BRODERICK - Locally reknowned artist and sculptor Susan Robertson has been known in Outlook and the surrounding area for her creative and inspirational works for a number of years.
Now, Robertson is celebrating a milestone that she's reached as she has inaugurated what's called an 'Économusée' into her ceramic artwork.
An économusée, or 'economuseum' in the English transation, is the small-scale production of goods in a workshop environment focusing on the preservation and perpetuation of traditional skills and craftsmanship.
A special inauguration event was held at Susan's Broderick studio on June 9, where dozens of guests saw this piece of local art history being made.
"I'm very happy and grateful to be able to make a living from my passion. I often joke that my work is meant to be light and that I simply want to make people smile or witness their joy. The realization of the ÉCONOMUSÉE is a continuation of who I am as a person. I'll be able to concretely share my passion for creation with tourists," said Susan in a press release.
With the creation of a video explaining the creation process, the addition of a layout tour, a new group fabrication workshop and the development of a program of clay painting activities, she now aims to pass on this know-how and her passion to locals and visitors alike.
The Conseil économique et coopératif de la Saskatchewan (CÉCS) said in the press release that it was delighted to announce the expansion of the “Artisans at work” network with the official opening of the new ÉCONOMUSÉE of the ceramic artist, bringing the official number to three in the province in just 4 years. CÉCS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) in bringing this Economusée development project to fruition in Saskatchewan.
"We are very pleased and proud of the work accomplished by the entire CÉCS team, which has been working on the Économusée development project in Saskatchewan for nearly 10 years. Today more than ever, the CÉCS will continue to support and accompany artisans who want to transform their businesses into an économusée in Saskatchewan," said CÉCS Executive Director Kouamé N'Goandi.
Carl-Éric Guertin, Executive Director of the ÉCONOMUSÉE Network Society, was on hand to underline Robertson's invaluable contribution to the promotion of crafts and pottery, and the extent to which the bubbly, smiling artist embodies the values conveyed by the ÉCONOMUSÉE concept.
"This lively new venue helps to promote and preserve traditional craftsmanship, and we're delighted to welcome it to our international network," said Mr. Guertin in the press release.
Speaking exclusively to The Outlook's Derek Ruttle after the event, Robertson touched on what becoming an économusée means to her, as well as some history on what such an achievement means for artists like her.
"Actually, it was a long time coming, and it was really exciting to finally get to become an économusée," said Susan, sharing her feelings on reaching such an achievement. "It's a program that originates in Quebec, and it was designed to help artists earn a living in their own homes and their own studios so that they didn't have to travel so far and wide. There's also a secondary component of education, to give other people an opportunity to experience just what a craft person's life is like!"
Robertson is looking forward to seeing what new doors and opportunities may come her studio's way as a result of the landmark branding. With it being internationally known, she hopes it will put small town Saskatchewan on the map.
"That's the whole point behind it," she said. "It's an international program, so there's a magazine that goes worldwide and promotes artists, as well as distilleries, wineries, artisinal bakers. I know that when we travel, we look up to see if there's anyone who we should go and visit. I'm hoping that other people will see it and hopefully, travel here! We've kind of put Broderick on the map as far as ecotourism."
Susan explained that it takes time to ensure that all the stars are aligned just right for such an achievement to be reached, as seeking government approval undoubtedly takes time with all manner of proverbial red tape in the bureaucratic process. Still, Robertson says being introduced to such a program was kind of an eye-opener and allowed her to see her work and creations from a different perspective.
"It's really exciting, because I started this process in 2017, so it's really been a long haul," she explained. "Part of the problem was getting the governmental bodies to see the value behind this and put money behind it because it's expensive to get an économusée up and running. I had a team, which was so exciting! I had a project manager, a writer, a graphic artist, and a marketing person, and they all worked with me to bring my brand to the forefront. It was quite exciting because I've been doing this for 40 years now, so I don't see what's new and exciting and I don't see it from a different and fresh perspective, and they came in and said, 'Wow, this is really different and unique!' and I'm going....it is? It's kind of a humbling experience in a way because it made me realize how good I actually am and how unique my position in the craft world is."
As a veteran artist with decades of experience, Susan doesn't see an end game to her craft any time soon. That's because to her, working with clay and moulding it to create eye-grabbing works of art isn't what she would call work or a job. She loves what she does, and she'll stick with it until the very end.
"I just fell in love with it," said Susan. "It's not work, it's a passion. I get up every day and I get to go play, for the most part. The actual process of working with clay that's near and dear to my heart. I will never stop - I'll die as a potter!"