“Korean and Japanese potters are very fine, detailed potters—very precise,” Sheila Brenchley says. “Now, the English potters are very geared towards functionality and everyday use… The English have showings and sales and things but they’re geared more to function, I believe.”
Brenchley is in the midst of describing a globe-trotting tour she embarked on to study her chosen artform, pottery. Over the course of her thirty-plus year career, she’s found her own work at her studio Peace of Earth Pottery in Kawartha Lakes comes down somewhere in between the two extremes.
“They’re usually functional—mostly functional, some sculptural,” she says, referring to her own pieces. “I pride myself on not copying any particular potter but learning techniques and then incorporating them into a piece that I imagine. I really love to create in my head a piece and then try and work it out how to make it happen.”
Brenchley works from her home studio at 58 Clifford Drive between Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. There she enjoys plenty of space, natural light, and an inspiring view of Sturgeon Lake. Her interest in pottery began after taking a few classes through the Kawartha Potter’s Guild, the Haliburton School of Fine Arts, and other arts organizations. “But mostly I learned from trial and error and getting ideas and trying them and making mistakes and learning from them and just… moving on,” she adds.
These days she’s usually the one teaching the courses. Her large workshop has come in handy recently, as she’s been able to space the potter’s wheels widely enough to keep her workshop COVID-safe. “I have a few students that have been here for ten years and they just keep coming and creating. Quite a few of my students have moved on and opened up their own studios, and are selling their wares now in the community.”
To support that community, Brenchley occasionally hosts showcases of student work alongside her own creations. At the time of this writing, she was preparing for a December 4-5 event along with five other potters. The group includes a mix of established and emerging artists with contrasting styles. The holiday sale runs December 4-5 from 10am-7pm, and includes plenty of gift-ready wares available for purchase (please note masks are required).
For those who can’t make a show or are looking for something particular, Brenchley takes commissions. She encourages interested parties to reach out via the contact info on her website to discuss prospects. She’s open to a variety of projects, from dinnerware to abstract outdoor art, and encourages visits to her gallery by chance or by appointment.
Decades on, Brenchley says she’s still excited by the sheer act of creation. She answers immediately when asked what appeals to her most about the craft: “The actual making. The sitting down at the wheel throwing—it’s called throwing on the wheel—and creating shapes and pots out of a raw bag of clay. And just making it come together, pulling it up. It’s very, it’s almost like meditating. It’s very soothing, very relaxing… I can sit at the wheel and look out over the property and see the lake and the osprey nests and the fox running by.”
If you’d like to visit Sheila’s gallery and take in the view for yourself, visit http://peaceofearthpottery.com for details.
Are you enjoying our Meet the Makers series? Please consider supporting the small businesses in your community this winter, as they rely on our support now more than ever. Reinvesting in our communities allows our hard-working artisans continue doing what they love – and allows us to continue enjoying the beauty they create.