Sunday, 2 February 2014

One in a Line–Margo and Sophia Meyer's Creative Legacy

Some collaborative projects are unintended.

I stepped out of the winter's cold on Sunday morning and into the warmth of the Clay Studio (see link below) in the downstairs of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.  It was warmth made not just of heat produced by radiators but also of a collective of women potters who had gathered to decorate a harvest of pots– and warm each other's souls at the hearth of friendship.
Wendy Shirran is the co-ordinator of the Clay Studio.  Boundless enthusiasm!

Executive director of the Craft Council, Anne Manuel, was telling a story drawn from her years of friendship with Margo Meyer.  Meyer was the matriarch of functional ceramics in this province.  It was a legacy she passed on to many through teaching– like Isabella St. John–and to her own daughter and grand daughters.  Two of whom, Sarah Anne and Jesse were in attendance.  When Margo's daughter Sophia passed she left several boxes full of undecorated pots: mugs, lamp bases, vessels with soft curves and generous lips.  There was also a flock of tiny darling ducks.  Ducks and duck decorated earthenware had captured the hearts of many customers.  And stories were told by a few of the potters gathered around the work tables, like Maaike Charron who today works in the shop upstairs, of customers who came over decades looking for one more duck decorated mug.   Very pregnant, Sarah Anne, announced that her daughter would have such a mug to use.  She also said that her baby would be a girl, another in the tradition of Meyer women.

Anne's stories, of early days at the Salt Box craft store and memories of Christmas past, had the quality of family reminiscence.  Some of the women, who were all potters affiliated with the Studio, had never met Margo or daughter Sophia Meyer. (Margo died in 2010 and Sophia in 2012.) I knew them mostly through the ceramics.  So to me, the hushed room had the quality almost of listening to a children's story of way back when.

Anita Singh stroked an urn getting to know its shape before she started to decorate.  She asked for a story to help prime the creative pump, to spark some appropriate image.  Sarah Anne told us about the time her mother had made a batch of urns for funerary ashes.  And that her mother had made one for her own ashes.  The conclusion was that when Sophia passed away her ashes could not all be contained in a single urn.  "Mom didn't fit…we couldn't fit all of Mom in it".

One of Isabella St. John's lovely serving pieces.  Isabella studied with the late Margo Meyer.

The finished pots will be on show for the exhibition, One in a Line, which opens February 28th at the Craft Council Annex Gallery and will be on view until March 8th.  The invitation will be designed by daughter, Jesse, who is a graphic designer.

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