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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay Easter Promenade has a homemade theme this year

Decorate your house; chance to win prizes

Woofy’s now selling Girl Guide Cookies

Another business has stepped up to help the Girl Guides sell their… Continue reading

Comox Valley handyDART offers free grocery delivery

The handyDART service in the Comox Valley is offering free deliveries for… Continue reading

Comox Valley RCMP seeking witnesses to Courtenay 7-Eleven robbery

The Comox Valley RCMP is requesting assistance from the public to help… Continue reading

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay, Mill Bay, Brentwood Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules for 60 days starting Saturday, April 4

VIDEO: How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

Officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don’t feel alone

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

North Island-Powell River MP credits Canadians for doing their best during crisis

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is working from home as she… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Emergency funding available for North Island College students

Funding for students experiencing financial strain that may affect their ability to continue studies

Most Read