Louise M. Cormier
Oldman River Potters Guild
Tucked away in a group of spare, white industrial bays near the Lethbridge Fitness Club, is the new home of the Oldman River Potters Guild (ORPG as it is fondly called by its members). The bright interior harbours a well-equipped clay studio open to members 24/7.
“This place allows me to meet people who share similar interests in working with clay,” explains long-time member Sandra McKay. “It gives me the opportunity to constantly learn not only more about wheel work, hand building, glazing, different firing approaches and how manage various types of clay but also become familiar with other clay artists and their work.”
McKay adds, “I especially enjoy the social aspect of the guild and the laughter, wonderful discussions and support.”
The studio is ideal for beginners and advanced clay makers. There are classes in the winter and spring, as well as mentoring for the newer members. Members are introduced to various aspects of hand building and wheel throwing and go on to work in functional pottery such as cups and plates, sculpture, murals and tiles — whatever captures their imagination.
“The opportunity to take workshops, to display our work and to travel together to ceramic lectures or demonstrations in other centres” is an important feature for Heather Sorochan MacDonald.
Members who take workshops outside Lethbridge in various parts of Canada and the U.S. will bring back what they have learned and share through in-house classes. Other local and outside makers will come to the guild to give workshops; these include demonstrations, slide shows and hands-on activities.
“One thing I really look forward to are the fall and spring sales at Westminster Community Hall,” says Linda Spaller. “These are an occasion to see the works of many of our members and to engage with the public about our pieces.”
Interaction with the community is always a key goal for the guild and realized through sales events, Art Walk, the library shows, exhibitions and charitable fundraisers.
This year’s fall sale — the annual Pottery and Glass Art Christmas Sale — is scheduled for Nov. 8-10 at Westminster Community Hall, 411 16 Street North. The sale, put on by the ORPG in conjunction with the Lethbridge Society of Glass Artisans, runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 8 and 9 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 10. Admission is free.
Since the guild was formed in 1963, there have been many changes and developments in the clay world. Today, in the 21st century, it is more popular than ever in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Popular perhaps because the sensuous and expressive dimension of a handmade object sharply contrasts with industrial multiples (or many identical, slipcast forms like cups seen in stores).
In this exciting time, the ORPG continues to help makers hone their skills while, at the same time, become aware of contemporary forms of expression and materials. Having the privilege of “making” permits contemplation; to paraphrase Philip Rowson, permits meditation on the infinite possibilities of form and surface.
Brigitte Berke, our current president, encourages anyone interested in clay work to look up the guild website for more information — https://www.oldman
Membership (adults) is $110 per year with some volunteer hours. Every member receives a shelf for their work. Lockers, clay and firings are extra.
The guild’s studio is located at 326C 10 Street North in Lethbridge (phone 403-394-0320).