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About Me: Alina Schneider

My life as a potter started in 2006, with a road sign advertising pottery lessons.

My parents always encouraged me to make things myself, to know how to be independent in the world. My mom taught me to knit when I was six. I was allowed to handle tools at an early age and I helped with gardening and with my dad’s building projects. I remember being very proud of my dad who could do anything from cutting our family’s hair to building a cabin, or even making my wedding cake. As much as possible, my family made things as opposed to buying them.

So it was no surprise that when I saw that sign for pottery lessons I felt an urge to learn this new skill. That is what I thought of it at first—a new skill, something that would allow me to make something useful out of nothing, just a lump of clay.

Gail

Gail (left) and me (right) at the Camrose Craft Centre

I took my first set of lessons and was hooked. The following year I joined the Camrose Craft Center Potters and had a chance to work with an amazing teacher, Gail Muirhead, a self taught local potter. Our group learned from each other and asked for Gail’s help as needed, all at our own pace.

For me, learning to use the wheel was of primary importance. The first time I saw somebody grow a vessel on a wheel was at the Works festival in Edmonton and it seemed magical. And now here I was on the wheel and it was … VERY DIFFICULT and VERY FRUSTRATING! It took me almost three years to learn to center consistently. Finally, after much struggle, I could center and then worked through all the milestones of a beginner potter: making a perfect round pot, making a bigger or taller pot, making a thinner pot, and so forth.

To my mind, learning to use a wheel is like learning to ride a horse. You have to spend enough time in the saddle for your muscles to learn the task without thinking about it. With pottery, that involves making a lot of pots and mugs and bowls. This, I soon found out, puts a great demand on shelf space around the home. Before long, it became clear that I would need to find new homes for my creations. As my husband put it, it was time to share the joy. I gave many of my pieces to my friends and family and donated many to silent auctions. Eventually, I started selling them at Christmas sales, and then in stores and now even at the Royal Alberta Museum (read more here).

vase

A vase with a juniper imprint

Many of my pottery pieces are inspired by nature—grass, leaves, trees, plants, and so on. Last summer, for example, I did my whole garden in pottery. I pressed as much of it as I could into clay. Just imagine carrot, zucchini, pumpkin, tomato, pea, strawberry, and raspberry textures. It was amazing! And then there is a whole world of tree bark, cones, and branches (read more here).

In the field of pottery, one can never learn everything. There are always new aspects to discover. For me, that’s a huge attraction. I love learning new things, and pottery never lets me down. I go to a lot of courses and each time I can’t wait to get back in my studio and try out what I’ve learned. There are so many ways to manipulate clay; I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. And then there is a whole world of decorating and glazing that is even more challenging. This work is never boring!

I consider myself lucky in that I have an amazing and challenging job apart from pottery. Because I do not have to rely on pottery sales to make a living, I have a lot of freedom to experiment and try as many things as like. I don’t have to stay with any particular technique or style. Instead, I can explore as much as possible and learn from as many potters/artists as I like. Having access to a variety of pottery workshops and the whole world of Internet is fabulous. One wonders how we lived without the WEB?!!!

So my mission is to learn and discover and much as I can about pottery and then to share it all with others. Join me on my adventures in clay by reading my blog!


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