Gordon Hutchens sits at his potter’s wheel at his Denman Island studio. Bottom left

Gordon Hutchens a pioneer of Denman Craft Fair

Laura Busheikin

Special to The Record

A visit to the back rooms of master potter Gordon Hutchens’ studio is like a trip to a magician’s lair. Surrounded by the mossy, moody grandeur of Denman Island’s Douglas fir forest, the studio is a jam-packed jumble of rooms, full of potions and powders, tiny tools and big machines, and hundreds of vases, mugs, bowls, and other pieces, all at various stages of production.

As Hutchens prepares for craft fair season, he takes a short break to give me a behind-the-scenes peek at the workspace of one of B.C.’s most celebrated potters. We start in the front room – an elegantly-lit gallery showcasing the graceful shapes and magnificent surfaces of Hutchens’ pottery. This is where visitors like myself want to know: how does he do this? How does he achieve these textures, this luminosity, this velvet iridescence, this metallic sheen that glimmers and shifts and plays with light?

The answer to such questions involves a combination of craftsmanship, creativity, advanced chemistry, hard work, and a certain mad-scientist, inspired-alchemist enthusiasm that has animated Hutchens for over 45 years.

“It really is a bit like alchemy,” he says. “Both disciplines are about the transmutation of minerals and metals. You take a pinch of this and pinch of that, add high heat, and transformation happens.”

As he speaks, Hutchens gestures to a wall-sized chest of multiple small drawers, and to rows of shelves crowded with bottles and jars. Every one of them is labelled: names such as nepheline syenite, lithium carbonate, spodumene, magnesium carbonate, black copper oxide, and aquaregia, which, Hutchens points out enthusiastically, dissolves gold.

Hutchens has been a leader in his field for years. He’s had over 25 one-man shows, 70 group exhibitions across Canada and the U.S., and three major exhibitions in Japan. He’s taught many courses and workshops, authored educational videos, and written articles for ceramics magazines and books. Yet he is nowhere near complacent.

“There are so many things I haven’t had a chance to experiment with. That’s why I love this art form,” he says. “Ceramics is the most complex of the arts. It includes all the visual art disciplines, and more: it’s about three-dimensional form, line and form, colour, chemistry, and mineralogy, and to top it off, you get to play with fire!”

Hutchens has been exhibiting at the Denman Craft Fair since the event’s inception 35 years ago.

“The Island really puts on a top-notch show. There is the same quality and diversity as in the big shows I do in Vancouver and Victoria. At the same time, it very much feels like a neighbourhood event.”

You can see Hutchens’ creations, along with the work of close to 80 other artisans, at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, Dec. 3 and 4, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at the Denman Community Hall and the Activity Centre. Lunches and desserts  at both venues. Free shuttle from ferry terminal, so customers only have to pay “walk-on” rate from Buckley Bay terminal.

 

Just Posted

Comox Valley Record putting the call out to Snowbirds shutterbugs

David Suther sent in this great pic of the Snowbirds, shot from… Continue reading

Too Good To Be Threw back in downtown Courtenay with second location

The new store opened Tuesday at 456 5th Street

World Community screens This Mountain Life in Courtenay

The awe that mountainous landscapes evoke is universal. World Community presents the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Comox Valley Stage 4 water restrictions lifted

Video explains planning and execution of repair

Comox Valley youth rank high in Skills Canada BC competition

Comox Valley students brought home some new hardware last week after achieving… Continue reading

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

CONTEST ALERT: Win tickets to A Night of Bowie

Do you want to see “A Night of Bowie” on us? The… Continue reading

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

SPCA investigating after newborn kittens found in Vancouver dumpster

The kittens were found suffering from hypothermia and dehydration

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Most Read