In 1951 the Sidney and Gulf Islands Review carried a news item declaring the second annual “Salt Spring Pottery Guild” meeting had been held, with Mrs. Ivan (Sue) Mouat as president. “Classes conducted by Molly-Barber Starsky were to begin Nov. 22 and 23.” So an early little group of potters had been formed in 1950. They dug and used local clay, worked on a shared wheel, and fired in a member’s kiln. The organization was short-lived and the guild concept didn’t resurface again until the end of the next decade.
In August 1968 Emily Crosby, a Salt Spring Island potter, coordinated a summer school of the arts. A “talented potter and teacher” named Louise Buck was brought in to teach. These classes were held in the elementary school in Ganges.
In December 1969 a group of 15 potters, including Emily Crosby and Maggie Schubart, formed a potters guild. Their goal was to further their craft through sponsoring workshops, and to share purchasing materials. For many years Maggie stored clay and glaze supplies in her home studio. When a guild member needed material, they went to Maggie who weighed it up and collected the money. Also in December 1969, the guild held its first pre-Christmas sale in a tiny building in the central village of Ganges, where the Chamber of Commerce building now stands. During the sale, which was held on a Saturday, a storm caused a power outage so potters lit the store with candles. Potters felt they had made a successful start. In 1970 the guild held a three-day pre-Christmas sale in historic Mahon Hall in Ganges. This became a successful annual event, later including weavers’ guild members, and eventually woodworkers’ and jewelers’ guilds. This guild sale continued up until the 1990’s when it was handed over to the Gulf Islands Community Arts Council. In 1971 Wayne Ngan gave a raku workshop to guild members, beginning a long tradition of workshops provided by artists from off-island. For instance, in 1976, Byron Johnstad led a workshop; Hiro Urakami put on a glaze calculation class; and Donna McLaren taught a one-week hand-building course during the Summer School of the Arts. The summer school ran for six summers and then ceased to be. Some of Canada’s top ceramic artists led workshops during the 1970’s and 80’s, including some of our guild members: Denys James, Tam Irving, Robin Hopper, Herman Venema, Andrew Wong, Simon Henson, Jean Sarich, Pat Webber, Gordon Hutchens, Bob Kingsmill, Mas Fuomo, and Kinishi Shigeno. Salt Spring guild members also shared their expertise during this time included: Bas Cobanli, Gerry Wilkin, Meg Buckley, Mark Meredith, Christine Drake (Donahower) and Gary Cherneff.
In the 1990’s, Linda Christensen, John Chalke, Steve Heineman, Gordon Hutchens, Walter Dexter and Glenys Marshall Inman all conducted workshops.
In 2000, the guild was privileged to begin holding an annual workshop in Salt Spring Island’s new arts facility, ArtSpring Island Arts Centre. Laurie Rolland came in 2000, followed by Lynne Johnson, then Cathi Jefferson, and Cynthia Spencer in 2003.
In 2004 we were fortunate to have as presenter, Ichizo Yamashita from Japan, with excellent translation by David Lloyd. Our workshop presenter for 2005 was Frederika Rahn, followed by Kathy Jefferson in 2006, Matthias Ostermann and Vincent Massey in 2007, Suzy Birstein in 2008 and Mary Fox in 2016.