Forging world class pottery out of Port Union, Michael Flaherty of Wild Cove Pottery brings decades of experience to the thriving craft landscape on the island
Michael Flaherty has been working with ceramics for nearly two decades. From studying and honing his craft across Canada, to working as an academic and instructor, Flaherty has earned his stripes as one of the foremost craftspeople in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Building Rural Roots
In 2015, longing to settle down and build roots in rural Newfoundland, Flaherty established Wild Cove Pottery, where today in his home base of Port Union, he crafts pottery inspired by subtle textures and colours of the Newfoundland sea and sky.
“I was moving from place to place and I decided I want to be a bit more settled. I thought this would be a good way to do it and to move home to rural Newfoundland and explore making pottery,” says Flaherty, explaining that there was a need for an established potter in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“People, and craft shops and businesses have been asking me to make pottery for years, because they knew that I could do it. There aren’t a lot of potters in Newfoundland and there’s still more opportunity for professional pottery makers to make a living in Newfoundland. I think people sort of expected me to come back here and settle back into Newfoundland at some point. Living in rural Newfoundland now I still make more contemporary art with clay and ceramics.”
From a young age, Flaherty found himself drawn to various forms of art. In pottery, he is allowed free reign to craft and sculpt whatever inspiration comes across him.
“I was always interested in art as a kid and had really great art teachers in high school who encouraged me,” he explains. “I was never the type of person to follow the easy path. I enjoy a challenge. I signed up to go to art school after high school, get a diploma and then a bachelor and a graduate degree. It was what I was always interested in, and I followed through with it all the way really.”
From tea and beer mugs, to bowls, plates and more eclectic fair, Flaherty’s rural location, fit with a custom built wood burning kiln, is just one of numerous thriving businesses that has revitalized the Bonavista Peninsula
“What’s happening here in the Bonavista Peninsula, it’s almost like a living laboratory for how craft can develop and transform an economy,” Flaherty says. “We have a craft brewery, textile artists, craft soap shops, craft salt makers and the Bonavista Social Club, which is not traditional craft but has the same ethic as craft.
“You walk down Church Street in Bonavista now, all of these buildings that were dilapidated ruins five years ago are all fixed up and there’s a thriving business in every single one of them. It’s a locally owned business and the type of business where the owners and employees reinvest into the community and build the community and make the community better.”
As for the art of pottery, Flaherty acknowledges that there is something alluring for the entire process. Both as an artist, student and teacher, he has seen the drawing power of crafting something from the ground up, using your hands to make the theoretical tangible.
“I’ve taught pottery for years in post-secondary but just general adult interest courses and with kids. There’s a reason that people sign up for that sort of stuff and pay money to do it, and that’s because it really is fun,” he explains.
“You come in and work with your hands and it is really tactile and a really unique material to work with. Especially the pottery wheel, it’s almost like magic the way the shape forms in your hand and there’s something really sensual about it. People really enjoy it, and for me it’s a career. I have to say, I love my job. I love getting up and coming to work and making stuff every day. It helps with having to make a living and deal with business bureaucracy and those sorts of things.”
For a selection of works and for more details on Wild Cove Pottery visit Facebook and wildcovepottery.ca or visit the studio at 102 Main Street in Port Union (June through September and by appointment in October through May)