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By Akola Thompson- Inspired by the curiosity that reared its head every time she saw beautifully created ceramic pieces, when offered the opportunity to learn, Lisa Thompson quickly grasped at it.
“I would see pottery all over the place, stores, markets and I always liked the look of it and I always wondered about the feel of it. I was curious about how it went from this brown stuff towards these beautiful creations,” said Thompson.
When Lisa got trapped in Canada for four months during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of her friend’s mother-in-law decided to show her the ropes after Lisa expressed an interest in working with clay.
“Suzanne Standard has been a potter for thirty years, it was so fortunate for me that she had the generosity of spirit to teach me. I went over and I totally fell in love. She had a nice workshop, kiln, glazes and clay, and she started me off by learning to do tiles. She had done two tiles of her granddaughters, and immediately I wanted to do the tiles of my sons. She laughed and said you’re very ambitious because it took her 15 tries. In my head, I was like I’m not doing it 15 times,” said Thompson laughing.
Starting off with her own design, she quickly realized the amount of patience and time that glazing takes. While people often like to say that glazing is like painting, Lisa disagrees with this as it takes quite a lot of concerted effort.
“You literally have to glaze drop by drop, and of course, there is the cleaning up after.”
Despite the challenges, Thompson created her first glazed piece and was considered a natural by Suzanne who decided to let the ambitious Lisa attempt her portraits. While she had to refire the portraits several times as she didn’t like how the colours came out, once she got it, she was hooked.
“If I wasn’t hooked before, after that I was totally and completely hooked,” said Thompson.
“I enjoy feeling the clay on my hands. It’s an incredible feeling, the coolness and pliability and then you see that finished product. What is rewarding for me too is going through the glazing. It’s incredible. You apply those glazes and I feel a lot of excitement because I like to experiment, I want to know how it’s going to happen. It’s that joy you feel doing and the joy you feel with the finished product.”
While initially, Lisa would accept orders from persons, she stated that it is something that she no longer does, as she wants it to remain a fun thing for her that she can love.
“I have to be in the mood to do anything with pottery. I tried working when not in the mood and everything bad would happen. So I don’t take orders anymore as I am a perfectionist. If I have a timeline or deadline I am working towards, I don’t want to disappoint. So I don’t want to work like that. I will not try to replicate anything I make as it loses that freshness or authenticity. Then it just becomes churning out stuff.”
Now, her only offerings are the things she has made and put up for sale, while things she does not like are relegated to her friend’s Liz’s garden.
“I liked the lessons it has taught me. With clay, if you don’t put in that time, effort and patience, it will fail you. If you love it, it will come out in those pieces you make. Each is different. There will never be something that is the same. It allows me to play with pottery every day I go to pottery. Her favourite things to make are wares and plates that are leaf shaped, while Christmas decorations are her least favourite.
“I am never doing that again, it is so tedious and it can break easily and tilt a bit in the process and it’s just a lot of work for what I see as little reward because of the time I put into it. Portraits too, I may never do those again because you put in so much time and if it doesn’t come out the way I want it to come out it can be distressing. If people are impatient with orders, it creates a lot of stress for me, so it has to be fun,” said Thompson.
While working with clay can be incredibly rewarding, she shared that the cleaning up aspect of it can be very tiresome. “Its water, and clay everywhere. It’s on your hands, clothes, glasses, phone and all the tools you use. Also when I do detailed tiles, I have to clean all of the lines and it can be very tedious but in the end, it’s worth every second you spend cleaning,” said Thompson.
It is no secret that Lisa’s favourite artform is pottery, but she is a multidimensional creative who has over the years also worked as a mosaic artist making tabletops, and also stained glass pictures. She has also dabbled with painting and a bit of embroidery. “I actually think I could be a fantastic painter, I just don’t know how to do it yet to my own satisfaction,” she laughed.
Thompson encourages those involved in pottery to not be afraid of experimenting or making mistakes. It is a lesson that she herself had to learn as she wanted everything to always come out perfect.
“Things can go wrong in the process and you have to be okay with that. What really helped me to connect with that was when I went Wakeenaam and met this Potter. He had made thousands of diyas and he showed me a pile of 1,200 diyas that were broken. It was at that moment that I said, okay Lisa, get over yourself because here was a man who has been doing it for over 35 years and still had these challenges. It helps to put things into perspective that stuff will happen but then you have the next piece,” she said. (Loop News).
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