Wit, whimsy shine at market through Marny Saunders’ work

When the going gets wet, the tough vendors – and shoppers -still go to the market, as seen Saturday when a horseshoe of tents, from tea to tamales, braved the rain and were rewarded with browsers.

Such cheery determination is new to the Tofino Public Market, said artist and potter Marny Saunders.

“They’re getting braver. Four years ago, we wouldn’t have seen two vendors out here, nevermind 20,” said Saunders, who like the beautiful clay art she creates is weather hardy.

Her pieces tend to be utilitarian – vases, graceful plant baskets, homes for Mason bees, all fired on her own electric kiln at 2,000 degrees and so tough enough to be outdoors yearround – even in cold spots like Edmonton. The Ucluelet resident has done acrylic painting, oil pastels, charcoals – and gardening, which she considers a sort of green creative activity.

“Right now, pottery is my passion … I have a great deal of fun making these pieces,” Saunders said.

From a tiny fairy home fit for rainforest magic to a big-bellied planter adorned with Pacific ocean creatures and dragonflies and rainforest dwellers, Marny Saunders’ work brings wit and whimsy to the Tofino Public Market.

But then there are the tiny residences, charming and fit for faerie folk.

“I call it a faerie cottage,” she said. If a piece turns out with some small defect that makes it unfit for retail, Saunders gets them out where wee ones might enjoy them.

“I give them to Pieter Timmermans, who hides them on the Wild Pacific Trail,” she said with a smile.

Saunders’ clay is the natural color of terracotta with speckles of mica. Before firing, the images are painted with iron oxide to show the detailed work. After firing, each piece receives two coats of acrylic sealant that helps with regular maintenance.

Saunders grew up around ocean and forest – Nanaimo mostly. Her mother, Sally Shelly of Shelly’s 4X Pottery, was a diver and an artist, and her son is a marine biologist.

She spent time “misplaced” in London, Ont., before making her way back to the Island where she belonged, she said.

Her work is on display in a few select spots like Ukee Scoops and Tours and the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, but Saunders said she loves the market and a chance to connect with other vendors.

“It’s just a really great community feeling,” she said. “You’ll see vendors helping each other – and there’s a good variety of vendors. There are really creative people here.”

She enjoys connecting at market with the customers who love her work.

“I love visiting with people and finding out where everyone is from,” she said.

editor@westerlynews.ca.