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Pottery pro looks forward to Hope Art Crawl

Billie Shauer has been working with clay, and teaching others how to do so, for five decades
April Wilding with one of the ‘Spirit Keepers’ she creates out of driftwood and recycled odds and ends. (Eric J. Welsh/Hope Standard)

When the Hope Art Crawl makes its debut Aug. 13-14, Billie Shauer will be front and centre.

Shauer looks forward to welcoming visitors to her studio and sharing her passion for pottery. The Silver Creek resident has been working with clay for nearly 50 years. She fell in love with the medium when she was a teenager, and she’s been working the wheel ever since.

“And I’ve made a living doing it,” said the 70-year-old, who at various times has had hundreds, even thousands of items on order. “I started in high school and couldn’t figure out anything else I wanted to do. In my mind it’s always been, ‘Who wouldn’t want to do this?’”

Shauer, whose business is called Earthform Pottery, has been Yoda to many local pottery Padawans. She taught pottery classes at the Hope Art Machine, and many people she’s mentored will be part of the Hope Arts Crawl.

“There must be 10 of us now, and for a community this small, that is very significant,” she said. “Years ago, we said we needed to do more to promote ourselves to the outside community and not just here, because we have a lot of really fun artists in Hope.

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“The Hope Art Crawl is about showing people we’re about more than just gas stations and restaurants. We need to be on the map.”

Shauer said she was drawn to pottery because of its practicality. You can only have so many paintings on a wall, she noted, but everyone needs cups, mugs, plates and bowls.

“Everyone’s always breaking something,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a pretty functional person, and pottery allows you to make something functional. And the tactile feel of it, some people love it and some people can’t stand it, but for the people that love it, they touch the clay and just know it’s right for them.

“To watch people start, and finally get it, is really magical.”

As Shauer talked, she spun out a couple of good-sized salad bowls, complaining a bit about the lumpiness of the clay.

She said there’s an ‘energy’ to what she does, what every artist does. As they work, they put a bit of themselves into the project.

“When I make a bowl I think, ‘Someone is going to put a giant Caesar salad in this bowl,’” she said. “And I used to love making pie plates because I knew part of me would be there for peoples’ Thanksgivings and Christmases.”

Shauer’s known to work long into the night, and she said there’s a meditational quality to what she does.

“I’m in my studio with the clay and it’s usually around midnight and the whole world just falls away,” she said.

Shauer’s sister, April Wilding, will be involved in the Hope Art Crawl as well. Her daughter Rebecca Bessette and her granddaughter Emma Bessette too.

While Rebecca paints and Emma works with several different mediums, Wilding works with repurposed materials to build ‘spirit keepers.’

She starts with one of the many pieces of driftwood she’s collected during trips to the ocean, then she adds a face and other embelishments. Wilding is always looking for things to use, from beads to strings to dried reindeer moss. She describes her creations as whimsical.

“I like to recycle and upcycle, and each one just comes to me,” said Wilding, who has bins of odds and ends to use for her spirit keepers. “I’m a collector of little bits and things and I just sit down and think, ‘What have I got that might work for this?’

“I just like to have fun with a few parts that might be hanging around. I don’t try to match up anything with anything else. I just go from one element to another, and it’s a very spontaneous thing.”

The projects are designed to hang on walls, and bring a smile to the face of whoever views them.

“They all have nice little tags with them, and I want people to buy them maybe for themselves, but also to give to someone else who is dear to them,” Wilding said. “I’m sharing what I do, and I kind of want them to share it too. I want that energy to go out into the world.”

Shauer and Wilding, the Bessettes and others will proudly display their creations during the Hope Art Crawl, taking place Aug. 13 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.


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One of April Wilding’s ‘Spirit Keepers,’ created out of driftwood and recycled odds and ends. (Eric J. Welsh/Hope Standard)
Billie Shauer in a room with some of her creations. Also on the wall, a painting by her daughter, Rebecca Bessette. (Eric J. Welsh/Hope Standard)

Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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