Tell us a bit about yourself.
Just Work is an innovative social enterprise that employs individuals who need flexible hours and special working conditions that most traditional jobs cannot offer. Throughout our various ventures, we employ individuals who have various barriers to employment: drug/alcohol addiction, mental health challenges, physical limitations, and new immigrants to the country.
Just Potters is one branch of the organization (we share more info about our organization and the people who benefit from it here). Over the years, our pottery studio has become more than just a place of employment; it has become a community. We currently have seven part-time potters: Olga, Colleen, Robyn, Jasmine, Salvadore, and Jasmin. Four volunteers – Terri, Emily, Sharolyn and Amy – help us on a regular basis with packing orders, responding to email inquiries, making pottery, taking photos of the work and fundraising. In addition to working with the pottery, Jasmine also has a management and marketing role. David helps us keep our books in order and helps us organize our fundraisers.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Robyn loves tending our community garden. Olga’s young son keeps her busy and entertained. Terri and Sharolyn both love taking photo walks. Amy can be found hiking the trails with her dog and husband on the weekend. Jasmin loves to cook and bake. Colleen enjoys bike riding and is an amazing cake maker. Salvadore teaches Spanish at Kinbrace. Jasmine loves going for long bike rides exploring the city.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Jasmine: I Did It My Way. I would call it this because I have always done what I felt was right regardless of what anyone else told me.
Robin: Because I Could Not Stop For Death. It’s a poem by Emily Dickinson that brought out a personal realization in me – I do not have time for death. I’m going to live well into old age and go out with a bang.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Our inspiration comes from the rhythm of our community. There is an emphasis on simplicity, nature, and enjoying shared meals, and this influence can be seen in our work and in our day-to-day lives.
What does handmade mean to you?
For us, creating handmade items is both a joyful and a healing act. In making pottery together, we don’t just form clay – we end up sharing our day-to-day lives. Pottery is a challenging and sometimes demanding art form. It teaches us how to work together and support each other.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
Jasmine: Mentors I have had in and out of school have helped to shape what I do. In addition, my mother and grandmother are both painters, so they have always encouraged me to be creative.
Robyn: Rita Ringmar. She started Potters House, and is an Australian potter. Also Ms. Lindaman, my high school ceramics teacher.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I think we all came to making at our own times and in our own ways. Some of our potters came to the studio with no background in pottery and others were previously employed in related fields.
How would you describe your creative process?
Our creative process is very organic. Sometimes we’re responding to a request, like a bride who asks us to make a milk pitcher or a honey pot for her wedding registry. Other times, we recognize that our line would be more complete with a certain type of item. Before any prototype of an item is made, we draw up sketches and we’ll discuss whether we think an item would fit into our collection and if it would be something our buyers would be interested in.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Jasmine: Pottery that my great-grandfather made when he decide to pick up ceramics in his seventies.
Robyn: An embroidered tablecloth that my mother made in high school.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Jasmine: The only way for me to get out of a rut is to keep making, to force myself to go back to the studio and start again.
Robyn: I go outside and gain inspiration from nature.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
At the end of the day, our goal is to be able to grow our collective so we can provide more work and support to individuals in our community who need it. That may mean we’ve moved to a larger space or maybe we’ll have opened up a café with a retail space to sell our pottery. In 10 years, we hope that our product line has grown beyond our expectations, that we are working from a larger space, and that our community is even larger than we would have thought possible.