By Bradley Turcotte
After a decade of throws and glazes, Hintonburg Pottery has something special in the kiln for the community. The Wellington Street West staple is offering free workshops as a way to say thank you for the years of support.
This month, prospective potters are invited to work with clay and donate their creations towards a fundraiser that will benefit the Parkdale Food Centre.
In these trying times of inflation and the rising cost of living, community support is crucial to the Parkdale Food Centre, Meredith Kerr, the centre’s director of development and communications, said.
“We are committed to sharing and fostering connected communities—neighbour to neighbour,” Kerr continued. “Hintonburg Pottery and the support they lend, through art and community reflects the neighbourly relationships we aspire to share everywhere. We are grateful to share the community.”
As was the case for many small businesses, the pandemic hit Hintonburg Pottery hard. Revenues were down significantly, staff left and hundreds of classes were cancelled, owner Ginger McCoy said. Many clients did not ask for their credits to be honoured and instead donated the cost back to Hintonburg Pottery.
“We have had an awful lot of support from the community,” McCoy said. “We are still here.”
Many healthcare workers sought refuge at the potter’s wheel during the pandemic, McCoy added. Hintonburg Pottery offered doctors, surgeons and frontline workers an opportunity to de-stress through therapeutic creativity.
Soul Space is a collective of community members who support the needs of frontline workers who care for people experiencing homelessness, addictions and mental health challenges. These workers experienced a heightened level of exhaustion during the pandemic, Danielle Rolfe, Soul Space coordinator, says, as they dealt with the deaths and losses of their clients from opioid overdoses and unmet needs.
Soul Space aims to support these workers holistically, and sessions through Hintonburg Pottery offered frontline workers an outlet they might not have been able to access otherwise.
“The goal was to allow them to connect with themselves and to connect with others,” Rolfe explained. “They said that was key for them, to be able to connect with other people working in the same field but doing something that was creative and uplifting rather than just their jobs, which they love but it does drain them. Soul Space is very grateful, and the frontline workers are too.”
Pottery and working with clay resonates with so many, as the artform connects us to the earth, McCoy said.
“It is a malleable, forgiving, medium to work with. Because it is of the earth, I feel that there is a strong connection to it. We walk on this earth; our food comes from the earth. It’s sculptural, it’s playful, it’s purposeful—it provides these vessels we can eat from. There is something about it that has a strong connection to who we are.”
In 2012, the lack of a permanent hub for pottery in Ottawa where potters could showcase their works inspired McCoy to start Hintonburg Pottery. Beginning in a small space that was soon “bursting at the seams,” McCoy moved the business to its current location, which is now at capacity once again, she added.
Although surviving as a small business through the pandemic felt exceptionally long, McCoy said she can hardly believe it has been 10 years since Hintonburg Pottery took its initial form.
“It’s been a great journey— it’s been a long journey,” McCoy says. “We survived it through the strength of the community.”
Hintonburg Pottery’s open house is on Saturday, May 14 at 1242 Wellington St. W.