As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

Sarah Fuller’s Pottery Studio

Driving north along Airport Road after passing V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua, one may notice white signs with blue lettering announcing “Pottery”. Readers of this blog know I am on the island creating a photo documentary about the island’s artists. I’m looking for artists such as potters, painters, and writers so I that I may tell their stories of their lives, in as far as those stories have left themselves in their art. I have a list of people to find. Their tendency of locating themselves in locations as enigmatic and unconventional as their own personalities is often too much of a challenge for my simple navigational skills. In the face of this mismatch, the most productive tactic of finding them has so far been simply following any signs I see advertising an artist’s studio. Invariably the artist turns out to be one of those on my list of people I hope to interview.

For this reason the arrow above the word “pottery” on the sign was alluring to me. I followed.  The signs along Airport Road seemed to lead straight to an army barracks. I turned back and followed the signs again. Same result. I went home thinking that the pottery studio must have moved. A couple of days later I tried again. This time I used my newly acquired WPS “Wadadli Positioning System”, which consisted of asking the nearest local Antiguan (or Wadadli as locals call themselves). I asked where the signs led to. I was told the pottery studio did exist as it turned out, but one had to follow a dirt road that branched off the main road. There were no signs to indicate this. The mystery of the pottery studio location was solved.

When I got there I met Sarah Fuller and her pottery studio manager Ray. Sarah and Ray work together to produce Sarah’s pottery designs, which Sarah then paints using powder glazes that she custom mixes. When we got to chatting Sarah mentioned in passing her history of sailing. While she was talking my eye caught the variations of turquoise and blue glazes on the ceramic wall sconces she had created and which were displayed on shelves along one wall. For me it was as if the moods of Antigua’s part of the Caribbean Sea had followed her into the potter studio.

Because I had already scheduled another interview later, I wasn’t able to interview Sarah the day I met her, but I wanted to come back and at least photograph her work until we could speak. Sarah couldn’t be there when I returned, but I was able to chat with her studio manager Ray. Ray was thoroughly entertaining and a consummate teacher who deftly engaged my kids with his patient instruction  while  at the same time he was throwing pots and running the studio in Sarah’s absence that day. That he loved teaching pottery was evident even before he told me. “I love doing what I do” he said. “We had two girls from Israel up here in Antigua a while back that took public classes in pottery for almost a year and still couldn’t throw a pot. I had them in for a week and they were throwing pots. If you love what you do you’ll love teaching other people to do it” he told me.

Ray is a long time Antiguan resident who along with his assistant Roy originated from Guyana. They listened to a cricket match on the radio while they worked. I watched them knead the heavy clay to eliminate air bubbles in order to avoid imperfections. The strength of their hands and their skill in exerting that strength were evident. I wondered if they were world class cricketers what kind of strange curved pitch they would bowl from the memory their muscles had of that kneading motion. I must have spoken my thoughts out loud. Ray said without hesitation “a kneading fast pace pitch”.

Throwing pots was like a calling to him he said. He was in the army when one day he walked past a local women’s co-op of potters. Deeply interested, he stopped to watch. Eventually he asked a woman to teach him. He ended up marrying her, and twenty eight years later he is still throwing pots.

Ray was a good story teller and I sat transfixed while he told me about the ups and downs the years had held for him. He had followed many different professions, tried his hand and continues to try his hand at a number of different ventures. But all through it pottery has remained. “The work calls for a lot of concentration” he says. “I don’t know whether it was divine intervention or a calling” he said. “I have no doubt about what I’m here to do”. Both my kids and I enjoyed our day at the studio. I loved the ceramic lamps and found myself thinking that my home in Antigua was bare for not having these works that had provided me the simple pleasure of just looking at them. Even as I left today, I knew I would soon return.

More information about Sarah Fuller’s pottery can be found at http://www.sarahfullerpottery.com/.

Each sconce may be fitted with a source of illumination that will pass light through the top and sides.

Each sconce may be fitted with a source of illumination that will pass light through the top and sides.

The red dust is the crushed remains of pottery that has already been fired in the kiln. It is kneaded into the clay for strength.

The red dust is the crushed remains of pottery that has already been fired in the kiln. It is kneaded into the clay for strength.

Ray was kind enough to demonstrate elements of his personal technique such as how he seated the clay on the wheel.

Ray was kind enough to demonstrate elements of his personal technique such as how he seated the clay on the wheel.

To Antiguans, any image of a pineapple evokes the Antiguan black pineapple, a source of national pride.

To Antiguans, any image of a pineapple evokes the Antiguan black pineapple, a source of national pride.

Behind the dust of crushed pottery, an array of mugs displays some of the colours in Sarah Fuller's palette of powder glazes.

Behind the dust of crushed pottery, an array of mugs displays some of the colours in Sarah Fuller's palette of powder glazes.

Clay fish that will have glaze applied before being fired in the kiln.

Clay fish that will have glaze applied before being fired in the kiln.

A closeup of one of the clay fish waiting for the application of Sarah's unique mix of powder glazes.

A closeup of one of the clay fish waiting for the application of Sarah's unique mix of powder glazes.

The clay shells and starfish on this lamp were hand made.

The clay shells and starfish on this lamp were hand made.

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