Al Pace – Hockley potter and adventuring extraordinaire

November 16, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Al Pace has been doing pottery and promoting artists in Hockley Valley for 30 years. Tack on another 10 years at the beginning, for his early career as a potter.

He opened our conversation, more or less, by saying, “If there’s one thing we’ve been able to do – it is we make it happen.”

In the early days of the shop, called Farmhouse Pottery, selling his work on Hockley Road, in the log house he had built 27 years ago, Mr Pace remembered, “People came into the shop and said, ‘Your stuff is so Canadian! At first, we weren’t too sure what that meant but I had done my first solo show in London, Ontario, with a theme of northern travels.

“The trips I had been making to the far north directly influenced my work.” He went on to tell us more about that show. “I started the show with a slide show of all the travels I had made in the north. We made it simple to comprehend – that it is a fascinating journey.”

Asked to attend a large fund raiser in Peterborough at which Peter Mansbridge was guest speaker, Mr. Pace presented him with a gift of a large canoe – a piece of pottery he had created.

“I presented the canoe to him with a motif of a loon on the side,” said Mr. Pace.”It’s on his mantel piece. Pope John Paul II got the other one.”

Excited by notion of how far and wide his pieces have travelled, he commented: “So many have found their way into people’s homes around the world.”

Certainly, a walk around the Farmhouse Pottery log gallery shows a wide range of Mr. Pace’s work, which is simply dazzling. The depth of colour and perfection of his craft explains, in part, how he has maintained the studio and the lives  of his family.

The studio itself is delightful, wooden floors – more gallery upstairs, sometimes featuring another artist. Most  recently, it was a display of the paintings of Sharon Wandsworth- Smith, who was there much of the time to talk to customers about her work.

On a shelf here and there are the works of the Inuit artists who live and work in those far northern territories to which the Al Pace, his wife, Lin Ward, and their family travel every year with others whom they guide in their other business, Canoe North Adventure but more about that next week.

The Inuit sculptures are fabulous, portraying the great mythology of the north.

Mr. Pace was careful to point out, “We’re really particular about what pieces we bring – we want the best here.

“With the pottery, it has been an organic journey -one thing following the other.”

The room in which we were sitting is the cafe they decided to create, also charming with wood all around and a wall of windows overlooking the woodlands which partially occupy the property.

“In the ‘80’s and the ‘90’s, it was easy for an artisan to sell hand made products,” Mr. Pace remarked. “But in the early ‘90’s, and 2000’s box stores opened selling factory made pottery quite cheaply.”

He admitted, “Yes, you can go to a box store and buy something cranked out in China or

you can buy something heart felt and hand made.” 

Ever ready to do what it takes to survive, “now, we have to open a cafe and have talks here,” Mr. Pace informed us. “We have to be more crafty and persistent. People find their way to this beautiful property with their teenagers. The cafe will bring a new generation to see my work.”

A part of the attraction of the cafe are its Lecture Series, which feature interesting people  the Paces know, sometimes, even a person who just walks into the shop.

“About 30 people come to the talks ,” he explained. “$20 gets them coffee and pie made by Laura Ryan and the lecture about his or her own life, some aspect of it – the lessons – all that. People said to us, ‘We come for the pie; we tolerate the speakers.’  we have started to do a lunch but we don’t cook anything here. We can heat things up.”

Although the cafe is seasonal, not being insulated, with the Lecture Series on hold until the warm weather returns, there is little doubt that it will be missed and will fill with people all wanting pie, once it reopens in the spring.

The cafe may be seasonal but the studio is not, it is open all year round.

Now the conversation turned to new ambitions for Al Pace: “I’m at a time in my life when I want to spend time at the studio. I want to do a new body of work. All I need is six months uninterrupted (it takes 9 months to do a new body of work).

“And, then, you are just on another journey. In April, 2018, I am having a major exhibition of work. I’m due another body of work after 40 years.”

You can visit the Farmhouse Pottery Gallery at 307114. It is very well sign posted. You are guaranteed an interesting visit and the chance to purchase something wonderful.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.