In 2015, the SCC is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In 1975, fifty-seven Saskatchewan artisans organized themselves into a determined force with a single voice and a common purpose. That purpose was to promote and raise the profile of Saskatchewan artisans, improve the quality of work produced, and facilitate communication among the membership. Each of these people donated just $5 to this cause and the Saskatchewan Craft Council was born. You can read more about our history here.
Our board members and staff have come together to conduct interviews with as many of these founding members as we can, in celebration of this milestone. We are interested in these founders’ thoughts around why we came into being and their insights for the future.
Ron Kurenda, with his wife and business partner Rusty, opened Prairie Pottery in downtown Saskatoon in February of 1974. The Kurendas operated that shop for 35 years, where they sold their own work and represented about 50 pottery artists. The couple closed their shop in 2008, but are still creating their signature pottery. Ron & Rusty are proud to be part of the Clay Studio Three artists’ co-operative, and sell their work at several craft markets every year.
What compelled you to throw your $5 and yourself into creating a new organization dedicated to supporting craft?
It started with an NDP government interested in getting cottage industry developed in the province. The Town of Battleford had designated funding to get a craft show going, with Jenny Hambridge as the resource person from government who supplied some expertise to get organizing done. If we put some money in, there would be matching grants and other help. An organization was needed to pull things together. The first show was almost a tailgate party, as we were selling from car hoods and trunks. My wife Rusty and I put our money in, but didn’t attend the first meeting, as it was in Regina and we were busy firing.
What are you most proud of over the last 40 years?
The progression of education of the public about Fine Craft. There was no inkling of an art scene or the possibility of income and livelihood generated from craft when we started. Buying the SCC building gave us a physical presence and the shows put on at the Gallery have helped in the education and awareness of the public. Being on Broadway strengthens the art community and cross promotes other craft artists.
What has disappointed you?
There have been ups and downs as in any life, business, or organization, but I can’t think of any specific disappointments.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope there will be further education of the public and promotion of craft in all communications channels. We have to give craft a higher profile, because there is a lot of competition out there, and if we don’t do it, who will? I would like to see more seminars and workshops for our members and for the youth who don’t know what craft is. We had some scholarship money to give to pottery and there were no applicants, so somehow we have to show the next generation that this is a viable option for a career and a life.
What are you doing to celebrate Craft Year 2015 and our 40th anniversary?
Rusty and I are building a wood stoker soda kiln out at the farm this year, so that will be a big project. We are looking forward to the pieces that will come out of that kiln. We opened our first shop downtown in 1973, so it has been more than 40 years for us, and we are still excited by producing quality functional pottery and continuing to improve ourselves.