Canadian Pottery

Adolf & Louise Schwenk, Penticton

I’ve been a fan of our Canadian pottery folks ever since I had a metal smithing booth at the first Courtenay faire back in the 70’s.   Wandering through the stalls at Courtenay, Bear Creek and the other big fairs that summer, I ran into a lot of craftspeople selling their wares and got to see some of the early days of the movement.

Marketing wasn’t easy in those days but pioneers like Yetta Lees and her Circle Craft started my personal ball rolling – promoting crafts into what was to become the craft heritage we know today.  Always being a fan of things hand-made, I gleaned a few pieces over the years – the pictures below are of some of the things I picked up along the way.  Most, but not all of the collection originates from BC, although some of the pieces were made in distant provinces  – far away and long before I had a clue!


2 thoughts on “Canadian Pottery”

  1. Hi Larry: I think the beautiful blue, probably porcelain, bowl you’ve indicated as “chop unread” is fairly certain to be Byron Johnstad. He was my teacher in Burnaby at what is now the Shadbolt centre in the late 60s and then moved eventually north of Nanaimo (Nanoose Bay?). The small bowl may also be his.
    The other quibble is with the piece identified as Martha Melling. I got to know her at Cap College in the late 70s early 80s. That piece may have been a one-off, but it looks more like Margaret McLelland’s work. She was doing that paper-thin fine work, while Martha’s work was much more solid functional ware. McLellan (not sure of the spelling) worked in a group studio on West 10th with Gary Merkel and others in the 80s. I’ve not seen Martha or Marg for ages but was involved with them in the Potters’ Guild through the 80s and 90s.
    You’ve got quite a collection! How do you store it all?

    1. Hi Jan – Thanks for the confirmation on the Byron Johnstad pieces – great news!

      I had a sneaky suspicion they could have been his work as I saw a plate in a store last week that was attributed to him – the chop on that plate was in a coarser bodied clay and a bit difficult to read, however it was a fairly close match. I didn’t go ahead and update the descriptions on the site as I’d already got that chop read incorrectly once before ;-( but now I’ll go ahead and redo them.

      The other piece piece identified as Martha Melling I got as a gift many moons ago and I think I did know who made it back then, but memory …well, it was some time ago! I’ll remove the Martha Melling attribution, mark it ‘chop unread’ for now and meanwhile post a pic of the chop (a single “M”) on the page – perhaps the chop will ring a bell and we’ll be able to positively ID it as Margaret McLelland’s work.

      Ah yes – the collection …I’m afraid a lot of the pottery pieces aren’t on pedestals with strategic lighting or anything – it’s scattered around the house, some on top of cupboards, on windowsills and a few pieces even on shelves …as you can imagine, the trend of downsizing doesn’t get any screen time in my place!!

      Thanks again for taking the time to write, really appreciate your input and experience.

      all the best


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