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Last Look: Margaret Jansen, Apple Pie Pottery

Production potter Margaret Jansen’s father inspired her love of clay, but her grandmother’s touch adds the sweet spot to Apple Pie Pottery

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Photo by Heather Killen

Margaret Jansen’s studio and gallery are based in Middleton, N.S. in the Annapolis Valley, where she has been a production potter for the past 40 years. Production pottery is systematically crafting wheel thrown pottery that is identical. In addition to creating custom pieces, giftware, and promotional mugs, she offers three signature collections of functional stoneware.

Her love of clay began as she watched her father at his pottery wheel. Jansen’s father was a talented doctor, adept in his various interests. His hobbies ranged from music, pottery, and painting, to wine making and astronomy.

“I loved watching him work,” Jansen says. “Life interested him on so many levels. He immersed himself in whatever he was doing, grinding a lens for a telescope, playing a jazz song on the piano or guitar, he was fully engaged with whatever he was doing.”

Photo by Heather Killen

It wasn’t until Jansen was studying at university in New Brunswick that she finally made her move to clay. “I met instructors from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design [NSCAD],” she says. “They told me about the ceramics program in Halifax. I enrolled in the summer session and never looked back.”

After graduating from NSCAD, she moved to Middleton. By now, her father had turned his attention to the stars and was building his own telescope. He gave Jansen his pottery equipment and helped her establish her own studio.

Jansen’s signature collection of functional stoneware pays homage to Nova Scotia’s apple industry with apple-shaped designs and elegantly carved leaves and stems. She presses the sweet spot in this design, an apple blossom imprint, with a rhinestone button that once belonged on her grandmother’s coat.

“My grandmother was creative in her own right,” she says. “But she was the one who supported and enabled everyone else to realize their dreams.”

The Celtic Clay collection and various unique sculptures pay homage to Jansen’s interest in early feminine mythology. Creating designs that carry ancient wisdom in everyday practice inspires her.

“To think that there are fragments of stoneware dating back almost 30,000 years is incredible,” she says. “The basic shapes have been shaped for centuries, yet the same bowl is never made twice, even by the same pair of hands.”

People often ask Jansen if it feels repetitive to make the same shapes over and over. Successfully combining the elements of earth, water, fire, and air in the right consistency, temperature, and time is a challenge during each stage in the process.

“Every pot makes me a better potter,” she says. “The success of one pot depends on how well I pay attention to every step. There are so many places to go wrong. When the clay is on the wheel, you know when something has gone wrong. You just destroy it and start over. The most precarious time is the last stage of glazing. The kiln is not forgiving, at this point what you do is successful or it’s landfill.”

For more on Margaret Jansen and Apple Pie Pottery, visit applepiepottery.com.

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