Pottery made with love: Susanne James joins Studio Tour
By Jenn Watt
Susanne James has been a potter for about a decade, falling in love with the craft after taking a beginners class with Barbara Joy Peel at Haliburton School of the Arts.
“I loved it right away, and it wasn’t long before I bought some used equipment and set up my own home studio here in Haliburton,” says James, who is a new addition to this year’s Studio Tour.
She says she kept working at it, refining her skills, until her work was good enough to sell.
“I made a piece for the members’ show one year at the Rails End Gallery, and it actually sold! [Gallery curator] Laurie Jones kindly offered to display some of my pottery in the Rails End gift shop and I started making some sales,” she says.
James’s work includes functional items that make the dinner table more delightful. She has recently reduced her product line to the most popular pieces, focusing on regular and wide mugs, bowls and platters. She also makes pottery canoes, a nod to the heritage of the Haliburton Highlands, which can be used as centrepieces or to hold candles, lemons or other goodies, she says.
“I’ve also narrowed down my glaze combinations - a rich dark and light blue blend that does really interesting things on the outside of a piece or spots with texture, and a black and cream combo,” she says.
Her most popular product is mugs: “People really seem to enjoy a delicious coffee or tea in a special handmade mug. (I sure do!) It makes the daily ritual more decadent.”
James and her husband bought a cottage in the Highlands almost two decades ago and less than a year later made the decision to move up full time.
“We left our jobs in the television news business, left the city behind and began our real estate careers. Never looked back,” she says.
This is the first year James has been on the Studio Tour and she has spent months preparing the volume of inventory necessary to accommodate the crowds of art lovers who venture to the Highlands each year for the popular event.
“I’ll be a guest at Studio A, which is the studio of hosts and painters Annette Blady and Al Van Mil on Miskwabi Lake. It’s a gorgeous spot, especially in autumn. Annette and Al are incredibly talented, and they’re fun, cool people,” she says.
James will be on-site, meeting with visitors and selling her work. The interaction with customers is part of what she enjoys about being a potter.
“It’s quite a thrill when you get paid when someone buys something you’ve created because they love it. The best part is when a customer tells me they use my pottery every day,” she says.
The Studio Tour is Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 12-13.