For the love of the Prairies

Potter’s work reflects feelings about the land

Carol Furman’s pottery is a reflection of her love of the Prairie landscape with all its beauty and diversity. “Like many Prairie people, I love the wide Prairies and hope my work reflects my feelings about the land,” she says.

Furman was born in Regina and moved to Edmonton for high school and nurse’s training. She met her husband John in Edmonton and it wasn’t until they moved to Brooks, Alberta that she had the time to pursue her longtime interest in pottery. “I’ve always been drawn to the natural look and feel of pottery and clay. Brooks had a Potter’s Guild, and that was where I had my first experience with clay,” Furman says.

In 1977 the family moved to High River, Alberta, not far from the small community of Brandt. The Southern Institute of Technology had an arts drop-in centre here, offering many different workshops such as weaving, stained glass, pottery and painting. “The wonderful aspect about Brandt was the stimulation and the different creative minds all in one place. We all grew and expanded our skills at the workshops and we could go every week to practise what we were learning,” Furman said.

In 1983 the Furmans, who had always longed to live in the country, moved to an acreage near Rush Lake, northeast of Swift Current. Here they did market gardening and sold their vegetables at the farm gate and at the local farmers’ market. “We always tried to grow everything without pesticides or commercial fertilizers,” she said.

It was here that Furman set up a studio. “My husband built a workshop for me with all the things I needed to get started, including a wheel and a kiln. It was a big learning curve, and a time of trial and error,” she said.

The clay Furman works with comes from the east end area of the province. “Timing is very important because of its moisture content. If too much moisture is lost, the clay is no longer malleable. It is quite fragile until it’s fired, but once fired to its maturity, it can last for centuries.

“One can do sculptural work, hand-built pieces, or use the wheel for uniformly round pieces. The forming of your object is one part; the glazing or staining is a completely different area of skill. It’s always a thrill to open the lid of a kiln load of pots and pieces that have turned out the way you’d hoped. On the other hand, it’s heartbreaking and a learning experience if there have been big problems.”

Furman has attended craft shows in her area, but more recently has focused her efforts on the Highway 1 Studio Tour, a two-day event that takes place every September in the southwest Saskatchewan area. Visitors can go on a self-guided tour of artists’ studios in various locations to check out high-quality, locally made items.

“One of the most satisfying aspects of my work is when someone finds a piece they love and enjoy and use,” Furman said.

To check out Carol’s studio, contact her at [email protected] or phone 306-773-4576. To learn more about the studio tour in her area, visit highway1studiotour.ca.

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