Diversify to Thrive | Joan Bruneau | Episode 294

Joan Bruneau | Episode 294

Joan Bruneau is a professional Studio Potter and Regular Part-Time Ceramics Faculty at NSCAD University. She maintains her studio/showroom, Nova Terra Cotta in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Joan was born in 1963 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her love of travel and food sparked her desire to become a potter after discovering the authentic cuisines and pottery traditions of Europe on a trip in 1983-84. She went on to earn her BFA from NSCAD University in 1988, and MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1993.

Bruneaus work is exhibited throughout North America and is in recognized private and public collections.
Bruneaus work is also published in current Ceramics publications including the feature article Idyllic Place; The Work Of Joan Bruneau by Andrea Marquis in Ceramics Monthly magazine ( April 2014) the ebook, American iPottery by Kevin Hluch , 2014 and Mastering The Potter’s Wheel by Ben Carter ( 2016)





Skutt Logo



Number 1 brand in America for a reason. Skutt.com


Georgies Logo


For all your ceramic needs go to Georgies.com



You have been potting for quite a while, how do you stay inspired?

Good question. Well I do have to travel. I have always had a travel bug and traveling is how I first came to pottery, by stumbling on Minoan pots in Crete. That is also where I discovered good food in Europe. I try to take a trip overseas somewhere every couple of years.  Most recently I have really fallen in love with Morocco. It is an amazing country and so beautiful. The crafts there are unbelievable. People are still making things that they made a thousand years ago.

Would you describe yourself as an artist or a potter?

It depends on who asks. I am a potter but I am also an artist, but I usually identify as a potter. I am a potter first and an artist second.

How do you define a “second”?

 Something that is flawed and usually if it’s really flawed I will break it and throw it out. Usually for me my seconds are usually glaze flaws because glazes are runny and of course I want them to run but if they run a bit too much they stick to the kiln shelf and they have to be ground and all that stuff. It’s usually a glaze flaw that creates a second.

You have mentioned that balance is a thing you have not been able to experience, but that you want to now. So what are you doing now that is different than when you first started to be able to have balance in your life?

When I first started I was a lot younger and had more energy. I was in my thirties when I bought my building and set up. I would just say yes to every opportunity that came my way.  I would just take it on and not really know how to pace myself. So I would just work all the time.  That was fulfilling to me because I was really excited to be able to do it. As one gets older one wants more out of life, you realize life is short and so when I was forty I was still living above my shop and I bought a summer cottage with my line of credit. That really opened my life just being able to leave at the end of the day. It is very rustic, it doesn’t have plumbing but it is beautiful and it is close to this gorgeous lake. I just go home at the end of a day and have a swim when I get home and cook myself a good meal and go swimming in the morning before I go to work. So it is just working more quality of life into daily life. Now that I just bought a little house I am really enjoying having a domestic life and having friends over for dinner. It is as simple as that.


How do you handle complements? When people say, guy I love your work! What is your typical response?

I am so jaded, Paul. I call them gushers and usually when people gush a lot it means they are not going to buy anything. So when someone says, Oh, I love your work so much! I just think, ya, talk is cheap. Buying a simple mug is more of complement to me because talk is cheap. I am so jaded. I have dealt with the public for over 20 years so you do see patterns of behavior. However sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the public.

What is your favorite thing and your least favorite thing about working with the public?

Start with your least favorite thing please.

I think you feel exposed when you are dealing with the public. They walk into your private space and studio and they don’t get it. And they complain about my prices.  I think that is the hardest thing to deal with. I used to try and explain why and I just gave up because if they don’t get it, they don’t get it. My favorite is when people come in that I meet, who I have never met before, who I connect with on a certain level. They may or may not buy something, but we will have a great conversation about traveling or something. Last spring I discovered Mennonites like my work. Some young Mennonite women came into my shop and they couldn’t have been any older than twenty-two, and they were from Tennessee and they would say, I love pottery, I love pottery! And they buy stuff and they came back with their friends and buy stuff. They may buy an inexpensive piece but that is really cool.

What is your favorite piece to make?

People ask me that and I really can’t answer that because I make a range of things and if I make any one thing too many times, I’d get bored with it; and I make things in small batches. So I can’t really answer that. I just make a little bit of everything through the year. Most recently I’ve just made butter dishes. I’ve always enjoyed butter dishes because they are a small compact form and it’s a really fun form to decorate. I hadn’t made butter dishes for a couple of years because they weren’t really cost effective and people would gripe about the price because they are small. Yet people don’t bat an eye spending three-hundred bucks on a platter that was showy but very easy to make, and the butter dishes are very tricky to make with lots of risk taking because they can shrink and they can warp. So I have enjoyed revisiting them this fall. But then I’ll move on and make something else later.


Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth & Ease of Indian Cooking by Vikram Vij



Posted in Show Notes and tagged .