Dale Mark Pottery
Once, I volunteered on an excavation of a 19th century red earthenware pottery- I was hooked. I wanted to make pots. After clay courses at Dundas Valley School of Art, Mohawk College and the obligatory Ceramics at Sheridan College, I opened a studio in 1995. I throw pots on a wheel made with porcelain clay, fired in a reduction kiln. I have always worked with porcelain; I am enchanted with its translucency, the quality of glazes and the feel of the clay when throwing.
Finding a few broken bits of earthenware was a stroke of good luck for Dale Mark. “I had volunteered to go on a dig in Burford many years ago and became fascinated with pieces of pottery that we picked up in a farmer's field,” says the potter. The more Mark looked at the broken bits, the more he became intrigued with the red earthenware dating back to 1807. Dale studied archaeology at McMaster University and later worked as an archeologist and land surveyor, but pottery seemed to capture his heart. “I somehow fell in love with it. Once you get hooked, you become passionate about it,” he explains. Dale's passion blossomed into a fulltime career as a potter.
When Mark first started out, he took courses at Dundas Valley School of Art and Mohawk College. At Sheridan College, he also tried his hand at glassblowing, but the cost factor stood in his way, so he turned to porcelain for its similar translucent quality. Dale likes the way porcelain responds to colour – preferring the Chinese copper reds and celadon blue glazes – that he's known for.
His clients are drawn to the colour, lightness and thinness of porcelain and the craftsmanship and feel of the art. Dale takes patterns he sees on buildings or things from the past and then echoes them in his work using slip (clay mixed with water to form a mayonnaise consistency) and a brush to create the design. “Generally the glaze pools in the crevices, so I get highlights where it's deep and the glaze is a bit thicker, so it becomes darker,” explains the potter.
Dale refers to himself as a functional potter because he makes mugs and bowls for daily use. “I don't want clients to display my work on a shelf. People do and that's fine, but I prefer that they use a mug or bowl every day,” he explains. For those wanting to add to their collection or replace an item that's broken, Dale offers custom orders. Many of Mark's clients are repeat customers – one woman has 40 of his bowls! “I thought that was unbelievable,” comments the potter. “When I met her at a craft show I thanked her – it was surprising that someone had that many!”
“There's always a good feeling when someone comes up to you and says that they use your pottery daily and they really enjoy the piece,” he says. “That gives me a real thrill that I've made a connection with them and they are finding a use for my work – I'm providing a useful service that I love to do!”