I have been a practising potter for over thirty years now and it all began accidentally, when after completing three years of study at U.B.C. I took a year off to travel and learn something outside of an academic surrounding. Upon returning and going to work to earn some money for my last year at school, a friend asked me if I would take a pottery course with him at the Burnaby Art Centre and that was how it all began. My instructor, there was a wonderful young woman named Bonnie (we have continued a friendship since then) who inspired me to drop my academic career and pursue the life of a potter.
From there I went to the University of Montana for a year while my wife was completing her B.F.A. It was here that I had the great opportunity to study with Rudy Autio, one of America\'s great ceramic artists; as both a teacher and person he made a lasting impression on me. From there I went to the Alberta College of Art in Calgary where I completed a four-year programme with a major in ceramics. We stayed on in Calgary for the next eight years while I worked at a pottery that made high fired stoneware and porcelain. This work experience helped me to develop the practical skills necessary to work as a studio potter and led to my life‐long interest and fascination with the beauty of ceramic glazes. During this time in Calgary I and some friends built a large wood fired two‐chamber climbing kiln on a friend\'s land west of Calgary. For a group of young potters that was such an exciting time, the kiln and fuel being a direct connection to our collective history stretching back for thousands of years.
But now it was time to come home, so my wife and I and our two children returned to Vancouver, where I at first attempted to build a gas fired kiln to continue to work at high temperature, but City regulations and the need to get to work fast made me start to use the old Estrin electric kiln that I had brought back with me from Calgary and to work at low temperature. I had to learn a lot fast, the commercial low‐fire clays I tried were all very inadequate for producing strong functional pottery, so I began to test and test and finally developed a clay body that was in my opinion much better( much of the ceramic technical literature mainly concerns the cone 6/10 temperature range and finding information concerning low‐temp. required what was a long search for the answers I needed‐ much of ceramics/pottery technical information has been transmitted orally for thousands of years and unfortunately lost to us).
Since my return to the coast twenty‐four years ago I have continued to work making pottery, mainly concerned with the preparation or serving of food, using majolica and transparent glazes with slip decoration to glaze my pots. For the past fifteen years, I have taught a course on glaze chemistry for all temperature ranges at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. This has been a been a way for me to continue to explore my interest in glazes and pass on an appreciation of their mystery and beauty to the students. I have increasingly over these years as a potter come to see what I do, not in terms of work but rather as labour and recently while reading the most inspiring book, 'The Gift Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property' by Lewis Hyde, I found this line.
"When I speak of Labour, then I intend to refer to something dictated by the course of life rather than by society, something that is often urgent but that nevertheless has its own rhythm, something more bound up with feeling, more interior, than work."
This I think is good description of what it is to be a craftsman, and in a culture where the machine made is omnipresent, is an important one for all of us.