I recently had the opportunity to get to know the amazingly talented Mother/Daughter team behind The Clay People from Weyburn, Saskatchewan.  All of their pottery is handbuilt in a small studio on their farm in the Canadian prairies.  Featuring finely detailed textures and designs, each piece is hand-built and always unique.  If you don't have a piece from The Clay People already in your pottery collection, well, you should fix that.

It all started in 2016 when Mary took a small pottery workshop through her school.  She loved it and wanted to continue working with clay however she wasn't yet old enough to drive.  So she asked Mom - Lynn - if they could join the local pottery club together in Weyburn.  They did and they both really loved it.  By the time Mary had finished high school, her and her Mom had a small studio building set up at the farm and it turned into a full-time operation.

Ever since Mary had her first class she knew that she wanted to be a full-time potter and she encouraged her Mom Lynn to pursue it with her, even though Lynn would have been content to remain a hobby potter.  The amazing accomplishments that The Clay People have made would have been difficult for only one person to accomplish but this Mother/Daughter team has executed their business expertly.

But it's not always fun in the mud - there is so much more to running a successful pottery business.  Playing to each other's strengths, they've divided the administrative work of running a business between the two of them.  Lynn is familiar with bookkeeping (as they are farmers) so keeps on top of the financial aspects as well as ordering supplies, answering emails, and writing product descriptions for the website.  Mary handles the social media channels, arranges all photography and takes care of the customer service inquires that flow through social media.  Mary also takes the lead on deciding what is needed for the next website update.  But both of them create.

Inspired by textures and nature, other clay artists and Pinterest trends, Mary and Lynn handbuild each piece.  This means there is no wheel work and leads each piece of pottery to be truly unique.  While pottery mugs are their favourite piece to make (because the shape is so universally useful and fun; because between sizes, textures, glazes no 2 mugs will look the same), they are always trying new things and they never get bored.  

Mug production requires Lynn and Mary to work together but beyond that, they often work alone in the small studio.  Lynn tends to make a lot of smaller things such as bowls, mini mugs, hearts and bag tags.  Mary tends to make multiples of the same thing and can get a terrific amount of things done when working in the studio.  While they can (mostly) tell who made what, it is unlikely others could distinguish the potter behind the piece.

Working with family isn't always easy but for The Clay People it has been a very positive experience both personally and professionally.  They may not be in agreement 100% of the time but they really enjoy working together and its clear from their beautiful pottery that they work well as a team!  I asked them what they appreciated about each other's work and here is what they had to say.

While working side by side, Lynn and Mary enjoy chatting about pottery and life or finding peace in a companionable silence.  They try to talk about any issues as they come up "as when you live close, work together and are family, you don't want to let issues get big." 

As other potters will understand, when you are passionate about your work, it can become very consuming.  The Clay People find it easy to spend their time thinking about what was accomplished that day, what they want to do tomorrow and hopes for the future.  But striking a work/life balance is important so when away from the studio, Lynn and Mary try to focus on other things that aren't pottery.

It is clear to me that this Mother/Daughter duo is quite unstoppable and I'm excited to watch their business, their technique and styles continue to grow and flourish.  Follow them on social media and/or subscribe to their newsletter so you are always in the know of when their next online restock will be.  Pieces don't last long!

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May 01, 2021 — Rhiane Heslop