Pandemic lockdowns inspiring people of all ages to get crafty

By CityNews Staff

There's something therapeutic about working with clay.

Potterer Anne Nicol was a painter and a food stylist working in television in 2014 when her sister suddenly passed. Making funeral arrangements, a bereft Nicol couldn't find an urn that suited her sister.

So she decided she would take a pottery course at LOAM and make the urn herself.

(Located in Hintonburg, LOAM is a pottery studio owned by master potter Sarah Fulford.)

She eventually took every course the studio offered.

“I was hooked as soon as I touched it. It changed my direction,” she says. “It's the first art I found therapeutic. I lose myself in it. It's messy and tactile. I forget everything around me when I'm working with clay. I lose track of everything. Pottery takes me away.”

And now with the world on the verge of another lockdown, Nicol is in demand.

A professional artist, calligrapher, food stylist, potter and teacher, Nicol's diverse business interests kick into high gear every January when demand for her six-week courses at LOAM peak. Last year's pandemic only exasperated demand for Nicol's courses, which are bursting at the seams at the best of times.

When she isn't teaching, the 57-year-old is busy at home, raising two kids and making clay creations in her home studio.

“Christmas and Mother's Day are my busiest times of the year,” Nicol explains. “COVID created an immense demand for pottery. A lot of young people want something to do to forget the lockdown.”

Any public lockdown in 2022 would make for yet another layer of grief for both teacher and student.

She describes herself as an “emotional artist” who missed the company of other artists during the last round of lockdowns.

“COVID hit us hard,” Nicol admits. “I missed going into the studio and teaching classes. It was as if life came to a complete stop. We couldn't do anything at all. At the same time, it gave me a lot of time to work at home and come up with new work. But I wouldn't want to do it again.”

During the last round of lockdowns, she participated in an international master class conference via Zoom.

With its emphasis on creativity and originality, LOAM has been a good fit for Nicol, who is constantly experimenting with new techniques and applications. It's a fantasy land for clay, and it's where Nicol started her ceramic journey.

Nicol doesn't make the run-of-the-mill pottery show mug and bowl, though. She creates characters, scenes from nature or literature to create imaginative sculptures ranging in price from $35 to $1,600, which are sold at LOAM and on her website

“I love sculpting whimsical, crazy commissions of bees, rabbits, anything in nature. They're my most popular pieces.”

Nicol sells her sculptural creations at the Potters' Guild spring and fall sales and online at her website.

Her work is popular. Demand is constant. She won't call what she does a full-time business. But it could be.

“It was a hobby that turned into something more,” Nicol explains. “Apparently there are four types of entrepreneurs; conservative, aggressive, coaster and innovator/artist. I'm a coaster; I wait for the customers to come to me, but I'm also a creative artist.”


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