By Jennifer Deacon
You don’t have to look far for potter Iris Patterson’s muse.
From her upstairs Seastar Pottery studio in Three Fathom Harbour, she has a never-ending magical view of the ocean, a view reflected in much of her work, from her colours of her glazes to the sea creatures that adorn some of her work.
“It’s all related to the ocean somehow,” Patterson tells me as she shows me through the space.
Patterson is a native of Belgium but didn’t start studying pottery until after she moved with her husband to Nova Scotia in 2000. “We ran the Seaboard Bed and Breakfast for about 10 years,” she explains. “During that time I started taking classes at Atlantic Pottery supplies. I stayed there about 6 years with Carol Smeraldo and started to build a small pottery business." Patterson decided to start a full-time pottery studio, so they sold the bed and breakfast and built her studio at Three Fathom Harbour.
Patterson said she was doing a lot of teaching before COVID. "I taught two morning classes and two evening classes four times a week and the rest of my time did production. Because of COVID, I closed my classroom. I now rent pottery wheels out to anyone who wants to continue with pottery. They bring their finished pieces here to glaze and fire."
Patterson’s only creations that aren’t influenced by the ocean are her ‘Belly Bowls,’ which she says she really enjoys making. "The pregnant Mom comes to my studio so I can get a nice big belly cast as late in the pregnancy as possible. With that cast, I make an actual clay bowl and then put a pedestal on it. The last one I did was a gift from all of her girlfriends. I delivered the bowl and we got to take pictures of the baby in the bowl " (Most people then use it as fruit bowls.)
After the COVID lockdown, Patterson says that stores in PEI and Nova Scotia cancelled all their orders, but that things were starting to pick up again. “My stores just started calling me not too long ago, so now I am completely flat out because everyone is ordering all at once. I make hundreds and hundreds of mugs. For a really long time it was my jellyfish mugs, but this year a lot of people are into the purple mugs."
Although COVID affected her business and classes, the slow-down also gave Patterson an opportunity. "It's given me some time to do something different I haven't done before. I started a body of work for a solo show at The Craig Gallery in Dartmouth in March." The ocean remains her muse in this show, with wall pieces reflecting the shimmer when light hits the surface of the ocean, and some sculptural pieces of things under water.