Kerri Holmes - "I Make Pots"

I make pots. I fall asleep at night thinking of them. Thinking of how, in the clay state they are soft and wet, then rough and dry in the biscuit state. I imagine them glowing orange-hot in the kiln and their ultimate ceramic form with a new skin of glaze. I dream them as plentiful and varied as books on library shelves.

I don’t really know how it all started for me. I admired my Mom’s collection of folk pottery and the old English jugs at our friend’s in St. John’s, NF. Family vacations were all about discovering Nova Scotia beaches. My brother and I dug up red clay and literally got covered head to toe on the mudflats. But pottery was not an option in our school system. I didn’t meet or know of any potters until much later. In 1992, I was living in Vancouver, looking for an activity to carry me through another drippy winter and decided to take a course at the West End Community Centre on Denman Street. I loved it. I signed up for another course. I was obsessed with bowls at the time. Just making bowl after bowl was enough. I wasn’t concerned at all with what happens afterwards.

Then I studied clay at the Kootenay School of Art and Design in Nelson, BC. I learned to throw (unplugged) using a kick wheel with a massive cement base. Wearing out the sole of your right shoe was expected in the studio-intense program. My knowledge of pottery grew. We made all our own glazes and fired gas kilns. The effect of the flame on my pots was magical. We visited ceramic meccas like the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT. I continued studies at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in Calgary, AB and received my BFA in Ceramics. ACAD exploded my view of the pottery world. There was a movement among studio potters to revive wood kiln techniques that was stoking fires throughout North America. I focused on porcelain and stoneware, experimenting with soda kilns and wood kilns.

Following my graduation, I met Alain Stahl and moved to Fernie. I had heard about the Arts Station from classmate, Lisa Cloghesy (now Martin). She had told me about teaching pottery at the Arts Station so it was a natural first-stop for me. In 2005, the Pottery Guild had disbanded and the studio was not being used. Jennifer Girard, Administrator at the time, showed me around. I was thinking, “This place needs me.”

It is my experience that Fernie welcomes artists. Through exhibits at the Arts Station, participating in regional shows, selling my work at craft fairs, the Naked Earth Pottery shop, Ghostrider Trading, and the Fernie Mountain Market, I have had room to grow.

Recently, I’ve abandoned porcelain for the warm and earthy tones of red stoneware clay. I press designs into the pot when still leather hard and often alter shapes by cutting darts or trimming away till I get a softened square. The pots are dipped in titanium white glaze. I call it the “Loaf line” because I began using the white glaze after receiving a commission from Fernie’s Loaf Bakery.

If I let them, my interests would lead me all over the place, from majolica (Italian earthenware from the Renaissance period), to custom tile manufacture and installation. Although my current pots are quite simple, I crave superlative, profuse decoration based on designs from the Arts and Crafts movement. I’ve had to set aside my love of fire, there being no wood kilns within 200km of Fernie. A simple electric kiln is my workhorse. And parenting has taught me a valuable lesson: have the discipline to pare down, do what is essential, no more. For now, I continue to expand the “Loaf line”.

Fernie has been perfect for me. My efforts have been encouraged, welcomed and supported by the community. If you look at Fernie and see something missing, you only need to get to work and create it.

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À Table! Kerri Holmes pottery and Bisaro Woodworking are exhibiting their latest work at the Arts Station Gallery Oct 27 – November 24. Opening celebration on Thursday 27 at 7:00pm