or the past three years potter Bronwyn Arundel has been working out of her basement studio, replicating mugs, bowls, plates and serving dishes to sell at stores, galleries and markets. She says it can be a lonely pursuit.
“When you’re renting [a studio] as small as you can, you can’t teach in them and they’re fairly solitary – you kind of get in your own little bubble and don’t get mixed in with the community very much, so that’s what I was looking to do,” she said.
“And there wasn’t anywhere that I could teach a workshop or host events or even have a full class, so I was talking to a couple of other potters and decided that it was something that we needed in the community.”
One year ago Arundel started working on a plan to relocate to a space that could accommodate large workshops, a gallery and shop space. In February she found her ideal location, a bright, open space on the crest of Wallace Street, and kicked her efforts into “high gear.”
A successful crowdfunding campaign raised more than $16,000 for pottery wheels and a clay mixer. She has also brought in local potters Sandy Harquail, Robert Bauer and Bari Precious to serve as instructors and stock the shop shelves. On Saturday, May 26, Arundel is holding a grand opening for her Nanaimo Ceramic Arts Studio and Gallery.
“Well it’s been a really busy couple of weeks pushing to get open,” she said.
“When Robert’s throwing club started on [May 2] in the morning we still had wood tools everywhere and sawdust and it was a big push to even get cleaned up to start. And we’re working hard to get the glazes that we’re going to use finished and then I’m trying to keep up with my production studio at the same time.”
Arundel said she hopes to eventually bring in artists from around the country to offer higher level workshops and provide the “advanced ceramic community” with a place to continue learning.
“That would be awesome. And then introducing clay to people who don’t know it is a really great way to continue to grow the community. And a large ceramic community is better for everybody, it really is,” she said.
Arundel wasn’t always part of that community. When she first left home to attend art school, she wanted to be a painter. While she enjoyed the classes, she didn’t find them challenging and her attention shifted to ceramics.
“I liked the idea of making practical items, so I’d gone to art school with this sense of I wanted to be a maker, but I wasn’t always convinced that we needed more stuff…” she said.
“I’m making art but I’m also making something that’s practical that people take into their homes and use day after day and I feel like having craft in you home elevates it. I enjoy using other people’s work and it makes your coffee taste better.”
WHAT’S ON … Nanaimo Ceramic Arts Studio and Gallery grand opening on Saturday, May 26 from 2 to 6 p.m.