Traditional Salish meets the Pottery Studio

Community Art Showcase by Sherry Bezanson

As part of the Stu”ate Lelum Secondary School Co-op program, approximately 20 youth chose to spend five months in the pottery studio of artists Josee and Vic Duffhues on Shell Beach Road. The students came in twice a week, for two hours. In addition, other students from First Nation Art 12 and other art classes from Stu”ate Lelum took the classes as well. The resulting merging of cultures, the Salish inspired tiles, were displayed on the feature wall at the Emergence Students’ Show during September at the Waterfront Gallery.  The show’s intention was to acknowledge and further encourage youth of all ages to keep painting, carving, drawing, sculpting and tiling.

Research indicates that schools that foster art programs produce students who have better socialization skills, attend school more regularly, are more motivated to learn, show increased problem solving abilities, are more autonomous learners and have improved memory skills.  If having fun and feeling energized weren’t enough of a reason to pursue the arts, this is a fairly convincing list of positive consequences.   Inspiring youth to expand their artistic natures is a win-win for all.

The Co-op program was established to create partnerships in the community between school and the community to help youth explore careers and skills and earn credits toward graduation. JoVic Pottery starts with an impressive showroom and gallery of completed projects – stoneware, raku, and collectible pottery art. Entering the studio space, where the real work is done, one is visually grabbed. White clay dust invades every surface – buckets of glaze, garbage cans, ware carts, the pugmill, and shelves of green ware. The kiln room houses two huge kilns.

The 168 tiles done by the Stu”ate Lelum students are captivating. Vic Duffhues talks about the ease and fun of having the students working in their studio. His excitement of being part of the tile project, that combines pottery with traditional Salish designs, is obvious.  He explains that some of the tile designs were from traditional Salish designs, while others were original by the student, done in the traditional way. The colours on the four by four inch tiles are muted, like beach washed blends from the natural world. The designs include salmon, orca, beaver, hummingbird, eagle, frog, the sun and moon, raven bear and canoes.

Sisters Marina and Tianna Gibson, age 20 and 16, were two of the students engaged in this project. They both expressed their pleasure of being involved.

“I loved it, I loved how we could use our traditional Coast Salish designs on the tiles. Vic and Josee were really nice, awesome, they had so much patience and the classes went really well.  I adore them”, effuses Marina Gibson.

“Yes!” agrees Tianna. “We call them auntie and uncle now, they really made learning pottery exciting and fun.  I used a half sun, half moon Salish design that my uncle taught me.”

Both Marina and Tianna and other Stu”ate Lelum students went on the bus to see the Emergence Show. They said it was really exciting to see their art on the wall. Len Merriman, Principal Stu”ate Lelum Secondary School, said the tiles will be displayed at the new Stzuminus Secondary School presently being built on Shell Beach Road. He said the tiles would be inlaid with boulders in the outdoor classroom with a plaque honoring the gift of the tiles from the current students to the new school.

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