Form meets function in Kelly Proulx’s pottery studio
It’s beautiful and sunny out, but Airdrie potter Kelly Proulx is hidden away in her basement, putting the finishing touches on her latest teapot. It’s like something you’d find in a Disney movie – the pot itself is diamond-shaped, with diamond quilting on the outside, and spots all the way up the spout.
It may be funky and fanciful, but it’s also useful – and that’s important to Proulx.
“I make work that uses a lot of texture and pattern, that’s functional and beautiful; something you can use on a day-to-day basis – not something’s that’s going to get put away in a cupboard somewhere and never seen,” says Proulx, the creative force behind Airdrie’s Shining Studio Pottery.
There was never any doubt for the Calgary-born artist that she would work in the arts. As a child, she remembers her father, an engineer, handcrafting his fly fishing rods. And her mother loved to crochet. Her own love affair with clay started some 20 years ago when she was a student at Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD).
But it was her love affair with another artist, wood carver Eric Proulx, that drew the couple to Airdrie 10 years ago, when their young family outgrew their two-bedroom condo in Bridgeland.
Since then, she’s spent hours in the basement of their home in Meadowbrook, carving, sculpting, wheel-throwing and hand-building beautiful pieces out of clay.
“For me, it always comes back to the clay,” Kelly says. “Being able to take it from the earth in its soft state, sculpt it with your hands, make something that’s usable, and then through the heating process, you’re making it permanent and functional.”
She used to hand-carve everything at first, but transitioned into making stamps, texture plates and templates.
“That opened up a whole new world for me with different designs,” says the potter.
Nature is her greatest inspiration. Kelly is an avid gardener, hiker and camper, who loves spending time outdoors with Eric and their two children.
She divides her time between her home studio, teaching at the Airdrie Koinonia Christian School, and Eric’s store, Truecraft Furniture Finishing on East Lake Boulevard. It is here that Kelly has set up her pottery wheel and perhaps her most prized possession, a Skutt kiln, where the magic happens and the clay transforms into ceramics, and the glazes fire into life.
Proulx started out working with terracotta, but soon switched to a white-bodied porcelain clay from Medicine Hat, called M370, to allow her glazes to pop.
“It was like night and day.”
Her work now features four signature “colour stories” – blue-green, orange-red, smoke and wrought iron, and a denim-birch that shows up as light blue and tan.
“This is a whole world of chemistry in and of itself,” she laughs. “It’s sampling things and trying out different combinations. It’s not something you pick up overnight.”
Kelly’s top-selling item is a French butter bell, which flies off the shelves at craft shows and festivals in Airdrie and Calgary. Spring and fall are her busiest times, with many of her pieces ending up under the Christmas tree in homes across Alberta.
She’s now turning her efforts to sets – whether it’s a tea service, or plates and bowls with matching serving trays.
“One idea is always leading into another. It just continues to grow. So you’re never done. There’s always more to learn.”
It’s this endless possibility and gentle connection to the earth that fires this local artist’s passion for pottery.
Kelly Proulx will be teaching a pottery class at Airdrie Public Library on Sept. 16. She also offers group and private lessons. Visit shiningstudiopottery.weebly.com