Mudslinging therapeutic for members of Edmonton Potters' Guild

They've been around since 1952, people wait years to get in, and once they've got a spot they stay for decades. Why are so many people looking to get their hands dirty at the Edmonton Potters' Guild?

'You never really know what you're going to end up with ... there's a lot of different elements involved'

Rod Denton shows off his latest clay creation at the Edmonton Potters' Guild. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Rod Denton slams a large block of red clay on a table.

The Edmonton Potters' Guild member has been throwing mud around the guild space in the basement of the Victoria School for the Arts for close to 20 years.

"What I really like is the fact that we use all our pottery at home, so if you need something special, like a big mug for your coffee or a little jar for a sauce, you can make whatever you want."

The other bonus is, he says, "you're never short of a Christmas present." 

'The sense of community is phenomenal'

CBC News Edmonton

2 years ago
Head behind the scenes with the members of the Edmonton Potters' Guild. 2:12

You can see more from the Edmonton Potters' Guild on CBC TV at 10 a.m. Saturday, noon Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday or on the GEM app or on demand here.

The guild has occupied the same 1,900 square feet in the bowels of the art school since 1952.

The volunteer-based not-for-profit offers classes and studio time to 84 members. Membership is limited as 84 is the number of wooden lockers available for works in progress, but the waiting list has grown at times to upwards of 100 people.

In three decades Patty Holowaychuk has hardly ever missed her time at the wheel.

"You never really know what you're going to end up with — with the glazing — and there's a lot of different elements involved so it keeps it exciting," Holowaychuk said, calling the process magic. "You can do it for 30 years and still be surprised."

Holowaychuk is working to get some pieces finished for the guild's major fundraiser, the 67th annual show and sale on Nov. 16 at Alberta Avenue Community Hall, which everyone chips in to make happen.

Hand-built pitchers by potter Rita Luck await pick up for the guild's annual show and sale on Nov. 16 at Alberta Avenue Community Hall. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

"Not only do you love to see your own pieces, but you love to see everybody else's pieces too because that's the great thing about being in a guild," Holowaychuk said. 

"You're kind of inspired by all your friends and the people around you as well to try new things." 

Lynn Ratsoy agrees the sense of community is phenomenal.

"I don't know whether it's the people who are drawn to pottery, or whether it's the space itself, which is not glamorous," Ratsoy said.

"Everybody puts on their apron, gets covered in mud and you can't tell whether you have a Supreme Court judge or you have somebody who's working in a convenience store, everybody is the same."  

The guild says it would like more people to know that feeling and that's why it's looking for new space, maybe twice the size of its current home. 

"People are craving this kind of opportunity to get back to basic arts, craft, stuff that's been around for millennia and all of us that are here really love to do it," Ratsoy said.

Lynn Ratsoy lines up her contributions to the show and sale. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)


Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.


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