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.
Rusty Kurenda, with her husband and business partner Ron, 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?
At the time we believed together as a craft community we’d have more success in helping artists to train, market, and promote fine craft. We each threw in $15 if I recall correctly; best darn money we ever spent. It was a way of discerning the commitment we had to actually beginning the process. Industry and Commerce helped set up the first Handcraft Festival; the curling rink wasn’t completely built at the time and I remember the floor bouncing every time you moved and pots bouncing off the shelves.
What are you most proud of over the last 40 years?
We have accomplished so much recognition for the importance of craft as a legitimate art form and we’ve met the goals set out at that time and much more besides. The SCC is now well connected, respected by arts organizations across Canada and supported by government. We have helped develop many award winning artists. Every SCC member can be proud of those accomplishments. Dimensions was a key piece of promoting excellence that has helped move our organization forward.
What has disappointed you?
Yes, there have been hiccups from time to time, but they have been resolved. Commitment from board and staff has addressed issues as they come up. I wish there was more commitment from members investing their time to help make the organization better; you need to contribute to benefit.
What are your hopes for the future?
That we continue to grow, improve, and develop fine craft even more. Become more connected and participatory. That we find ways of promoting our work and cottage industry so the public is aware that it is a vital option in life and commerce.
What are you doing/did you do to celebrate Craft Year 2015 and our 40th Anniversary?
We participated in the Clay Studio Three 40th Anniversary Exhibition at Affinity Gallery. We visited more galleries and continue to work at developing our own work further. We strive to help others to become craftspeople by serving their needs, answering their questions, and mentoring beginners to find their voice as they develop skill. Each of us has a journey to take, sometimes a word of encouragement, help, or direction can mean so much; just as it did when we were starting out.
Any other thoughts?
Ron and I have visited many pottery places across Canada and we (and customers visiting Saskatchewan) believe the quality of the work in our province far surpasses what is to be found elsewhere as a general rule. That, we believe, is due to the high standards of the SCC jurying and mentorship programs. Our jurying standards have been edified in other craft jurisdictions and adopted by other craft councils in Canada. The SCC most definitely has done things right in so many ways.