s Clayful Characters

"Old Age and Beauty"

As we traveled south along highway #2 towards Watrous, Saskatchewan for our interview with ceramic artist Sandy Christensen, the sheen of Little Manitou Lake came into view as the gentle relief of land gave way to its shores. It was inevitable that we would visit these therapeutic mineral rich waters for a soak and a float, known as the “Dead Sea of Canada” and one of only three such bodies of water in the world. It was there at Manitou Beach that we also learned the history of Danceland, a 5000 square foot horse hair dance floor that has been around since 1928. Our spontaneous tour of this historic building came from 85 year old Ken Mackie, a veteran dance participant walking laps around the perimeter of the expansive dance floor at about 5 miles per day. Ken has a sharp wit, is humourous, and is an interesting fellow with many stories to tell. It is ironic that we met Ken before Sandy not knowing that he could have been the subject of inspiration for one of Sandy’s creative clay characters.

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Sandy Christensen has always had an affinity for clay, even as a young girl making mud pies. So it was serendipitous that when a woman who had moved back to the area and began teaching pottery lessons that Sandy jumped in and didn’t look back. Without this turn of events she notes that she may have done any number of other activities and never truly found the love for clay. Sandy soon discovered that even though she enjoyed making pots on the turning wheel, what she really loved was hand-building.

"Coffeetime"

“Coffeetime”

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Sandy loves to create ceramic characters and the stories they tell. In her completed works you will see playful youngsters doing what they typically do, familiar sibling interactions, and one little girl taking a stubborn stand against her father to protest…(insert your imagination here). But above all you will see what Sandy loves to create most, the venerable elders such as Ken, with their character lines and endless stories as she catches the essence of these “real” people in their daily lives.

"The Grass is Always Greener..."

“The Grass is Always Greener…”

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Many times Sandy will get commission statues to do for a member of someone’s family, and if that family truly knows the subject; how they dress, hobbies and especially funny quirks or memorable past situations, then Sandy will strive to capture that in her piece. She knows she has nailed it when the unveiling of the characterization evokes fits of laughter. So true to character is Sandy’s interpretation that families occasionally display pieces at funerals as fond remembrances of their loved ones.

"The Conversation"

“The Conversation”

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Sandy reveals that one of her favourite past-times is people watching, and so it makes sense that many of her ideas comes from observing how people look, what they say and what they are doing. She has noticed that if you look at people from a certain region, maybe from a certain occupation or of a certain advanced age, they tend to look very much alike. She notes that as we get older many of us will acquire a similar body shape, the greying hair and usually prescription glasses, revealing a stereotype that she enjoys incorporating into her art work. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. For Sandy’s pieces it is the face that is the window to the character. Although everything is important and must be in proportion, Sandy spends the most time on the face, trying to get the accurate likeness of the person and evoking the desired expression. What matters to Sandy is that these little clay characters make you smile.

Enjoy our interview with Sandy and please feel free to share her interview on social media and email. Comments are welcome too!

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Team Yukon Canada wins first place at the International Carnaval de Quebec 2014 including Public Choice and Volunteer Choice Awards

What does it mean to follow your dreams? For Whitehorse, Yukon snow carver and sculptor Donald Watt it started at age ten, wishing someday to carve snow at the famous Quebec Winter Carnival. He recalls as a young boy watching the promo film for the Carnival on television with his father and proclaiming his aspirations. His father’s reply was that he was capable of doing anything he wanted. That stuck with him, and when Quebec invited Yukon to form a team for its national sculpture competition, he jumped at the chance. Donald not only lived his dream of carving in Quebec but has also seen victory as captain of Team Yukon, winning numerous times at the National and International Championships. Sadly, his father never got to see him carve in Quebec but Donald always pays homage to him by building an inukshuk from the initial chunks of snow removed as the carving begins to take shape. His father’s presence is now with him at every event watching him carve. Now, with over 30 years of carving, numerous awards from around the world and doing 6-8 carvings per year, that adds up to a lot of carvings, a lot of experience, and a testament to the power of his passion.

Donald Watt

Donald Watt

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture - Quebec 2013

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture – Quebec 2013

Snow carving is unlike any other art form; its closest relatives being ice and sand carving. It is a medium that requires a great deal of planning because it is not only dependent upon ones carving skills, but the carver must adhere to the laws of physics and nature. With a starting block of snow typically weighing 20-40 tons, it is not uncommon for a suspended portion of snow to weigh a ton or more. So if the structural design pushes load-bearing limits, combined with challenging weather conditions such as rain, the sculpture could collapse and end up in a pile before it is even judged. Other considerations are working against the clock as well as observing the criteria that the judges are looking for. These include creativity and artistic merit, technical difficulties as well as adherence to the original design. The appreciation and awe of a completed snow sculpture is fleeting; a live in the moment type of art work that not long after leaves its legacy in the photographs, memories and a marred footprint of where it once stood.

