Stephen Plant - A Revisionist Autobiography
In 1970 at the age of 23 I purchased Eagle Valley Pottery from Glyn Nicholas, who was returning to England and leaving his equipment and supplies behind in Sicamous, B.C., Canada. Collectors value his fine Majolica and slip cast pottery. Included for $325 were a Leach treadle wheel, a Ferro Enamels front loading kiln, and many other tools. Glyn’s one pot throwing demonstration was my introduction to clay. After reading Bernard Leach’s “A Potter’s Book” (included in the sale), I drove my 1948 Ford truck to Vernon to dig clay where Axel Ebring (1869-1954) had his early Okanagan Pottery.
I cleaned it in an old wringer washing machine and used my Stoke on Trent Sieves to remove the rocks and sticks. Working with clay and fire seemed natural to me and engaged my creative and the technical talents. I was soon producing earthenware for sale in my studio gallery. The earliest pots have the BC Centennial Symbol of “3 C’s” (1869-1969) back to back. Later and wood fired Raku pots until 1974 are sometimes signed and stamped the “The Pottery Plant Sicamous B.C.” and/or initialled and dated. 1972 was a catastrophic flood year and my studio near the Sicamous channel was in the channel. I used a raft to get to the studio to lift everything up and up again.
1973 threatened to be almost as bad (sand bags on the street) and by 1974 two sons had arrived and pottery was insufficient income. Surveying and Engineering have always provided me with the means to support my family as the need arose.
Grandpa used to say “I’ve already told you more than I know”.
This was my first business card.
Leach Treadle Wheel
Medicine Hat Trip to trade firewood for clay
In 1989, after working on the Revelstoke Dam and CPR Roger’s Pass Project, I was the “The Pottery Plant, Revelstoke B.C.”, this time purchasing newer electric kilns, an electric wheel and Medicine Hat stoneware clay. The higher temperatures and tons of practice (first 5 tons are the hardest) enabled me to further refine forms with increasing functionality.
I also added gas and Raku wood firings until 1992 when more children arrived necessitating a return to engineering work. Pots from this time are usually stamped and signed. This was my “peach and teal” period and included experimentation with coloured slips and sgraffito decoration with poetry and natural scenes including animals and birds. There are also early signs of what later evolved into Celtic Knots on many functional dishes. My business card evolved with the pottery.
Raku Wood Fire
In 2001 after more engineering and surveying on Vancouver Island which included work on 17 remote light stations , the Pottery Plant(s) morphed into Heaven In Earth Pottery, Gardom Lake, B.C. Again the kilns got bigger and better, a new whisper quiet wheel and digital technology arrived. Porcelaneous clay from California is a stronger clay body and much easier to work with than what I remember of Vernon’s mud or Medicine Hat’s stoneware. My engineering background and digital firing records have enabled me to take advantage of kiln accidents and whims of the Kiln Gods to reproduce some spectacular glazes. “If I was modest I’d be perfect”. Today I find making pottery a mindfulness meditation and source of peace and happiness – most of the time. My best pots are when the thinking I isn’t present and I am one with the clay and process. No one “needs” pottery in today’s disposable society .When someone chooses a piece of my pottery as a gift for themselves or others I consider it a privilege and blessing to be a part of a loving exchange.
Booth on Wheels
16 Inch Platter
I don't always cut clay with a violin bow