A little over a year ago, the North Delta Potters’ Guild had to pack up all its equipment and put everything in storage while they waited for the new North Delta Recreation Centre to be built.
“We were kind of a guild without a home then,” said guild president Bev Mason. “People kind of managed to do a few things here or there, but the majority of our potters just took a hiatus.”
Membership dwindled, and by the time the guild took possession of the new space it was down to just 16 people. Now, a little over four months since the guild moved into their new studio, that number has nearly doubled and the classes the guild offers through the rec centre regularly book up.
“We’ve been teaching classes for them now for several years and they’re very popular,” Mason said. “The city takes only a nominal fee out of the fees that come from the lessons, so we’re in a good position there. They’re very responsive to what we want or what we plan fo classes.”
The guild, a not-for-profit organization, uses the money from the classes and from memberships to keep the space going and provide everything the potters need to do their work, such as clay and glazing materials.
“That’s basically what we want to do. We don’t want to make money here, we want to cover costs and be able to have enough money to be able to repair or replace equipment,” Mason said.
The design of the new studio space was a collaborative effort between the municipality and the guild, and special design considerations were made to accommodate the members’ needs.
“In [our old] building we had 24/7 access. We had a key [and] could come in [at] any time,” Mason said. “Here, they had to configure things so that that was the case. And that, in terms of other studios, nobody has that, especially studios that are attached to community centres. That was a big coup to be able to have that and we appreciate that.”
Mason said some of the potters can only come in after work and at odd hours, making the separate entrance and in-studio washroom a must.
“At first there was no bathroom and we kind of went, how can we have a place with no bathroom?” Mason said. “At that point it wouldn’t have been 24/7 access to a washroom so you would have had to pee in a bucket or something while you’re here. They wanted us to use a washroom that was upstairs and [since] most of us are older women, that [was] not going to work.”
Mason, who is a retired special education teacher with the Delta School District, said she really enjoys teaching the classes the guild offers through the rec centre.
“Teaching comes easy for me anyway but this is no stress at all,” she said. “This is my kind of teaching. I don’t have to have report cards and planning sessions and all that sort of stuff.”
She said part of the reason the classes are so popular is because they do more than just allow people to pass the time.
“I like our members who are teaching to focus on skill development, even with the kids,” Mason said. “It’s not just playtime with Play-Doh, it’s skill development and they do come out with things that they can be proud of. They are amazing in what they can come up with if given the support and a few techniques and advantages that we have here in the studio that you wouldn’t have at home.”