PICTOU – Krissi MacKenzie was peeking through the window of a classroom when pottery first caught her eye. She was studying art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design when she decided to start making art, rather than studying it.
“I never actually touched clay until my second year of university, then it kind of just grabbed ahold of me,” MacKenzie recalls. “My locker was right beside the pottery studio. I was just always peeking in there and it was really attractive to me. I don’t know why, really. I never touched it or anything. Then, more than 60 per cent of my course load for my second year was pottery-related.”
After the first semester of pottery, MacKenzie was hooked. But she said she had a rocky start to learning the craft.
“The first thing I made was the worst bowl in the world. I look back on it now and it’s hilarious and the glaze is super funny, I didn’t know what to do,” she remembers. “But it held water, so I thought it was pretty successful.”
But as time went on, MacKenzie found pottery suited her well.
“It was great for me. It was easy for me to sit down for eight hours and make a bowl. That’s not easy for a lot of people,” she said, adding that she also enjoyed the chemistry of making pottery.
She found her niche in hand-built pottery rather than the pottery made on the wheel.
“I’m not a very strong thrower so I use hand-built techniques and use moulds. The whole process to me was really interesting and it was nice that it was creative as well,” she said. “It was a nice balance for me between a lot of technique-based and problem-solving skills and a lot of creativity as well.”
Now, it’s three years later and MacKenzie is a professional potter, selling her work in a hand-made art store in downtown Pictou, handiWorks. She focuses her work on functional pottery such as dinnerware rather than sculptures.
“Most of my work is for the table, for the home. It’s totally intended for people to use,” she said. “I like that they have purpose to their lives. I think people have a lot of things now and I like pottery because it’s something that’s useful, but also beautiful.”
She said she chose to move back to Pictou County because it’s where her family is.
“Pictou County appeals to me because this is where my family is and I’m very family oriented, she said. “I was really homesick and I knew that I wanted to move home.”
MacKenzie said the art community in Pictou County suits her because it isn’t a glamorous art scene, just talented people making beautiful art.
“In Pictou County, there are so many artists and so many craftspeople here. There’s huge amounts of it, but they all kind of hide. They come out of the woodwork once in a while and it’s great.”
She said that suits her personality as a potter.
“As a craftsperson, I’m not one of the traditional artists that loves to go to shows. I find those things very difficult,” she said. “I like Pictou County for its beauty and for its quietness. It’s very easy to work here and it’s great.”
She spent last year as the NSCAD and Town of New Glasgow artist-in-residence, a post that is now filled by three new artists. At the moment, she is without a kiln, a critical component of completing a work of pottery, so she’s channeling her creative energy elsewhere.
“It’s a great time to step back from pottery and try some other things and I’m lucky enough to have that time,” she said. “I’ve been really into textiles lately, exploring around. I do miss the pottery, though, I’m trying to make some kiln connections.”
She added that she enjoys working as a craftsperson in Pictou County because she finds it easy to be inspired by the area’s beauty.
“If you’re not inspired you just look out the window and you’re like, ‘OK, yeah. Maybe I could make something pretty today.’ ”
And for now, MacKenzie said she couldn’t picture herself living and making art anywhere else.
“I grew up here, it’s home and it’s nice to come back and get in touch with my roots,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to stay for a while.”