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 Hamilton 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 and founding member of Hamilton's AllSorts Gallery, located on 244 Ottawa Street North, where his pottery is sold.
The gallery opened two-and-half-years ago, and is a co-op with 38 artists sharing in the profits and losses, providing a unique retail opportunity for members to display and sell their work.
It's a gallery unlike most. “When people think of galleries, they usually think of high-end art,” says Mark. “AllSorts sells functional items like jewelry, fabrics, scarves, hats, photography and pottery, all reasonably priced.”
A member of the Potters' Guild of Hamilton and Region, he generously donates bowls for the annual Empty Bowls event. Many local potters contribute work and then proceeds go to Hamilton Food Share. “At the latest event, we raised over $20,000, so I'm pleased to be involved because it's a worthy cause and potters are often asked to give to the community, especially if there is a connection.”
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!”
For information contact: AllSorts Gallery, 244 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton; 905.393.7381