Helena de Jong
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved pottery. My mom took a few classes when we were little kids, so I grew up with a random assortment of handmade pots to use. Every time I sat down to use one, it amazed me that she had created this precious piece with her own hands. When I had the opportunity to give it a try in high school, I couldn’t resist. I fell hard for clay and wanted to pursue it professionally but as so many teens do, I got nervous and went with a ‘safer’ route.
Fast forward five years and one biology degree later, I found myself newly married and in Fernie. A friend and I decided to sign up for a beginner’s pottery class with Kerri Holmes at the Arts Station. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a few fun nights out, but I immediately fell in love with ceramics all over again. I signed up for the next set of classes and then joined the Fernie Potters Guild (who were running the studio at the time).
Working full time and then having my daughter Violet in 2015 kept pottery as a very intermittent hobby. I had always dabbled in other mediums and to be honest, I just love making things. I picked up sewing around this same time and began making clothes and quilts for my daughter and friends. After storing a few bins of pottery for too long and selling some textiles casually, I was encouraged to do my first market. Sitka Studio was born, and I gave it all my spurts of random spare time for the next few years. I also became involved with the Potters Guild board during this time and became president shortly after. I spent a good deal of time helping run the pottery studio and teaching classes at the Arts Station (which were always a hoot!).
After adding my son Finn into the mix, I found there wasn’t much time left in my day to actually make pottery. I decided in 2020 to focus my time on my main artistic passion and make ceramics my “mom time” priority. Losing access to the kiln during COVID was a tipping point for me, I didn’t want to be reliant on anyone else to make my art. I rebranded as de Jong Ceramics and made a real website (which was a big mental step for me). My husband Matt and I were incredibly lucky to be able to buy a new house that allowed for my dream home studio setup, which was only possible because of Matt’s hard work renovating.
With my youngest in school this year, I’ve been able to dive into ceramics with every spare moment I have. This fall market season was so busy and surprisingly challenging at times, but it was absolutely incredible. The love and support from the entire Elk Valley has been unbelievable! I know this is full of cheese, but I’ve learned that if you love something and have a passion for it, just do it. Chase it. It might not come to fruition overnight but if you stick with it, it will happen eventually. Fifteen years after dreaming of being a professional potter, I am one.
2022 was a brilliant year but I cannot wait to see what happens in 2023. My mind is full of new ideas, glaze colours, and techniques I want to experiment with. I’d love to continue expanding my wholesale reach through the Kootenays and into Alberta. I also hope to continue organizing workshops and social events for the Fernie Potters Guild and keep growing our local ceramics community.
You can find Helen’s work at The Green Petal in Fernie, the Elk Valley Hospice kiosk in the Elk Valley Hospital, The Pottery on Canyon in Creston, and most recently, The Fernie Arts Co-Op. Visit dejongceramics.com and or find her on social @dejongceramics.