Studio visit: potter Ginette Arsenault
"I will be doing this forever. I’ll be 103 years old and be here throwing mugs. "- Ginette Arsenault.
Ginette Arsenault is a passionate potter. She enjoyed many rich experiences before settling in a quiet corner in Shediac and now she is perfectly happy to play with clay. Ginette has stories that would take hours and days to listen, from organizing huge events to crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat. She is a woman who jumps into everything she does. It's all or nothing! She is full of energy and her appetite for life is contagious. You can see it reflected in her creative and colorful pottery pieces. If you have the chance to meet Ginette, prepare to chat and be inspired.
My interview with Ginette was my first in French! I appreciated her openness and warm hospitality. Ginette’s studio is in a small structure next to her home, smaller than a cabin but bigger than a shed, and really full of creative energy. She has to sell pieces to make room for new ones! The business has been set up for nearly 4 years now and is beginning to thrive. I have no doubt that she will continue to work on her art for the rest of her life.
Tell me how you got into pottery:
I grew up in Tracadie and decided to go to NASCAD. I thought I wanted to do photography, but while I was there, we had to try different things in the first year. When I touched clay for the first time, it was a total paradigm shift. It was like, that was my life before, and here is my life after. It was a passion from the beginning. I had a studio in Tracadie, all the equipment, etc. But at some point, I thought, what if I hurt my hands? I started getting really interesting contracts and jobs, and I began quite a journey. I worked for the TPA ( Popular Theatre of Acadia), I was Director of Programming for the World Acadian Congress in 1994 and the Francophone Village in Dieppe in 1999. Also the Congress in 2004 in Nova Scotia, I lived there for 4 years. That’s the kind of stuff that I did, and it just fell into my lap. They were all great experiences. I met so many interesting people.
I also crossed the Atlantic in a sailing boat, a month in 2004. We went to Le Havre, and landed in Annapolis Royal thirty days later. It was a fantastic trip, one of the best experiences of my life.
I had to move 18 times in about 20 years. Whenever I could do some pottery, I did. I loved it so much. Finally I decided to settle down and do what I love, for myself.
Tell me about your studio:
I just love it here. I get up in the morning and look forward to getting started. I have a lot of flexibility. If I’m waiting for my kiln to cool, I can go walk for an hour.I do weights in the middle of the day, it gives me energy and strength for what I need to do. It helps me to channel my energy!
This year I am exploring my limits, figuring out exactly how much I can do. I’m realizing that doing this as a business is so much more than making pottery, you also have to sell them. It takes time. I realize what I can do is more than just making pots, it is also selling them. It takes time, and do what needs to be done. Sometimes you have to start the oven in the early hours of the morning. But I like it so much! Working alone takes a lot of discipline. Nobody will ask you if you’ve reached your quota. It can be difficult for some, but I enjoy setting goals and getting there.
Can you describe your creative process?
I made cups yesterday, they are each unique, big bellies, small bellies. For me I want to let the clay do what it wants, I am just the guide. I don’t want to intrude, I just use my technique to help this ball of clay to do what it wants. I can recognize how I felt when I made a piece. When I look a piece I can remember how I felt, if I was off. the energy I had, if I was feeling off. I can see it reflected in a piece. It's all an exercise in self-awareness. You put yourself into your work, and you have to be completely present.
Do you see yourself continuing to make pottery for a long time? Absolutely. At my age I have many friends who are retired, they have a different lifestyle. I feel a bit like a "misfit"! I want to go to work, I don’t want to stop, I want to learn new things. There are too many things to do, I just need more time to do it all!
I gave everything I had to give, and now it's time to give myself over to what I love doing.
Find out more about Ginette on her CreatedHere profile page!