Covid, which kept me close to home, helped turn my attention to the people and materials I could make art with right here.

My friend Susan Walton told me about the clay in the shore of Marsh Lake near her home. The Clay Cliffs downtown are well known, and I am gradually coming to appreciate where to gather the clay that’s the most amenable to use.

My investigations certainly began with meeting Montreal ceramic artist Marie Côté when she came to the Yukon for a residency with the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture at the McAuley house. I returned the visit, bringing clay from near my own home, and painted ravens on vessels that she threw. Her intelligent and compassionate listening to materials goes on inspiring me. I look forward to being able to work with her in her studio again someday!

In the meantime, I gather clay, not with a shovel or a backhoe, but scooping it by hand. I leave tobacco or find some other way to give thanks for what I receive. I learn a great deal in dialogue with Yukon ceramicist Patrick Royle, who knows who has worked with Yukon clay over the past 30 years and something of what they’ve learned. He says I’m taking it further and in different directions than anyone else he knows has done.

Sometimes I build with it. For my 50th birthday I made over 50 small bowls, bisque-fired them, coated them with beeswax, and sent them to people to float away with wishes for me. I build dress forms, small ravens, and so far one chess set.

Sometimes I paint with it. At cone 6 it’s more like a glaze. I experiment with what it does with the glass that we can’t recycle up here. I co-create works with Marie or Patrick, adding my paintings and ideas to theirs, carried on vessels made with the throwing skill they’ve cultivated for decades.

I do like to get my hands dirty.