Today is a sort of trial,” says Dawn Govier as she lays out colourful vases, bowls and other glazed, spheroidal artifacts on a tablecloth in the artSpace building, home of the North Delta Potters Guild (NDPG).
The thinking is, a new Sunday morning Firehall Farmer’s Market next door is the perfect opportunity for foot traffic in the form of art- or hobby-seekers.
The open doors promote what the guild’s 30 members and prospective students have access to, says Deborah Korotash, who displays her green and yellow dish wares that were created for a couple about to wed.
Among the studio amenities are several wheels where the raw, wet clay is thrown and spun, and small rooms for drying, storage, mixing chemicals for glazing, and two kilns.
The kilns are used for all of the wheel and hand-molded pottery pieces, with the exception of raku pottery, which is fired with smoking paper in a steel garbage bin outside – complete with a fire permit.
Everything made is food-, oven- and dishwasher-safe, with the exception of raku, which is porous and purely decorative.
Non-raku items are heated twice in a kiln, first in a so-called bisque firing at 1,700 degrees F. They’re then glazed and fired again at about 2,300 degrees.
The entire process can take a few days because of long cool-down periods to prevent breakage.
(A bit of trivia: With no accessible clay deposits in B.C., all of the clay the NDPG buys comes from Greenbarn Potters Supply in Medicine Hat, Alta.)
PHOTO: Dawn Govier throws a clay vase on a pottery wheel.
In one of the drying rooms, Korotash describes how a berry bowl she’s made the previous day must first dry to a leather consistency before holes are bored into it, prior to its first firing.
That first drying period will need a few more hours, she explains.
She got into pottery three years ago after losing her job.
“I do it for therapy,” she says with a laugh.
Korotash hadn’t taken pottery lessons for 30 years, and says that anyone who wanted to do it on their own had to set up there own studio.
At the NDPG, all the equipment and tools are available 24/7 for members.
There’s lots to learn, even for pottery veterans.
Guild vice-president Bev Mason says she’s always experimenting with new techniques, even though she’s currently the guild’s only instructor.
“I’m all over the place. I don’t stick with things very long,” says the retired Delta teacher. “I always joke that I can’t make sets of things.”
Mason was with the guild throughout its history: The years without a home, then the tiny studio in the Firehall Centre for the Arts (then run by the Delta Arts Council), then the fire in the unattached kiln shed (set by vandals), the years of provincial cuts to arts funding and finally the space in its present building (formerly Deltassist, now shared with Watershed Artworks.)
“I think we’re in a good space right now,” she says, suggesting there’s solvency, strength in the membership and the relationships with the city and the arts community.
There are big changes expected in 2014-16. The Corporation of Deltaplans to demolish the building and completely overhaul the North Delta Recreation Centre.
“We were assured we’d always have a space,” Mason says, adding the guild will make do with whatever it gets, despite some concerns about the loss of space and flexibility in how the new facility will be designed.
“We knew that there’d be wishes and hopes that wouldn’t materialize. We’ll certainly have to rethink how we use our space.”
Still, the pottery will go on.
“It’s part of my DNA,” Mason says.
The North Delta Potters Guild is located at 11425 84 Ave. For more information or about fall pottery classes, visit http://northdeltapotters.com/ or call Delta Recreation and Park Services at 604-952-3000.