Breathing fire into art


If you walked into Linette Schurko’s pottery studio, you’d probably see messy hands, clay scraps, glaze pots dripping with overflow and bowls of dirty water.

But her glazed and fired ceramics sold at St. Albert Farmers’ Market are some of the most intriguing and imaginative around.

Market Place tends to target the unusual and Schurko’s Gypsy Jane Pottery certainly fits the bill. The Leduc-based potter views her funky ceramics as more than a consumable product. Each one is a personal project.

“If somebody buys something they buy a piece of me – from a cup to a piece of sculpture. I don’t pump things out. They’re my kids. They’re born in the studio and they go out and live their lives,” Schurko says.

Through her creation of offbeat functional pottery and decorative sculptures, Schurko hopes to inspire and share her love of the art.

Each quirky piece has architectural shape and with a slightly off-kilter balance that translates into an unpredictable style.

Stepping away from the mass potters who use safe earth tones for easy salability, Schurko boldly experiments with vivid colours – reds, yellows, pumpkins and blacks. She even puts polka dots on her “happy cups.”

And her techniques tend to run on the atypical side. Although Schurko uses standard clays from Alberta and Saskatchewan, she weaves coffee grounds, rice, wheat and vermiculite into it.

“They give it a nice texture and when they’re fired, they burn out.”

One of her tall, slender sculptures resembles an Australian didgeridoo. Nail heads were embedded into the body prior to firing. As the heat slowly climbed to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, they melted into the design giving it an unusual texture and shine.

Borrowing ideas from her heritage, one of her mugs displays a wooden handle tied to the pottery with copper wiring.

“That comes from my dad. He was an old farmer and he fixed everything with wire. He would be proud of me,” she laughs.

Schurko has a cook’s journeyman ticket from NAIT and an online interior design diploma. But as she puts it, “Painting was the only thing I was good at in school.”

In 2009, she went to Arizona searching for inspiration and spent a year painting abstracts. It worked. Her bold vision attracted the attention of several galleries in Arizona and Hawaii.

But it was an expensive lifestyle. After a year, Schurko returned to her Leduc acreage she shares with her husband to take on the new challenge of sculpting.

“There is a lot of freedom in sculpting and it could easily evolve into something different and unusual. You’re only limited by your imagination. The possibilities are endless. I get bored easily and I never get bored with this.”

It sometimes takes several tries to achieve the desired effect. In one of her more unusual creations with white raku pottery, she experimented with random effects to create intrigue.

One pale grey decorative ceramic shaped like a bowling ball is topped with a pod shaped wooden lid and was fired in an oil barrel to achieve its specific colour.

“I put it in the barrel, put in straw and Miracle Grow to get a different look. I put wood on top and kept the fire going for 12 hours. It has a chimney at the bottom so there was a downdraft so the smoke goes down and out of the chimney. I’d unpack it and if I didn’t like it, I’d repeat the whole process.”

“It can be a very rewarding experience and it can be frustrating because you don’t know what’s going to happen. When a plan comes together – wow.”

The Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton agrees and has several of her decorative ceramics in a temporary exhibit.

Closer to home she notes, “St. Albert has been so good to me. People are phenomenal. They get it. They see the funness, the creativity. They appreciate it even if they don’t buy anything. And I like to create a lasting impression.”


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.