In life and in pottery, unpredictability can be a positive thing, as potter Glen Mantie discovered.
Mantie had no dramatic epiphany at the potter’s wheel. In fact, being a potter wasn’t one of his original career choices.
But three years ago, while recuperating from illness, Mantie decided to sign up for a formal pottery class on a whim.
“I had a friend who was a potter and during recovery, I decided to pick a pottery class because I kind of figured it was easy and I didn’t have to do a lot of lifting. After the class, I got hooked.”
This marked a new phase in his life. It was September 2007 when Mantie started spinning the potter’s wheel. Figuratively, it was also when the wheels started rolling for him.
“By December, I was already selling my work. By February the next year, I had joined the Thompson Valley Potters’ Guild and by September, I was president. I’ve been the president ever since.”
Thompson Valley Potters’ Guild (TVPG) is a collective of 35 potters from Kamloops, North Thompson, Shuswap and surrounding areas.
A full-time potter, Mantie feels like he’s won the jackpot upon discovering his new career. “It’s something that I really enjoy and I can actually make a living out of it,” he said.
In his craft, unpredictability makes things interesting. He may start with a glob of clay, but the variety of firing techniques and glazes are, to him, like a spectrum of colours to a painter.
“It never gets boring,” he explained. “What really gets me is glaze—I really love glaze. It’s the last bastion of the alchemist.”
Pottery is done either by wheel throwing or hand building. While most potters specialize in one area, Mantie does both.
He makes a whole gamut of functional pottery—from the more ordinary bowls, and teapots to platters with ornate, hand-painted designs. He makes cup and saucer sets precisely because not a lot of people make them. He also creates dainty Japanese sushi dishes and sake sets.
But the thing he especially admires is 6,000 year old Chinese pottery.
“That ancient Chinese pottery, their glazes look just like the glazes that we use nowadays. Riots of colour and all sorts of weird stuff. I love looking at old Chinese pottery,” he said.
Mantie said he’s been an artist all his life and many of the techniques he’s picked up over the years are now applied to his pottery. He’s continuously surprised at how spontaneous the creative process turns out to be.
“The thing with any of my artwork and anything in my pottery, you go along and something just knocks you over and you go ‘Wow, that’s a great idea!’ and you write it down, you start working on it and developing it. It’s keeping your eyes open and just experimenting.”
“I can put the same piece, same type of pottery, same type of glaze in the same kiln and it’ll never look the same every time I fire it.”
Find some of Mantie’s pottery at the TVPG Fall Sale Nov. 6 at Desert Gardens and at the Delta Sun Peaks’ annual Christmas Market, Dec. 18 and 19.
For more information, www.tvpg.ca.