Cathie deVries | Ontario

I recently purchased 2 hand made ceramic cups through The Northern Kiln, a new online platform where local artists sell their pottery. The tumblers arrived less than 2 days after I had ordered them. They were so well packaged that sharp utensils had to be used with some vigour to release them from their box. I was surprised by how solid they were. The earth tones of the exterior were highlighted heartily with speckles (think of a bird’s egg) while the inside of the cup sported a dark, rich burgundy or dark blue. I was thrilled and I was reminded of an earlier fascination with ceramics.

In the 1970’s you could collect stone coffee mugs at participating gas stations. They were often decorated with pastoral scenes of the Quebecois countryside. My mother started bringing these home and then me, as a new driver, would get another mug when I began filling my car up with gas. In the 1980’s I started collecting stoneware from the Bronte Post Office Gallery in Oakville, ON. The artist was so prolific that by the time my children came along I had a vast set of matching stoneware - dinner plates, dessert plates, salad bowels, mugs, a water jug, tea and coffee pots. I was surprised my dining hutch did not collapse under the weight. But as in most things, trends change. With young children in the house Corelle Living Ware took centre stage on the dinner table. Less charming but so durable. As my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles aged and downsized I replaced the more durable kitchenware with bone china by Royal Ashley, Spode and finally Noritake. The Spode Buttercup will always be my favourite. I vividly remember eating my morning porridge on it as a child. The dishwasher was hard on the china and using the microwave was out of the question (especially on the gold trimmed Ashley.)

Now in my 60’s and contemplating the next 20 years of my life I yearn for the simpler things. A pandemic has taught me many things, like doing more with less. I like beautiful things and I am not ashamed of that. I like to eat well and I like my food to be served on pleasing but functional dinnerware. I’ve started baking and cooking with passion for the first time in my life. The weight of a heavy cup makes me more mindful of the drink in my hand. A solid bowl seems to bring more satisfaction when enjoying a rich, hardy soup or curried rice dish. It reminds me in a very primal way of the earth from which it was made and my own humble beginnings. With an increase in online shopping since the coronavirus pandemic began I hope to increase my ceramic collection exponentially, thanks to The Northern Kiln and the many artists that the platform supports.

I think my mother would approve.

February 03, 2021 — Rhiane Heslop