260 Fingers

Design: David McKenzie

In November of every year, 26 potters from across Ontario and Quebec gather to display and sell their work under the 40-foot domed ceiling of one of Ottawa’s heritage buildings, The Glebe Community Centre.

Photo: Don Cormier

Chandler Swain started the show in 2005. She wanted to bring together the ceramic artists she admired and let them display their work under their own terms. She wanted to highlight and celebrate the thriving pottery studios of the area. She wanted to be a part of a ceramics show of unfailingly high quality and originality. That is exactly what she achieved with 260 Fingers.

Photo: Don Cormier

There is an incredible range of work on display at 260 Fingers, both functional and sculptural, decorative and minimalist, but one thing is constant: the quality of the art. It is almost overwhelming—so much good work in one place. Where do you look? What do you buy? What potters do you talk to? But it’s a thrilling kind of dilemma. Too much talent is not really something to complain about. The atmosphere in the room reflects that feeling. There is an excited buzz that lasts all weekend, and, for Maureen, well into the new year.

Photo: Don Cormier

Maureen has been involved in 260 Fingers since its beginning. Every year, when the whole world seems to be hunkering down for winter, Maureen is bursting with energy. She works up to twelve hours a day in preparation for the show, CBC radio her faithful companion. It is a great feeling, she explains, working hard towards something you know will be fun. 260 Fingers is a weekend spent meeting new customers and catching up with old ones, seeing other artists’ work, getting feedback on your own work, and taking coffee breaks in The Pantry, The Centre’s cozy tea room.

Photo: Don Cormier

But 260 Fingers is more than fun. It is a chance for Maureen to connect with other potters.  In Wakefield, Maureen and David are lucky to have a group of artist friends, but it is rare, she explains, to be in the company of 25 other accomplished ceramic artists. The conversations they have are specific to their craft. They share the particular frustrations and joys of working with clay. Working from home means a fair amount of solitary work. 260 Fingers is a welcome counterbalance to that solitude.

Photo: Simon Wingar

Maureen gets inspired just walking around the room. She loves to see new work emerging from artists she has long admired. The evolution, however subtle, in others’ work motivates her to continue developing her own style. This year, for example, she is coming to the show with a new pattern.

Photo: David McKenzie

And a gang of small jugs, a size she has never made before.

Photo: David McKenzie

Every November, Maureen comes home from 260 Fingers with pottery, the result of purchases or barters. She thinks about the sale whenever she uses those dishes. She thinks about the other potters, scattered across Ontario and Quebec, working through the quiet of winter, striving to improve their work, coming up with new ideas, opening up kilns filled with expected or unexpected results. She thinks of all those fingers, coaxing clay into shapes that, when grouped together in one show, in one beautiful building, are truly something to see.

Photo: Don Cormier

There will be an opening on Friday, November 9 from 6-9 pm. The show continues Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. The Glebe Community Centre is located at 175 Third Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario. Guided tours are offered on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Visit the website for more information.

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