A few minutes down West Saanich Road, away from the hustle and bustle of Royal Oak Shopping Centre, the forest thickens and the vibe changes.
Welcome to the country: a place where horseback is a common mode of transportation and where Faro Annie Sullivan creates a unique brand of pottery from her studio, adjacent to the revolving house where she spent her youth.
Sullivan no longer lives in the unique home – designed by Barney Oldfield to turn 360 degrees in about 45 minutes – yet the area remains her creative headquarters.
“I feel a little bit off the beaten track,” Sullivan said. “I’m not an urban person by nature, so this works for me.”
Sullivan’s pottery studio and gallery are easy to miss, not because the space is like any other artists’ set-up, but because it’s one of the tucked-away creative places that will open to the public during the Saanich studio tours that began this month.
Walls in Sullivan’s studio are covered with clay works that combine words and images with bright tones – a style telling of both her interest in the use of colour as a means of evoking joy and fun, and in language.
Sullivan is a published poet who holds a master’s in folklore from Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld., where she first studied ceramics.
“I’m very interested in oral and personal narratives and when I’m able to do that (kind of) work, it comes more into play more than in my functional work,” she said.
Her functional work – such as an annual order of 75 mugs for a women’s cycling group – may seem somewhat monotonous, but it remains a welcomed outlet for Sullivan, mother to a four-year old girl.
“Because I’m a very busy person with a very busy mind all of the time, (pottery) is the one thing I’ve found that helps me meditate,” she said. “You’re connected to what you’re doing – it grounds me.”
Sullivan is a ceramics technician for the visual arts program at Camosun College, as well as an instructor of children and adult pottery classes at the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
She revels in the ability to communicate, either with students or customers, her excitement and positivity through pottery. If she weren’t applying bright slips and firing mugs, however, Sullivan would be indulging in her other create endeavours: knitting, felting, or generally being crafty.
“Clay is just a primal, a really basic medium. The first medium, some people say.”
Sullivan’s functional work ranges from $12 to more than $100 and is work is sold at the Good Planet store on Fort Street and at her Old West Saanich Road studio and gallery, Dirty Girl Clayworks, until it closes for the winter in December.
She also sells pottery online through Etsy – an endeavour she admits falls a little short, as she is more inclined to have her hands in clay, rather than on a keyboard.
Also on the Saanich West tour this year, self-proclaimed “closet potter” Joy Finlay is set to host six other artists outside her Trevlac Place studio.
Finlay gave herself the moniker since she creates pieces only when she has time to truly enjoy the process that goes into her earthy, organic-looking clay work.
She was reluctant to take up pottery two decades ago at her daughter’s suggestion because she knew she would get hooked. She did.
This weekend is a time when Finlay indulges in the habit.
“Our theme is ‘Come to the country,’” Finlay said.
“We’re surrounded by the environment that many of us take our inspiration from.
“I call it a show, rather than a sale and most people are quite taken with it, but not everybody’s in a position to be adding to their collection, so they can feast with their eyes.”
Saanich studio tours in May
–Saanich West Studio Tour
May 12 and 13, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Eighteen artists, many at shared venues around rural Saanich studios, including potter Paige Coull, who will join Sullivan at Dirty Girl Clayworks.
Notable stop: 270 Trevlac Pl., where seven artists will display works and enjoy artisan baking by Ray Drone outside the studio of potter Joy Finlay.
–Scattered Artists’ Tour
May 19 and 20, noon to 5 p.m.
Twenty-one artists – painters, photographers, quilters, weavers, a woodworker, a potter, a mosaicist, a print-maker and a basket-maker – open studios north of Hillside and south of McKenzie, including the Cedar Hill, Lakehill, and Swan Lake neighbourhoods. Check out scattered-artists.ca.
–ArtWorks Artists at Garth Homer
May 24, 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Visit the artists of ArtWorks in their studios at the Garth Homer Society, 813 Darwin Ave.
–Mount Tolmie Studio Tour
May 26 and 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Artists on this cycling friendly tour of studios near Mount Tolmie Park includes painters, woodcrafters, and photographers.
See Mount Tolmie Studio Tour for more.
See www.gobc.ca/tours for maps and information on all upcoming studio tours.