• carole epp

Introducing April's Guest Artist ~ Joan Bruneau


We're all pretty giddy over here at make and do about introducing the first in our monthly series of guest artists. For the month of April we are hosting none other then extremely talented and lovely Joan Bruneau.

Joan Bruneau is a professional Studio Potter and Regular Part-Time Ceramics Faculty at NSCAD University. She maintains her studio/showroom, Nova Terra Cotta in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. Joan Bruneau was born in 1963 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her love of travel and food sparked her desire to become a potter, after discovering the authentic cuisines and pottery traditions of Europe on a trip in 1983-84. She went on to earn her BFA from NSCAD University in 1988, and MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1993. (look to the end of the post for more details of Joan achievements)

The following are some questions we sent off to Joan about living and working in Clay in Canada. Her insightful answers really provide us a look at the development of contemporary ceramics in the Maritime Provinces.

1. Where is your studio located? How long have you been there? What's one of the perks of being a maker in that community? My studio/storefront is in Lunenburg, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. After 9 years of study and development in school, including an apprenticeship and a residency, I was itching to pursue my dream; to return to my native Nova Scotia and be a full time studio potter. The South Shore of Nova Scotia was attractive in the mid ‘90s because there was a community of about 8 studio potters (NSCAD alumni) peppered along the South Shore in various towns. Each potter had a studio/showroom open to the public for direct sales and many of us lived above our shops. This was before social media and Etsy, so the studio/storefront model seemed the most direct way to sell work. Also, since Nova Scotia is geographically isolated, traveling to craft markets wasn’t an option.

​ Lunenburg had been a prosperous fishing town since the early 19th c but as the fishery declined by the early 1990s, it began a slow transition toward tourism and was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995. Lunenburg was pretty rough around the edges when I moved there in 1994 so properties were very affordable. Terrified, yet fuelled with naive optimism, I purchased a dilapidated mid-19th c building for $20,000 began extensive renovations ( costing another $25,000) and set up my studio/storefront in 1995. The local community continues to develop with an emphasis on culture. The NSCAD residency for recent grads is 10 years old and a classical music residency for emerging musicians started a couple of years ago. The Lunenburg School Of The Arts opened last year offering week long summer courses in ceramics, as well as other media, with renowned professional artists.

The character of my building and material culture of Lunenburg ,with it’s beautiful architecture built by master ship wrights, provides the right context for my work which has a lot of ornament, colour and detail.

Business is seasonal; the main season is from June through September, my shop's open from May 'til Christmas. Maintaining a storefront with regular hours can be grueling however it affords control over how my work is priced and displayed, plus reaps 100% of each sale ( as opposed to the usual 50% consignment plus shipping costs to galleries). I could not make a living wholesaling, my stuff’s too labour intensive.

​ I have taught part-time at NSCAD since I’ve been in Lunenburg. Teaching keeps me connected to the broader ceramics community and the younger generation while providing subsistence income over the leaner months. The advantage of the seasonal business is that the winter months can be dedicated to research and developing new and more ambitious pieces for exhibitions. Winter provides privacy and time to develop and make slower elaborate things that require uninterrupted attention. The rest of the year is devoted to production pieces when my shop is open to the public. I enjoy the flow of production as well as developing slower more elaborate pieces. Both approaches have equal integrity.

2. Can you tell us a bit about one of your mentors, someone without who you likely wouldn't e a ceramic artist. One of the most influential experiences for me as a young student was Thanksgiving dinner at the Ostrom family’s home in Indian Harbour.