orothy Collin has a burning desire to create. This would be true even if she limited her creativity to quilting, knitting, and sewing (which she loves to do). However, Dorothy is also a potter.
Dorothy and her husband George live in a beautiful century stone house on the outskirts of Fergus, where they moved upon retirement. Maplecrest Farm is not only a Bed and Breakfast, but also the location of the studio where Dorothy spends weeks at a time turning lumps of clay and powdered chemicals into beautiful pieces of art.
Dorothy has a degree in Home Economics from the University of Guelph. It was while she was working on fruit and vegetable research that she sought a creative outlet. When asked why she chose pottery – why not something like bridge? – she replied, “I do that too!”
Although she considers herself self-taught, Dorothy has taken many courses over the years at art schools, including Sheridan and Haliburton. A highlight of her life in pottery was a trip to Japan during which she was invited to visit the studios of artists and observe their creative process. Their attention to detail and luminous glazes remain a major influence on her work. In 1997, Sue Warden, host of the television show “Craftscapes”, filmed a segment featuring raku. Dorothy, together with Eleanor Hendricks, demonstrated this special low-fired procedure.
Dorothy’s pottery ranges from functional kitchenware – one-of-a-kind mugs, platters, bowls, casserole dishes, and other glazed pieces (she has several complete dinner sets to her credit) – to garden art such as bird baths, wall planters, and toad houses. One particularly lovely lamp base features clay thrown on the wheel married to hand-build segments. As a personalized wedding gift, Dorothy was asked to create a platter displaying all the guests’ signatures. Original glazes and unique shapes characterize her work. Her decoration is loose in style, and her use of negative and positive space is engaging. The earthy unpretentious-ness of her pieces mirrors her own personality.
Dorothy acknowledges the importance of getting to know your clay and glazes. To this end, she is very methodical about her process. She keeps a record of how different types of clay react to different temperatures and durations in the kiln. Her glazing recipes read like a science lab report. So organized is this artist that she keeps an album of all her shows and accomplishments, not just for interested customers but to track her creative course.
The earthy unpretentiousness of her pieces mirrors her own personality.
Dorothy is currently a member of Fusion, the Ontario Clay and Glass Association, and is a founding member of the Mississauga Potter’s Guild. She has been involved in the artistic life of the local community for the past ten years. She is an active member of the Elora Arts Council, giving many volunteer hours to the Studio Tour committee. The Elora-Fergus Studio Tour is held each year in the fall with studios open to the public. These self-conducted tours are excellent opportunities to meet the artists, see them at work, and purchase art for your collection.
One of the things that attracted Dorothy to working with clay is the element of mystery. “I like surprises,” she admits. Whether it is experimenting with new formulae for glazes, dealing with the unpredictability of how the clay will react in the kiln, or the creative process of hand-building her own pieces, Dorothy never says no to a challenge.
by Patricia Reimer, Summer 2002
Updated by Dorothy Collin