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St.Albert Potters Guild

March, 2024

Mud Magic! After more than 60 years, the St. Albert Potters Guild continues to get crafty with clay

When it comes to pottery, it seems safe to say that Diane Gwilliam isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. “I love the way clay responds to the potter’s touch,” she said. “I’m always learning, and I guess I have to say I seem to love a challenge!”

It’s a challenge she’s pursued for more than 40 years, which started with her first pottery class. She fell so much in love with the discipline, she eventually became a member of the St. Albert Potters Guild, where she shares her passion and knowledge with 59 other members whenever they get together. With studios based in St. Albert Place, Gwilliam and other guild members work on pieces touching on every aspect of pottery from traditional Japanese raku methods to sculpture.

“The members have huge amounts of experience to share with each other,” said Shirley Randall, a guild member who took up pottery when she was 15 and currently teaches the craft at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. “You can ask fellow members for help, ideas and possible solutions when projects don’t turn out how you expect.”

Randall added that she’s constantly inspired by the river valley the studio overlooks from its downtown headquarters, a far cry from the guild’s more humble beginnings in 1962. Back then, the guild originated as part of the visual arts-oriented St. Albert Arts and Crafts Guild, based in the basement of a local community hall that housed the town’s first pottery studio. Six years later, an expanding arts community warranted relocation to two portable structures in Salisbury Park, before finding a permanent home
in St. Albert Place in 1984.

The following year, the St. Albert Arts and Crafts Guild folded. In its place sprung the St. Albert Potters Guild, the St. Albert Quilters Guild, The St. Albert Painters Guild, the St. Albert Paper Arts Guild, and the Floral Society of St. Albert. These five groups, however, don’t entirely operate independently; along with the Art Gallery of St Albert and the City of St. Albert Cultural Services Department, they’re all under the not-for-profit St. Albert Place Visual Arts Council (SAPVAC) umbrella.

SAPVAC offers the Potter’s Guild membership several opportunities to display and sell their works, such as the WARES Gift Shop in St. Albert Place and the annual Country Craft Fair that occupies the complex during the third weekend in November. Some members also enjoy additional exposure with their pieces available for sale at the Musée Héritage Museum, also in St. Albert Place, the Art Gallery of St. Albert on Perron Street, and Seasons Gift Shop on McKenney Avenue.

Although the Potters Guild doesn’t offer classes for the public, a few members are instructors of pottery courses made available at the St. Albert Museum. Gwilliam has noticed the positive effects among people who discover pottery for the first time in the classes she teaches.

“I taught pottery for almost 27 years and personally can attest to the wide variety of personalities that attend classes,” she said. “Some people are just curious; they just want to give clay a try. Others are more serious and feel a draw to it, and they come back year after year developing their skills.”

In a way, watching those students home their skills on blobs of clay hearken reminders of why some Pottery Guild members got into the craft in the first place. “I like pottery because it presents challenges,” said Randall. “Being able to form, decorate and make something from mud into something like a simple lovely functioning coffee mug is just cool!”

St.Albert Potters Guild

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