Brenda Sullivan “Hone your craft, but don’t make it perfect”

Newfoundland-born potter and sculptor Brenda Sullivan is bringing inspiration from the Rock to her latest line of pottery – a nod to the famous St. John’s Jellybean Row.

Saying she thinks she was born with the inclination towards her chosen medium, she describes her earliest attempts, “As a child I used to make mud pies and bake them in the sun.” At the age of 12, she began working in clay, and when the family moved to Montreal she watched a potter plying his craft – “Mom said I began to shake when he began working on the wheel” – and her path was well and truly chosen.

Working for Air Canada while taking pottery classes at Montreal’s McGill University, Sullivan began selling her pieces in the airline’s gift shop. By age 23 she had her own gallery.

She moved to Ontario in 1980, eventually landing in Schomberg, opening a successful gallery and riding the wave of popularity for pottery until it fell out of favour in the ‘90’s.

From Schomberg she moved to Toronto, where she says she was “lost”. 

Then a chance day trip to visit a bakery about which she had heard good things changed her life. “We took a drive to Port Hope to buy a loaf of bread and we bought a house instead,” Sullivan recalls, adding “Port Hope is so supportive of the arts and its great artistic community.”

Happily ensconced in her studio, Dragon Clay Productions Studio, Sullivan is living her dream. Her advice to anyone pursuing their artistic passion is this: “Keep learning, hone your craft, keep getting better – but don’t make it perfect.” Taking a page from the Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1920), whose artists would intentionally include a blemish in their work to ensure it looked authentic and not mass-produced, Sullivan allows her pieces to embrace their flawed perfection.

Brenda Sullivan welcomes you to her studio – especially in September as part of the Northumberland Hills Studio Tour – and invites you to step into her creative world.

Dragon Clay Productions Studio 

81¾ Pine St. S, Port Hope

By Belinda Wilson