For artist Elise Dufour, ceramics parallel life with lessons on the ‘art of the accident’
Opening oneself to the universe can have a domino effect, in art and in life. Just ask Elise Dufour, a ceramic artist who recently moved to old town Lunenburg, N.S., where she practices her craft from a 150-year-old sea captain’s house.
Dufour follows the practice of wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy embracing the celebration of perfect imperfections, where the “art of the accident” is seen as a creative opportunity. All her pieces are white and functional.
“Ceramics has taught me the most precious lesson of life: to be open,” says Dufour, who came to ceramics less than three years ago, after retiring as vice-president of L’Oreal Canada and three decades in the corporate world.
She trusted the universe as she followed a new career path — a long dormant passion — that saw her build a business and move from one Canadian coast to the other.
Dufour and her husband Sidney Edelbroek, a screenwriter, moved from Montreal after her retirement to settle in White Rock, B.C. Forest fires there led them to think about relocating. They’d wintered previously in California, but COVID-19 changed that. They decided they wanted to be by the ocean, with fresher air, and moved to Lunenburg in January.
Dufour saw Lunenburg’s famed harbour on a Nova Scotia Instagram advertisement. “I was mesmerized,” she recalls. “It was like Scandinavia in Canada. I’m just loving it here.”
She says people have been open, gracious and welcoming, and from a creative standpoint, it’s a perfect environment. “There’s so much inspiration.”
Dufour’s entry into ceramics started a few years ago while attending a pottery show in B.C. There, she met someone who became her ceramic mentor. Dufour set out to make a dining set and started posting her work and a snapshot of her life on Instagram.
“Right from the get-go, I started getting interest.”
People and shops began contacting her.
With her background in marketing, she knew she wanted to organize herself better and develop her brand. About a year in, she introduced a website, attracting more interest from retail and others wanting to collaborate. She’s had several collaborations in western Canada, and more recently in the east, working with P.E.I.’s Fleece and Harmony to develop a knitting bowl. In April, she began selling her work at her first Lunenburg retailer, Jenny Jib.
“When I first saw Elise’s work, I knew immediately I wanted to represent it at Jenny Jib,” says owner Jenny Burwell. “Her ceramics are fresh and authentically classic, and I am so very pleased to carry Elise’s talent here in Lunenburg.”
Dufour says the power of social media has been unbelievable. Not only did it help build her business, but it connected her with other artists as well. “It was really organic the way it happened.”
She believes people are drawn to her work because it’s unique.
“In the world we’re living in, so many things are done in large quantity that have no personality. For me, it’s more about the inspiration … There’s a story behind it that’s appealing to people.”
Everything Dufour makes is handmade and crafted one piece at a time. And in her craft, she embraces perfect imperfections.
Her own reinvention has been somewhat outside her control as well. The pandemic gave her a chance to reinvent herself; moving into an environment she never thought she’d revisit. After high school, she had studied fine art for a year before switching to law and then pursuing a career in the corporate world. She sees this as a second chance to fulfill her desire to be an artist.
“It’s exciting to see that in life, possibilities are not endless,” she says. “I was probably a frustrated artist all my life without even knowing it.”