Our A&C Feature Artisan is on Sarah Hamelin this week- the face behind Caboose Co Small Batch Pottery and the future pottery instructor here at the collective. Sarah has been an enthusiastic supporter of our project since day 1- we are super excited to see how we evolve together as artists.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Southwestern Ontario in a small village/hamlet/train stop. I’m inherently a sentimental person, so a lot of my personal work and CABOOSE are influenced by nostalgia from that region. I came to Kingston 4 years ago with my partner and choosing to stay here was a combo of that familiar small-town feeling and it’s wonderful art community.
Are you completely self taught? Did you go to school for the Arts?
A little bit of both. I went to the University of Waterloo for Fine Arts and figured I’d major in painting. I stumbled on a sculpture class and became really inspired by my professor. I remember learning how to wire light bulbs, woodwork, cast molds, knit. Her classes were a perfect balance of learning technical skills and making conceptional art. I decided to carry on that philosophy of trying a new medium each term until I landed on one that spoke to me.
It wasn't until I moved to Kingston (almost 4 years ago) that I discovered my medium: dirt. But actually, real, earthy clay. Every time I open a bag of clay it smells like a garden after the rain - it's beautiful. I began working at a local pottery studio and spent a lot of my time staying after hours experimenting. I fell in love with how versatile and adaptable it is, while also forcing you to be patient and intentional. I’ve learned all my technical potting skills from local artists, books, workshops, websites, and just a lot of trial and error.
Can you explain the techniques used to make your pottery? What is the background behind small batch/handmade pottery? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I hand-build all my pottery, where I roll out clay using a slab roller (which is like a giant pasta roller) and then reassemble my forms from 2D pieces. There’s a bit of measuring and geometry involved, but most the time I just wing it! I’m "small batch" simply because I have a small studio and too many ideas. I’m forced to make only a limited number of pieces at a time due to storage constraints, but this also gives me more creative exploration because I can move on to my next idea sooner!
How I decorate my work is just as important to me as how it’s built. Everything is either stamped (I make my own stamps!) or silk-screened from an original drawing onto the clay before I build it. Most of my imagery is inspired by 19th century living, the Arts & Craft Movement, Gothic Revival architecture and vintage Canadian advertisements.
When was the first time you sold your own art? How did it make you feel?
I was in my last year of high school and my English teacher purchased one of my oil paintings. I was thrilled, but also reluctant to send something so personal out into the world. I still have that same bittersweet feeling every time I sell an original art work!
When did you decide or become an artist? How long have you been working as an artist? How did you find your calling?
I remember in Grade 2, I decided I wanted to be an artist when my teacher pulled some strings with a local gallery to display our work. I felt so proud and purposeful seeing my painting on white walls. Since that point, I’ve always held on to my art in one way or another, whether it be by working at various “art jobs” or building up my own body of work for shows. I currently work as a production potter at a studio in Kingston, leading the production team and teaching classes. I could make pottery all day – and most days I do!
Do you have a favourite piece? Why?
In school I made a wooden sculpture of a log cut in half with a set of lungs carved into the center that’s only visible when you open it. I love how it turned out and it’s the only piece of mine that I [willingly] display in my house.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on making whisky tumblers + snack trays, decorated with old gravestone motifs. I’ve already picked out the glaze, just need to sit down and make them!
Why did you join Arts & Craft Collective? What's part of it do you find the most exciting?
Because I love working with people who see the big picture and do everything with 100% heart. I remember pulling up to the A&C Collective and being inspired by its historic building, then meeting Tikvah and Calvin and knowing they would do the place justice. A&C has been so thoughtfully planned to benefit all aspects of the community in the name of art, that's what excites me the most!
You can connect with Sarah directly here: