Village Pottery: the Potter’s Daughter brings PEI to the world
For young women in this day and age, the words “follow in your mother’s footsteps!” aren’t often framed as the path to success.
For Suzanne Scott of Village Pottery in New London, PEI, however, her mother’s footsteps have proven to hold plenty of scope.
Suzanne’s mother, Daphne Large, opened Village Pottery in 1973. Aptly named, the shop is set against the pastoral backdrop of L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace, and in its almost-forty years in operation has become something of a PEI artisanal haven. Daphne has trained a host of other PEI potters, and showcases many of their products in the shop. Her daughter grew up working in the shop, and after returning to PEI to live three years ago, Suzanne took up pottery professionally and became a partner in the family business. And, tweeting as Potter Daughter, Suzanne has brought that family business to a whole new global market via web sales and social media.
Walking into Village Pottery feels like walking into a charming antique general store, except the quaint corners and tall shelves are singularly stacked with the warm shocks of colour and elegant lines that mark their pottery. Cranberry and midnight glazes, delicate signature lupins, and the red mud of PEI capped by the steel-sky-blue of their Celtic Shore collection all greet the eye.
It’s the little details that make the shop such a welcoming space: the tea wagon at the front door, the vintage spools of wrapping paper, the spinning wheel upstairs in the gallery.
And at the back, her hands in the clay, making mugs spin up out of nothing, is Suzanne.
1. Suzanne, what drew you into the family business?
After living abroad for a few years, I returned to PEI and saw an opportunity to grow the family business by marketing online. I started by creating a new website, online shop as well as starting a Facebook page and Twitter account. We have had great success and as a result, we’ve shipped our pottery worldwide and have been able to connect with our customers on a whole new level.
2. How has Village Pottery changed and evolved over the years?
Over the last 40 years, Village Pottery has evolved in every aspect. My Mother started the business in 1973, since then the building has been picked up and moved down the road and a full studio was built on the lower level. There has been all kinds of items sold in the shop over the years by many local artists. From leather wallets made by my Dad to wood carvings by Sandy Stratton, the shop has seen it all. At one point, we even had an ice cream booth set up in the shop!Our main focus now has become pottery. We feature work from over 10 island potters and the majority of our work is done in the studio. Visitors are welcome to watch us in action. The second level of the shop is a gallery featuring fabric art by Margaret England, paintings by Geraldine Ysselstein and Katharine Dagg as well as handwoven scarves by Rilla Marshall.
Next year we celebrate our 40th season which will be a great occasion. I’m certain that Village Pottery will continue to evolve over the next 40 years!
3. Do you pot? In what ways does the PEI environment (human or natural) shape and inspire (or limit!) your work?
I have been making pottery for just over a year now and loving every minute. I started out over 10 years creating the pottery jewellery line “The Potter’s Daughter” and still enjoy that aspect but felt the need for “more”, so started throwing on the wheel and haven’t stopped since. I am constantly inspired by the beautiful landscape of PEI, from the rolling farm hills behind Village Pottery to the red sandy beaches. It is definitely evident in our shop as you will find, there are PEI inspired pieces all over the place! We have even created a glaze combination based on the beach titled “Celtic Shore”.
4. What’s the most interesting sale or connection you’ve made by bringing Village Pottery online?
There have been so many it’s hard to choose but I have to say our most interesting connection came from Barbara on Twitter. We received an online order from her for some pottery and when asked where she had heard about us, she said it all started with Great Big Sea. She had heard one of their songs, googled it and learned that the lead singer Allan Doyle was starring on the show “Republic of Doyle” filmed in St. John’s. That led her to Sea and be Scene, an online site promoting all things in Atlantic Canada. Stephanie from Sea and be Scene has been a great promoter of our pottery shop and voila! Barbara discovered our shop all the way from Ohio. She remains one of our most loyal online customers.
5. Tell me about the differences between your work and your mom’s.
My Mom has been making pottery for almost 40 years so obviously, she is the master potter in this team! I think the main difference between our work is that I like to try new trendy things like the “Mustache Mugs” and “Struck by an Arrow” Stir-fry bowls. I also like experimenting with new textures, this led me to create a line of lace imprinted plates, trays and vases. These are made using my grandmother’s lace which is a nice touch. In the end, my Mom is the one who has taught me everything so I’m certain there are more similarities than differences between us, which isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Now, taking a three-year-old along on a profile of a shop in which everything is breakable may not generally be best practice, but Josephine was mesmerized by Suzanne throwing pots, and even more entertained by the designated kid zone under the stairs. Suzanne and Laura – the potters on site the day we visited – also gave her some clay to try. She’s ruined for PlayDoh forever.
So if you’re anywhere near PEI, and you fancy a pretty drive along our scenic North shore, stop in at Village Pottery and say hello to Suzanne and Daphne and Laura and everyone else and enjoy one of the Island’s artisanal treasures! And hey, you have to go in just for the pleasure of smiling at the inside of this old-school front door. You may leave richer in mugs, as I did, or in pottery lessons, or simply in charm. But you’ll leave glad you came.