Skip to content

Moose Mountain Pottery holds musical kiln-opening

The Moose Mountains were alive with the sounds of music recently as Moose Mountain Pottery, to celebrate its latest kiln opening, hosted a musical show featuring some wonderful Canadian folk music performers.
Standing within the confines of his home-built kiln, artist and artisan Gerald Morton (green shirt) shows a couple of visitors the sites during a celebration held to mark his latest kiln opening. More than 30 people came out to take in the event, which include performances by three folk artists.

The Moose Mountains were alive with the sounds of music recently as Moose Mountain Pottery, to celebrate its latest kiln opening, hosted a musical show featuring some wonderful Canadian folk music performers.

Held on location at the pottery workshop, a crowd of more than 30 visitors came together to peruse the latest offerings by renowned potter Gerald Morton, and hear as well the musical stylings of Kim Beggs, Rodney Brown, and Forget's own Ken Hamm.

Kicking off at 7:30 p.m. the kiln was still warm in the workshop following the latest firing of earthenware objects.

Beginning the musical offerings for the evening, Yukon-based singer/songwriter Kim Beggs took the stage in front of the packed house.

Beggs, who had recently released her latest album, 'Blue Bones,' played a selection of tunes from the new album.

Wearing an oversized faux fur coat, Beggs' diminutive statue belied the power of her impish voice.

Looking and sounding like a young girl, Beggs songs reached deep into the heart, speaking clearly about the struggles and triumph of everyday life.

In many ways, some of her lyrics were much older and wiser in their sensibilities than her on-stage image conveyed, creating a delicious paradox that captured the crowd in a swaying trance of empathetic understanding.

Like salt and sweet, these opposing images proved to be highly magnetic, and the deathly quiet of the crowd illustrated the hold that this spell of sound and song wove.

In her final pieces for the evening, she was accompanied musically by Ken Hamm, who took the stage with his guitar.

Between the two, the finale of Beggs' set proved to be as powerful as the rest of her performance, leaving the crowd somewhat breathless upon its completion.

"This is my first time in this area," Beggs said before her set. "I played in Forget [at the Happy Nun] last night, but I haven't had a chance to come to this area before this."

Beggs explained that the themes and lyrics of her newest album had come about thanks to some of her experiences over the past year.

Busy with touring, Beggs had found inspiration in many places and in many people through her travels.

"I had spend some time in colaberation with the author Ivan E. Coyote," Beggs explained. "That was a real font for me in a lot of my songwriting."

"The songs developed in a very organic way."

One addition Beggs played on stage and included on the album was a single Blues tune.

"I've kind of discovered Blues recently," Beggs had told the crowd. "One of the things I've found about it is that it is really fun to sing."

Asked later if Blues was a sound she intended on exploring further, Beggs indicated that she would be developing more of a Blues repertoire as time passed.

"It really is a wonderful sound, and I really want to explore the sound some more," Beggs said. "But I have to do a little bit of research and learn a lot more about the style first."

"One of the concerns about moving into a new sound is making sure that you keep your songs fresh," Beggs said. "So having a strong understanding is important, so you don't end up with a bunch of songs that sound the same."

Following Beggs' set, a break was taken for people to look around at Morton's new work, much of it still in the kiln-cart within the cavernous area of his workshop.

Morton's kiln proved to be as big a draw as his wonderful and delicate new works, as many seemed visibly impressed by the size of the artist-built oven.

Using only Saskatchewan earths in his work, everything from the clay itself to the subtle and colourful glazes he applies, Morton's work is as local as one can get in the pottery trade.

"Saskatchewan is one of the only places in Canada I know about where you can make everything from local ingredients," Morton said. "The rocks and minerals you need to create are here in abundance. It is a really special place because of that."

Taking the stage for the second set was musician Rodney Brown.

Brown, who has been a friend of Hamm's for many years, also played a selection of pieces from his most recent album, 'North Land.'

A wonderfully researched and topical album, the 'North Land' songs all speak to Canadian history, especially in regards to the fur trade, and the people who populated and prospered in those days of the late 18th- and early 19th centuries.

Besides being a wonderful songwriter, Brown is an extremely accomplished musician, and his set proved the fact by his use of numerous different instruments.

"I am just coming off of a big tour with 18 stops, all along the Yellow Head Highway," Brown said. "I've never been to this area before, but I have to say it is just wonderfully beautiful."

"I like to think of myself as a pretty flexible musician," Brown said. "While most of my stuff is definitely folkish, I've done other sounds too, like ballads, and even some reggae-ish stuff."

Brown, who released his first album 'Freedom in Me' in 1977, has had long experience playing to crowds, a fact which showed in his ease with his musical presentation, as well as his light and approachable stage presence.

Offering a variety of historically-based songs, Brown kept the crowd captivated, and even included them in several tunes, teaching the crowd the chorus before launching into the song.

While most of his lyrics were in English, respectful of the French and Metis involvement in the fur trade, there were French lyrics in many of the songs as well.

Not that this created any confusion in the crowd about his songs, as all balanced the French and English in such a way that a native speaker of either tongue would be able to follow the story presented in the lyrics.

"I really like the period of the fur trade, and I very much enjoy creating songs about the people and the places from those times," Brown said. "It is my way of honouring those efforts, and the contribution that those efforts made in developing the Canada of today."

Whereas Beggs had caught the crowd in a silent and contemplative mood with her work, Brown had toes tapping and people swaying to music which would've been as welcome around a Voyageur's campfire as it was to the packed house.

Another intermission followed Brown's set, which provided another opportunity to speak with Morton, the potter.

"When I'm preparing the earths for the glazes, I have to grind them up to the consistency of flour," Morton explained of his art. "Sometimes, things don't always come out right, so there is a real science to it."

Creating all elements of his work from scratch means that Morton is as much a scientist as he is a talented artist.

"Every piece I make, you might see a little mark somewhere on it," Morton said. "It wouldn't mean anything to you or anyone else, but for me, it helps me keep track of the different things I do to make the pottery."

"It can be a real trial and error process," Morton said. "But it is part of the work. If you want to be good, you have to work hard and keep track of all the little details that come together along the way."

Morton said he creates about 200 to 300 pieces for each kiln firing, which he does around 10 times a year.

"This time I loaded the kiln on Wednesday, and lit it on Thursday," Morton said. "It was cooking through most of Thursday, and it was about two days cooling down."

The new pieces from the large, brick kiln were of many sizes and functions. From the decorative to the utilitarian, all showed a beautiful earthen hue from the unique glazes Morton mixes, with colours ranging from dark browns, through to ochre reds and oranges, delicate and deep blues, and the misty greens of an oxidized penny.

"Every piece is unique, and every piece is completely made from Saskatchewan," Morton said.

Following the last intermission, Ken Hamm took the stage.

Hamm, who holds a Juno award for his steel guitar work, also put on a wonderful show.

Known for his consummate plucking and finger work, Hamm delivered to expectations with a wonderful selection of work.

Hamm remains an active musician, and has also helped countless artists produce albums, as well as providing accompaniment.

Hamm now lives in the community of Forget, and operates Village Music, a musical equipment store that specializes in high-quality, Canadian made instruments.

The kiln opening at Moose Mountain Pottery took place on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Moose Mountain Pottery is located just south of the intersection of highway 9 and highway 48.