1st Place - San Vigilio, Italy 2013

1st Place – San Vigilio, Italy 2013

2nd Place - San Candido, Italy 2013

2nd Place – San Candido, Italy 2013

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The process for completing a sculpture is always a team effort, and each team mate will lend their strengths to complement the whole. The 2014 World Tour team for Yukon is comprised of Donald, Michael Lane and Ken Anderson. Donald is the three dimensional specialist and will guide the team in the initial stages to taking away the major chunks and getting the sculpture to an impressionistic stage. Michael is the idea guy and detailed carver who will advise on the fine particulars, and Ken is a skilled first nations carver that will also lend the knowledge and detail required for the traditional northern and west coast first nations themes.

Breckenridge, USA 2013

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When he isn’t carving snow Donald is still active in the arts. Formally trained in sculpture and printmaking, he enjoys helping out with three dimensional design; building and designing sets for the local theater groups as well as hiring himself out to the art department to design sets for movies that are filmed in the area. He also creates clay sculptures that he refers to as “fairies with attitude.” These aren’t your cutesy, pixie-like Tinkerbell fairies mind you; these have a personality all their own. Donald says that the idea for these fairies came from his Irish grandmother. She would always say, “Donald, you don’t go in the back of the garden because that’s where the fairies live, and they’re not always nice!” So he decided to create these not-so-friendly looking fairies and give them some chutzpah. Why do people connect with Donald’s fairies? Maybe they represent nonconformity; a rebellious free-spirit that doesn’t care what people think of them or how they look. Maybe they depict the balance between the dark and the light; good and bad. Or, maybe they’re just a whole lot of fun!

The Lady's Not For Sale

The Lady’s Not For Sale

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For many artists there is the piéce de résistance that lingers in the back of their mind; the ultimate work or challenge that pushes them to their outer limit. Having traveled the world carving snow sculptures Donald’s ultimate vision now is to go to Antarctica to carve the Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen expeditions. He wants to do a carving at Scott’s Antarctica landing spot, showing him leaving for the South Pole heavily laden with all of his supplies. Then he will fly to the South Pole and do another carving showing Amundsen’s arrival there with his sled dogs and planting the Norwegian flag, the first expedition to do so and beating Scott by thirty-four days. It is an enormous undertaking; requiring a lot of planning, permissions, safety logistics and funding, but having seen the journey and accomplishments of a wide-eyed young boy to where he is today, we don’t doubt that Donald Watt can make it happen. Keep following the magnificent snow sculptures of Donald and his Team Yukon through his linked website Snowcarver.ca… and maybe leave a little room on your nightstand for a fairy to watch over you.

Learn more about the art and science of snow sculpture during our interview with Donald Watt, and we always welcome Comments and Sharing on social media:

A Moment in Time with Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

A Moment in Time with Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Swimming Caribou by Sandra Grace Storey

Our trip to the Yukon was certainly made pleasurable by the many talented and personable artists we met, but was also heightened by the expectation of glimpsing some of its local wildlife; possibly a wolf, a grizzly bear, or even that native northern ungulate, the caribou. What is the excitement, the awe, the breath quickly drawn in that we feel as we become aware of each others presence? Is there a bond or commonality that we humans share with these beasts? Are there subtle communications between us borne from ancient interactions with one another? What messages and stories are being sent to us that warrant reflection, and future action? Clay sculptor Sandra Grace Storey shares with us her exploration into some of these questions through her narrative art work.

Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Born and raised in the Yukon, Sandra has always had a connection to nature and its wild inhabitants. She notes that encounters with wildlife and meeting them eye to eye is a humbling experience and always invokes a feeling of wonder and awe. It is also a world that differs greatly from her early childhood when she suffered from asthma and was confined to an oxygen tent for great lengths of time. It was a sensory deprived environment that dissociated Sandra from the “outside” world. There was not much else for her to do but read to pass the time and so she indulged in tales of folklore, fables and Greek mythology. Ironically it was reading about these stories that was a catalyst to her current passion for exploring, creating stories and mythologizing her clay sculptures.

Messenger Snowy Owl

Messenger Snowy Owl

Using human and animal figures, Sandra’s sculptures are metaphors for various aspects of life where she seeks to capture a moment in time of a particular story or happening, possibly with one of the many animals she has encountered during her lifetime. With unspoken communication Sandra celebrates this “gift” that these animals have given her by memorializing them in clay. The protagonist of her story may well be a raven, an owl, a rabbit or a bear; appearing as shamans and donning cloaks to hide their true power. Sandra believes that stories make us who we are, and we are all a culmination of our own life’s events. In essence, the stories are about what has already happened, the communication and messages we receive from our environment and how we respond to them helps to build the next chapter in our life.

I Am

I Am

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We asked Sandra why she likes to work with clay and her answer was quite profound. Besides the soft, tactile pleasure of handling the clay, she finds it soothing; almost meditative. Despite whatever emotions she may bring to the start of a piece, working with the clay seems to have a poultice effect, taking that energy from her and releasing it, allowing her to shape the piece with a clear and calm mind. In the end the piece almost always expresses a compassionate and calm demeanor, a reflection of her own emotional transformation. It’s almost mystical, as if the clay itself had intention.

Pompous Rabbit Shaman

Pompous Rabbit Shaman


Sandra’s clay works are intriguing. Sometimes they answer questions we may have about our own lives, and sometimes they lead to more questions. They stimulate our imagination and curiosity and help to strengthen our bonds with nature. They are loving and caring and certainly enjoyable to look at.

Enjoy our interview with Sandra below. We welcome Comments and Sharing on social media.

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.

King’s Point Pottery

King’s Point Pottery

Above: The iconic Humpback Whales of King’s Point in a piece from “Whales and Waves”, King’s Point Pottery’s signature and award winning line of blue and white functional pottery.

Walking into a gallery off the street and asking the proprietors for an interview is a little bit like making a cold call; no preparation and little time to think about all of the ramifications, if any. Maybe not so dramatic, but that is how we sprung our proposition upon the owners of King’s Point Pottery, Linda Yates and David Hayashida. Without much discussion though, they graciously accepted our offer and we were on for the interview the next day.

Linda and David in front of King’s Point Pottery

Prior to our “announcement” Linda and David were busy with customers, and so that gave us time to wander around this charming gallery to peruse the art work of the 150 different artists and artisans represented here. There are potters, such as Linda and David, wood turners and carvers, jewellery makers, painters, glass artisans, jams, teas and chocolate, fibre arts, stone works and metal works. Their gallery, which once served the community as Linda’s father’s gas station, is pleasing to the eye and has been transformed into a wonder of architectural and creative ingenuity.

Linda and David’s accomplishments with their artistic and functional pottery are not just observed by the walk-through patrons of their gallery, but have also been noticed many times by the various art councils and organizations that distinguish and bring to the spotlight exemplary pieces of work that need to be honoured and shared with the public. Linda and David’s clay does not fall flat in this area! The most recent of these notable distinctions has been a nomination for Canada’s highest honour, the Saidye Bronfman Award for craft by the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is an award covering all the mediums, and over the last 30 years running has had only 6 winners in the ceramics realm. Quite a feat, and quite a testament to the beauty, creativity, heart and soul that Linda and David put into every one of their pieces.

The view across the street from the gallery

Linda and David’s passionate connection to the sea and it’s inhabitants are well represented in their work. For instance, Capelin, a small fish in the smelt family, is an essential part of the food chain for cod and other marine life. It has also been used for human consumption, pet food, bait and garden fertilizer. Over a ten year span Linda and David worked on a cast and carved mold of these little guys and now represent these important fish in their collection in the form of plates, dishes, platters and bowls. The next two photos below show some of their capelin mold creations:

Another tribute to the sea was borne in “Secret to the return of the cod”; an exhibit that Linda and David were invited to construct at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John’s, NL., with the image of a cod created within the 230 cups supported on a slut shelf (slut is a Newfoundland term for tin kettle). It was subsequently selected in 2009 to go overseas to represent Canada at a big international show in South Korea.

“Secret to the return of the cod”

Linda and David’s approach to promoting their pottery and the artisans within their gallery is one of a triple bottom line benefit. They actively promote the community of King’s Point and the local businesses and attractions within it. This promotion leads to a stronger tourist presence, and potentially new residents, which will help to sustain not only their gallery and the artisans that sell there, but also the continuance of the local businesses as well.

Linda at the wheel

David tending the salt/soda kiln

Although the other artists represented in Linda and David’s gallery were not there to promote their own work, as we strolled through looking at their creations we were very impressed as David was able to comment on each artist as if he knew them personally, the methods or techniques of their work, and even the historical significance behind a piece. It made a lasting impression on us knowing that King’s Point Pottery’s best interests are also reflected in the extra energy they put in to promote those other artists and the relationships they forge with them.

Click on the thumbnails below for a larger image of Linda and David’s work:

Please join us below with David Hayashida of King’s Point Pottery. Comments are welcome.