I do not know when I was first introduced to Gunda Stewart. I wish I could remember who it was that told me to contact her because I would like to thank them. I consider her a dear friend, a treasure, that came into my life so unexpectedly. I do remember flying into the tiny airport at Cranbrook from Calgary. What a view over the Rockies! And driving a rental car – some sort of Honda that had to have rear wheel drive through the mountains, south to Canyon BC. On the road to Gunda’s studio and home, nestled in the valley of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, there is a single blue artisan sign. But it doesn’t tell you that if you follow it, you will discover one of Canada’s best wood fire potters!!!! Gunda lives on a beautiful acreage with gardens, both flower and vegetable, with her partner Wayne and their dog, Sadie. Her studio is separate from the house and next to it is her Mamabigama 40 cubic foot wood kiln. It is a beauty!
Gunda studied with Tam Irving at the Vancouver School of Art. Her work clearly shows the influence of Irving as well as Irving’s friend, John Reeve, who also taught at the VSA for a short time. Her temmoku bowls, mugs, and baskets are covered by the deep rich iron glaze breaking at the lip into kaki (persimmon). She says she puts them at the back of her kiln and in the front is the ash glazed ware, runny and luscious.
Her work is sold at the local artisan market during the summer and at several holidays sales in the late fall. She also has a few sales out of her studio and visitors are welcome to drop by and purchase ware when there is not a public market or sale.
I often wonder if the people who attend the weekend markets in Canyon beginning in May know what a treasure they have in their midst? Or does the old adage, ‘You are not a prophet in your own land’ still apply? Google her. She has her own website where she features images of recent work. This was a bad year for all the wood firers in British Columbia. The wildfires kept the fire ban going until the end of September. Then it was a mad rush to fire the kiln, load after load, tiring and backbreaking at the same time, to get everything ready for the holiday markets.
Now that the season is drawing to a close, Gunda tells me she is ready to curl up, drink nice tea, and read a few good books as the snow covers the landscape in the winter.
If you happen to be in the area, follow the artisan sign. You will be so happy you did!