For over 40 years, Rachel Morouney has made a living making pottery. In Port Elgin, N.B. she still uses her first pottery wheel, which she, her husband, and her father-in-law made in 1979. Her road to becoming a potter was not textbook; it didn’t start in a classroom or as an apprentice. It started with a chance trip to an open studio.
In Vancouver in her early 20s after leaving high school at 17, she was invited to some open studio time at a pottery place. A hands-on person who enjoys trying new things, she accepted the invitation and found instant gratification. “It was sort of a wow thing for me,” says Morouney. “If you put your hands in the right place you might get a pot. And I did.”
After Vancouver, Morouney and some friends headed for Europe. Landing in the Netherlands, she biked to England, then spent the summer in Scotland. Along the way she couldn’t shake the pottery bug. She would often stop at little pottery shops she discovered on her travels.
“Wherever I was I watched potters if they would let me,” she recalls. “You know you always have to be pretty respectful of people’s spaces. You have to step lightly and be interested and ask the right questions.”
In the coming years she went to Fort Smith, N.W.T. to visit her brother. There she found a potter who let her watch him work and help with tasks like firing the pottery. “He gave me space out back in the woods where there was a kick wheel and as much recycled clay as I could throw,” she says. She met her husband during the yearlong stay, then they moved to New Brunswick where his family lived. At first, she couldn’t make a living off just pottery so she worked minimum-wage jobs. In her spare time, she would use her wheel, which at the time was on her in-law’s porch.
Being self-taught, it took Morouney a long time to perfect her craft. “It takes years,” she says. “It takes dedication and lot of mistakes to get it right, at least right for you.”
She says people don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started. She kept costs low by using secondhand tools, saying the money she made selling pots went to feeding her family and not into paying back equipment debt.
Now she’s a full-time potter. A year spent in Japan heavily influences her art, as does older Chinese pottery. She says she doesn’t like making pottery without decoration. Morouney sells her art at crafts shows and at the Sackville Craft Gallery, which she runs with 14 other artists in Sackville, N.B.