Pottery classes... lead to connections and lifelong learning!
Meet Deb Hughes-Gahr, local pottery artist. She says "Pottery is about process, the doing... you never stop learning even after many, many years. Learning is never a waste. Investing time and energy in yourself is never a waste".
Welcome to the second interview in our new blog series "Local County stories":
Whether you are simply interested in supporting local artists or are actually considering learning a new skill, keep reading to learn a bit more about Deb's on-going journey. It just might make you want to learn more about the art of "throwing" pottery...
Laura: "What is the nature of your local business/artwork and can you tell a bit of the story of how you started?"
Deb: "I've been making pottery for about 16 years, and painting for about 20. A few years ago, I decided to focus on pottery to learn the medium, explore and develop a style and refine techniques. Between that and working full time, the painting has been set aside for now. I mostly make functional food related items and decor for the home. Recently I've branched out to make more fun functional pieces for outdoor spaces such as patio table top water fountains.
My work is mostly made (thrown) on the pottery wheel; items are then altered by adding texture, carving and piercing, twisting and pinching the clay.
A bit of how I got started: Pottery classes started up in Camrose. I went to a Christmas Sale at their Guild, saw the wheels and after a few minutes of talking to one of the instructors, I was signed up for the following January. I took classes in Camrose for about 3 years then changed to Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan. I'm still attending weekly classes, and recently started teaching a little at the Clay Hut in Sherwood Park and create pieces in my small home studio as well."
Laura: "What have you found to be an unexpected blessing/perk of having this local business/art?"
Deb: "I love that my work connects me to people in the community. I've made many friends through classes and have so much fun at the half-dozen local shows and events that I take part in annually. As I keep learning, my work keeps evolving. It's exciting to remember that pottery takes a really long time to learn and I'm very much looking forward to many more years of discovery and "playing in the mud."
Laura: "What has been a challenge/learning opportunity as you've pursued this business/art?"
Deb: "The most challenging opportunity for me is teaching adults who have never touched clay before. Learning how to articulate a technique or hand position that I've learned through my fingertips is sometimes quite difficult. I show the students a demo on the wheel and explain step by step how to get the desired result. I try to make the classes fun and get the students to overcome their fear of failure. I'm very fortunate to have the chance to share my passion with others and empower the adult students that sign up for my pottery classes. The best part for me is when someone takes my class for the first time and is so excited to continue that they sign up for more right away."
Laura: "What is one interesting/unique thing you want to let people know about you/your work?"
Deb: "All of my pottery is individually hand made, hand carved, and decorated- no molds, no decals or stencils. My glazes are all food-safe and I use my own dinnerware daily so I know it's dishwasher and microwave safe.
I try very hard to make each piece with thought and consideration for the user. For example, when I make coffee mugs, several criteria must be met, as I consider a cup one of the most intimate objects a potter can make. I want all of the elements to be just right so that cup is the one my customer will reach for every single day. I consider weight, shape, size, the rim and finally the all-important handle; all elements must come together to create a mug that is sweeter than your first kiss!
As I'm working at my wheel, I think of how the item will be used and I strive to make it my very best, high quality work that the customer will enjoy every day for many years."
Laura: "If you were to be a 'tourist in your own backyard' what local activity (ies) would you recommend to others?"
Deb: "I would encourage everyone to visit the exhibits of local artists at Gallery 501 and to check out the Art Society of Strathcona County, as well as take part in the wide variety of art classes and workshops offered in Sherwood Park and Strathcona County."
Laura: "How can people best find you/contact you to learn more about your work?"
You can also find out more at www.localcounty.ca/debhughesgahr