To be acknowledged among your peers for your dedication and hard work, or for going the extra mile is perhaps its own award, but being handed an actual award is still quite a remarkable feeling.
That’s what Susan Robertson and her staff at Susan Robertson Pottery in Outlook are feeling these days after Susan returned from a wholesale trade show known as the Craft East Buyers Expo held in Halifax earlier this month, where she was bestowed the Best Display Award on Saturday, February 9. Formerly known as the Atlantic Craft Trade Show, the Expo has attracted buyers from across Canada, the United States and other offshore locations. The products seen at such an event are unique, and they’re also juried in order to ensure that certain standards of excellence are maintained.
The award that Robertson received is judged on design, creativity, scale, colour, texture and the overall image of one’s display space at the event’s trade show.
Robertson was presented with her award by Nova Scotia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Patricia Arab.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Susan. “It was suggested very strongly that we show up to the awards ceremony, which usually is an indication that you’re winning an award, but when I won and had to go up, I was still doing my happy dance on the inside! It was kind of an extra bonus to be selected, and like a gold star from your peer group.”
Photos of Robertson's display, courtesy of Susan:
When she’s not winning awards in out east in Atlantic Canada, Susan can usually be found at her studio in Outlook, where she and her staff produce functional and decorative pottery that reflects nature and, as Susan says, makes people smile. The studio sells wholesale to select stores across both Canada and the United States.
Now that she’s back from Halifax, this is actually the time of the year where Robertson and her staff are at their busiest.
“Now that I’m back from the show, from now until the end of August we’re in our full production mode,” she said. “So right now, it’s just about filling all these orders that we gratefully got! At the same time, we do a lot of custom work. For instance, one of the things that are really popular in the Maritimes is to reproduce local imagery of local lighthouses. So I’ve got a lot of people who have ordered their lighthouse, and now we have to develop and create a design for them. This is the fun part for me, the production and design work, and I’ve got a stack of things like *this* that I have to develop. That’s going to keep us busy until August, and then after that it quiets down, but that’s our time to prep for next year and create new designs.”
What sets pottery apart from other art styles in Susan’s view is the ability to find added enjoyment out of any such moulded and shaped creation, and for the works to have a special place in some peoples’ hearts.
“It’s function-based as opposed to decorative,” she said. “Two-dimensional works like photography and paintings are things that you hang on your wall and enjoy, whereas I think pottery is something that adds enjoyment to your everyday life. I get these frantic phone calls from men who’ve broken their wife’s favorite mug asking, ‘Could you please make another one? I’m desperate!’, which I’m always able to do. It’s amazing how attached people get to their mug or their plate, and how much enjoyment it brings to their life. When people ask what I do for a living, I say, ‘I make people smile’ because people are always, ‘Oh, look at this! Look at this!’ and they’re smiling.”
Originally an Ontario native, Susan was feeling a calling for her roots some time after moving to Outlook more than 35 years ago. When her husband Ian suggested that she take a local pottery class, she never looked back. To this day, pottery is something that Susan still loves, and she’s looking forward to one day having free reign to fully indulge in her own designs and creations.
“I know that no matter what I do in my life, clay will always be a part of it,” said Robertson. “I hope in my retirement to spend time doing fun things, which is kind of a misnomer because what I do, especially in the design aspect, is fun, but some day I want to be able to just come into the studio and produce what I want to produce without worrying about if it’s going to sell or if anyone’s going to like it. How can you not come to work every day when you love it and it makes you happy?”
Susan is grateful to the organization known as Creative Saskatchewan for helping provide funding in order for her to go to Halifax to attend the Expo, but she also says that she would be lost without her dedicated staff, who help Robertson hone the collective vision for her pottery designs and work to ensure the overall success of the studio.
“They (Creative Saskatchewan) in a way share this award, as well as my WONDERFUL staff,” she said. “I called the girls and said, ‘WE have won this award’, because it’s not just me as they’re the ones back in the studio working hard to make it all come together.”
For more on Robertson’s pottery, visit her website at www.srobertsonpottery.com.