Evelyn Thain holds a Fine Arts Degree, Majoring in Environmental Art, as a graduate of York and Brock University. Her love of functional, renewable art brought her into the realm of pottery five years ago.
One pottery class turned into two–then three, then four–with Evelyn deciding to leave cubicle land to pursue her journey working with clay. As an instructor, she hopes her passion and joy for the craft is contagious for her students and encourages them to explore their curiosity and creativity.
What is your background and how did you get into the world of creating and teaching the art of pottery?
I graduated during the recession in 2009 and took a summer clerical position with the government working for an assistant deputy minister. It quickly turned into “the golden handcuffs” as I worked to pay off my student debt...think long hours, being on call.
I am a very hands-on person–I think I should have trained as a tradesperson–and what was originally a hobby in order to be more creative in 2014, turned into an opportunity to use my background and interest in environmental art. Clay can be recycled, it’s not wasteful to create with. At Hintonburg Pottery we don’t put clay down the drain, we do not waste water and leftover glaze is repurposed to create a ‘mystery glaze’.
When I came into the shop in the spring of 2018, I was in the midst of a bit of personal turmoil. I was going through a divorce, I had a new home and when I walked in, Ginger spoke with me about my background, experience and asked if I’d be interested in working part-time.
By that point, I had paid off my student debt, I had my own car, no kids, I felt privileged and like I could make the leap from corporate life into a more creative life.
How has you work and artistic style evolved over time?
I don’t like to use the very formal term of “artist”, I find Fine Art can be elitist but potters are relatable, down to earth and focused on functionality.
In the beginning, I was making things I liked for myself and everyone got a piece of pottery as a gift. My corporate coworkers started asking about the mugs and cups I used at work and over the past few years I started selling them.
I used to do more handbuilding than wheel work but teaching has improved my technique and I am learning from others.
Who are some of your key influences and what inspires you?
My very first pottery teacher has her own studio at Charleston Lake. She once told me a story about going to the bank and meeting with a lender who told her she wouldn’t make a living from her art. It started a fire in her to prove him wrong. I am still friends with her, she calls me her “clay baby”.
I like that Hintonburg Pottery does well as a business and encourages others to be creative. The culture is great and Ginger really mentors the instructors to be better and improve.
What is your style like as an instructor and what outcomes do you focus on?
I really like the aspect of teaching people. The education system often teaches you there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do them. As a society, we sometimes demand perfection. I want my students to not be afraid of “doing it wrong” or doing it differently and to learn from their mistakes.
Clay has a way of humbling you. At any moment, you can have a bad throwing day and you have to respect the clay. Don’t come in with high expectations, you may not be able to make a pot after only one studio session. It’s the equivalent of taking one guitar lesson and thinking you can play a concert.
Teachers can push you further to try new things, so I encourage my students to be willing to take a risk and get out of their comfort zone. Weird is still cool in pottery, glaze can transform a piece and make it gorgeous.
I have lots of students who struggle with the making but the glaze forgives what they were focused on. We focus on fun over perfection in my classes.
What do you think makes Hintonburg Pottery so magical?
The sense of community. For example, most people don’t know this but Ginger offers free monthly lessons to a local women’s group, who can’t afford to take classes. There’s a sense of openness and everyone who works here is happy. It is a great space, everyone who comes in leaves happy.
Can you tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I used to be scared to take risks–like quitting a secure job with benefits to join a pottery studio–but now I am all about pushing my students to take more risks.
Upcoming workshops with Evelyn Thain
Join Evelyn on the afternoons of September 10th and 17th for handbuilding workshops where you can make your own lantern or mug!
These sessions are for all levels of experience, ages 14 and up. We provide all clay, tools and instruction in a warm and welcoming light-filled studio. Learn more and book your space online here or by calling 613-725-6909.