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Hockley’s Farmhouse Pottery moving to the great outdoors

July 2, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“It’s the first time we’ve been home for the summer in 30 years. We’re enjoying summer time in Ontario but we’re not used to this much heat,” so said Al Pace, of the Farmhouse Pottery and with his wife, Lin, of Canoe North Adventures.

The studio and office are located on Hockley Road. “We’re quite enjoying summer time at home and we opened the studio July 1.” 

Speaking about their guided adventures in Northern Canada, he said, “We’ve been working with our [travel] clients. Our 2020 season is completely cancelled and their investments are protected.” Assuring us, “We’ll be in full operational mode for 2021.”

Notwithstanding the sad news of their 2020 canoeing season, halted by COVID-19, Canoe North Adventures has benefitted from some exciting news.

“We just were granted licence to work in Nahanni National Park Reserve. We went through a lengthy process to apply and were granted a new licence, the first one in 40 years. We will be able to offer white water rafting, which is a very big market. We might be able to give someone with less skill the chance to participate. We expect having a break out season in 2021.”

From Parks Canada about Nahanni: “The Cirque of the Unclimbables’ granite spires rise out of the lush alpine meadow, at (Virginia Falls) the South Nahanni River surges over a drop twice the height of Niagara Falls. Nahanni National Park Reserve, encompassing 30,000 square kilometres, is a designated UNESCO world heritage site.” 

With plans to re-open the pottery studio, as “an outdoor studio,” he told the Citizen, “Staff is coming back; we’re firing it up for next week. We’ll be open every day for the pottery retail. There’s a ton of new items. We’ll have the outdoor gallery until October,” he explained, “by which time I’ll have a large stock.”

There was a sigh of gratitude and relief as he noted, “We’re in an advantageous situation. We have no debt and we’re so fortunate that we have a reserve of cash.” Plus, he was  happy to say, “We’re getting bookings for 2021. We’ve been lying low for the travelling. Having a nearby location [meaning the studio], it’s nice for people to have somewhere to go. We’re sorry we’re not opening the cafe but it’s just too much for a small staff. We do have tables outside with umbrellas, for people to have a cool drink they bring with them and sit for a short time.”

This opening is a welcome-back sale: “Buy three mugs and you’ll get four.” He chuckled and added: “You can buy three of anything and you can go home with four.”

In Norman Wells, Canoe North’s northern headquarters, “Local contractors are doing some basic work. In a way, we used our ability to re-imagine our 2021 season, working on our website.” 

Part of that re-imaging talked about bubble trips, which are trips involving groups of, for example, students, for a “school bubble trip”.

So, the plan is, “In 2021, we are going to invite families to put together their own group – with discounted rates. Imagine if a family travelled together: they know each other – they’ll take proper precautions; if coronavirus is still with us in some small measure, they might take two weeks’ quarantine to be sure just before the trip.

“Summer camps were cancelled this year; we may be able to work with a camp and say we can work with your camp to offer group adventures.

Back, also, to the studio: “Right now, we’ve gone public with our pottery display but, behind the scenes, we are planning and dreaming about getting back on our canoes and travelling those beautiful rivers.”

The next step in returning to guiding trips to the north, “We are very much focussed on delivering trips to the Yukon and we’ve had lots of groups, school groups interested.”

Canoe North Adventures is well known for the professionalism, organization and intense regard for safety, with which it is run.

Mr. Pace was confident to claim, “We are one of three outfitting companies that are really well-known brands for excellence. Taylor [Alan and Lin’s son] is here in the office, doing marketing; we are trying to engage younger people 

“We want people to understand that experiencing northern Canada is as exotic as foreign travel and a full Canadian experience. We’ve been responsible for exposing Canadians to the thrills of travelling in the north, exposing them to the realities of the north and watching people understand the realities of the northern experience.”

Shifting back to the pottery, he let us know, “We are working on a new batch of stone work canoes – some really fabulous designs. I only make a batch every second year. 

For many reasons, he told us, “I’m expanding my studio to an outdoor space and quite a bit of work outside and I’m looking forward to that. Leah Mitchell will be assisting me with glazing and firing in our enhanced outdoor kiln and studio space.”

As for his future wish: “I’ve made my living as an artist and travelling, offering heart-felt experience with a high-value meaning. When people buy my pottery as a wedding gift, it’s understood that these pieces will be passed on to future generations.”

He said, “We think there is transformation in the journey in Northern Canada; we push people to enhance their skills and challenge their abilities.”

He paused to consider and said, “The whole world needs to search for the sustainable and the excellent, if smaller experience: finding a guide that gives a smaller but life—changing experience. This is what we’re finding – so much of the world is like Vegas and it’s our responsibility to stay back and find something: more meaningful trips, conversations.”

Farmhouse Pottery, open this week, is located at 307114 Hockley Road. Visit www.pacepottery.com and for the trips north next year, browse www.canoenorthadventures.com.



         

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