On a brilliant warm morning, a potter sits in Zen-like fashion, gently coaxing a slab of clay to respond to his touch.
“It’s very meditative, at least at first, because you have to pay attention to what you are doing,” says potter Duncan Tweed as he fashions an elegant vase.
“It’s all in the touch. I can make a pot blindfolded; I can feel a weak spot and tell when the clay is going to twist.”
An artist with 12 years’ experience in working with clay, Tweed is one of two instructors at The Workshop Studio Gallery on 50th Street NE.
His introduction to ceramics was at his high school in Arizona where he needed an art credit.
“It’s very rewarding to build something with your hands,” he says, describing ceramics as being somewhere between stone and glass. “Some of the oldest known artifacts are ceramics.”
Tweed worked with an artist in the summers and graduated from university in Flagstaff with a fine arts degree in ceramics and a business degree in management.
While in college, he met KJ MacAllister, an Edmonton potter and owner of The Workshop Studio Gallery.
The two stayed in touch and when MacAllister bought the large acreage in Canoe, she invited Tweed to move to the Shuswap to teach.
Impressed with the beautiful surroundings and the community support the many area potters receive, Tweed says he was surprised that, as far as he knows, nobody else is giving lessons.
Limited by the number of wheels, the studio offers six-week courses to three people at a time.
“It’s heavy instruction,” he laughs, noting students get as much or as little help as they wish.
While most people are attracted to learning to use the wheel, Tweed says there is always leftover clay so students do get to craft something using the slab method.
Tweed is delighted that he no longer has to make “100 mugs a week” to survive and can satisfy his own passion for creating with clay when he’s not teaching.
“You don’t really know clay until you have thrown a ton of it,” he says, sipping tea in the large, airy studio.
But Tweed is quick to gesture to shelves displaying some of the excellent items students have created, to emphasize that anyone who takes a six-week course at the workshop will be making items they are happy with.
Students also learn about the glazing process, choosing from a few thousand colour options provided by several under- and over-glazes.
Within a few weeks, Tweed says some of the work he and fellow instructor Jeremy Pawlowicz create will be available for sale in the gallery.
If The Workshop-Studio Gallery proves to be a success, future plans include inviting artists to hold weekend workshops and, further down the road, creating a large, multi-purpose facility that would focus on other mediums such as painting and drawing and possibly an artist-in-residence program.
For more information, call 1-778-489-5249 or visit www.theworkshop-studiogallery.com.