Co-creators Pam Birdsall and Tim Worthington of Birdsall-Worthington Pottery Ltd. were excited to refire the kilns at their new studio at the Mahone Bay Centre at 45 School St. in July. In the business of commemorating many customer milestones over the years, they recently celebrated some noteworthy milestones of their own.
Last December, Birdsall and Worthington closed their doors at 590 Main St., Mahone Bay — the home of their pottery studio and retail store since 1977, when they graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and began molding their long-standing pottery career. Worthington spoke fondly of meeting customers and building valued relationships over the years.
This past year, they have been busy relocating their pottery studio to the Mahone Bay Centre as well as transitioning from a physical retail location to the online marketplace. Worthington says they are now able to adapt to their schedules; come in a little later, leave a little earlier, take a day off occasionally. With fewer distractions, they enjoy more time to focus on the creative process and “play with clay,” Birdsall says with a smile. Birdsall and Worthington agree that they still love what they do.
The Mahone Bay Centre was previously the town school and currently serves as a community centre. This heritage site provides warm character and the prior chemistry lab space fits their studio needs even better than they had hoped. They are pleased to have re-purposed items and have adapted them to their new setting.
They walked around the studio, sharing their passion for clay. The atmosphere of energy and peacefulness is certainly noted. There is a calm confidence here that has been shaped during 41-years of respect for the clay and each other, giving credence to their belief that “being a potter is a practise of mindfulness.”
“Making pottery is a great metaphor for life; clay only does what you tell it to do,” says Worthington. While it is important to pay attention, he explains that he has also learned that he can always make another one. “It takes the pressure off. It also means the possibilities are endless.”
Birdsall-Worthington Pottery specializes in creating decorative pottery pieces, functional earthenware, an elegant line of clay jewelry and funerary urns. They are well-known for their custom-made commemorative plates to mark special occasions, people and pets. Each plate is made by hand on a pottery wheel, with attentive care. To make her pottery more unique, Birdsall etches her detailed designs with coloured liquid clays, called “slips.”
Worthington explains that after the pieces are decorated; they are fired once — called “bisque firing” — prior to applying the glaze and firing a second time. There are numerous design and colour selections, which create unique patterns and variations.
Birdsall-Worthington Pottery is authentically Nova Scotian. They purchase bags of clay from Shaw Brick Factory in Enfield. Birdsall initially discovered the product during her college days and introduced it to Worthington. They continue to be pleased with its consistent, high quality and workability. Initially, they form the clay into tubes using a pug mill (a machine that mixes and works clay into pug) then weighs and cuts it into wedges for their pottery creations. Since the raw clay is dug straight from Nova Scotian soil, tourists will literally take a piece of Nova Scotia home with them.
In this mass-produced, throw-away world, pottery can provide a more personalized, permanent keepsake. With the creation of cherished heirlooms, Birdsall and Worthington have proudly helped shape family traditions. As they mark milestones across generations, their satisfied customers have become a loyal referral base.
Each year, they create a unique Christmas collectible ornament. Last year, it was their Main Street storefront, the end of a 40-year era in retail. This year will highlight the transition to their new studio location at the Mahone Bay Centre. By pursuing their creative passion for clay and embracing the emerging internet marketplace, Birdsall and Worthington are imprinting their unique mold of longevity into the future. For more information on their clay-making process and products, visit their new website at www.pottery.ns.ca or their Etsy Shop at www.etsy.com/ca/shop/BirdsallWorthington. Their pottery can also be purchased locally at Comfort & Joy, located at 248 Lincoln St. in Lunenburg.