A community of pottery artists is thriving because a shattering back injury forced its founder to reshape her commitment to ceramics.
Patricia Forst, who operates the Forst Pottery Gallery in Gibsons, had been creating clay murals and sculptures for decades when she became immobilized by pain.
“I said to my husband, that’s it, I can’t do pottery,” Forst recalled. “And he said, wait a while and see what happens. And the idea of a pottery club came up. I’d had people ask before, but I wasn’t sure I wanted others [in my studio]. But now I really needed people to help me.”
Forst established her pottery club in 2018. Today, her studio on Chamberlin Road is a busy hub for almost two dozen artists who work across a variety of ceramics disciplines.
It is the only pottery club of its kind on the Sunshine Coast. Members reserve the use of the studio’s wheels. The cost of firing in the onsite bisque (electric) and gas-fired kilns is baked into the price of clay that Forst supplies to members.
“It’s kind of social too,” said club member Al Fike, who creates functional items like intricately-textured teapots. “I moved over from Vancouver and built my own studio, then sat in it and didn’t feel inspired. But here in a crowd, there’s the synergy of creativity together.”
Fike was one of the group’s first members. Its artists are sensitive about seeking feedback, he explained, and prefer to learn through observation of neighbouring wheels. Breakage and unsuccessful glazings are discreetly added to a backyard slag heap cloaked in blackberry bushes.
Allyson Muir is the latest to sign up for studio privileges and has observed the effects of positive peer pressure first-hand. “The club is great because I can come here quickly and do my thing,” Muir said. “And you have a lot of people around you can watch and say, I can’t wait until I can do that. It’s like osmosis.”
Joanne Schick created pottery in the Yukon Territory for a quarter-century before taking a break that lasted two decades. “I’m just getting back at it now,” she explained. “It all comes back, skills like centring and making a [pinch] mask.” Schick sculpts intricate figures within cave-like concaves on the surface of her wheel-thrown mugs.
While most club members form ceramics on wheels, Betty Ackroyd works sheets of clay into delicate vessels using only her hands. Her skills this year earned her the Anne and Philip Klein Visual Arts Award, a distinction presentation annually by the Sunshine Coast Arts Council. Ackroyd’s hand-built sculpture of a jester with a cockscomb hat was recently featured in an exhibition of local work at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery.
For Roxanne Hoffman, her involvement is a two-way street: she assists Forst with the club’s accounting while Forst teaches her about the chemistry of glaze-making. “I’m taking what I’m learning here and using it in my own studio also,” she said.
As members cultivate specialized knowledge, they offer instruction to others. Fike is the group’s acknowledged expert in raku, a low-fire technique that involves immersion in combustible material.
“Everyone takes their turn doing what they can,” said Forst, who provides traditional lessons in addition to her pottery club leadership. “It really is fun, and really works well.”
More information about Forst’s art and pottery club community is available by browsing to forstpottery.com.