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Artist of the Month – James W. Cook, Ephemeral Sculptor

by Sandra Marshall

James W Cook was born in Sudbury and grew up in Kirkland Lake. Always a natural in the visual arts, he always excelled in all art classes at school. Anything to do with visual arts, it seemed that he ‘’knew it from somewhere’’ and launched right in enthusiastically.

In 2012, Cook lost his last day job and has been a full time artist ever since. Operating out of Sudbury, he sculpted his first pieces in ice during the winter of 2015. In the spring of 2016, he moved to Ottawa, a strategic move placing him close to Winterlude for carving ice and Merveilles de Sable for sand, and for engaging the city’s vibrant arts scene.

Snow had been his main medium for exploring sculpture. Sand was always fun for him too. Cook expanded and refined these as more ephemeral additions to the other mediums he uses. He surprised himself in the enjoyment he found carving with limestone and soapstone and he wants to explore these more.

His imagination is limitless: If it leaves a mark on canvas or any surface, he will explore it. If given the opportunity he will turn shapeless objects into a desired shape using whatever tool is available. James has published cartoons, courtroom sketches and oil paintings. He has won 1st place in two snow sculpting contests, 1st place in one pumpkin contest, and a People’s Choice award  for ice.

Cook depicts his visual arts venues like a musician describing his next gig. As the visual music fades in one area, he begins another. As a touring ephemerals sculptor, James ranged further and further afield until a variety of Canadian venues and one in Europe had been visited: The Smiltis Skulpturu Park sand gig in Jelgava, Latvia.

The Smiltis Skulpturu gig was the only one to seem to come out of the pandemic so unabashedly. It was the surprise of 2022 with just 2 months between receiving the invite by email, the acceptance of his entry, and completing the project for an otherwise barren 2022 season.

He normally has these events booked 3 or more months ahead of time and has multiple stops booked. Cook hopes to sculpt in Latvia again in 2023 with an artist’s residency there, or find other European sand gigs in close proximity on the calendar to the Smiltis Skulpturu event.

James Cook’s art is spontaneous and even he can’t fully predict what his own entry will be. It could follow a theme chosen by the event that he is sculpting for, or a controversial media subject. Or he might develop a theme inspired by a happenstance word or action of someone else. Or the theme could be based on his own experiences.

His process begins with a question: Can it be made with the type of material proposed? For a sand sculpture, the three dimensional design must stay “inside a pyramid” for obvious reasons.

When using stone Cook wants to make small sizes,  unless he has good lifting devices for moving the weightier pieces.

Snow varies wildly in texture and feel with temperature and humidity and the structure and the artist must comply with those conditions of wetness or coldness.

Ice is absolutely seductive, but it is easily fractured. The number one critical objective is not to bump it while at work. A small break on an ice project might be fixable, but he’s seen disaster and complete projects crumble within the last minutes before the competition end bell. James is stoical – It happens, a part of learning what the medium can and can’t do.

Ephemeral sculpting is an outdoors occupation. Winter brings cold and blizzards, and Yellowknife is definitely best taken on with a down-fill parka. In Jelgava, November weather prevailed with high winds and heavy rain. James’ sand project there failed, but for him the experience was priceless. It made him determined to tame that moody Baltic sand. Summer sand sculpting calls for a wide-brim hat, UV protection, and sometimes, a good rain coat.

James lives  with Asperger’s syndrome and is ADHD-Inattentive, and these symptoms were not revealed and treated until this advanced stage in his life. He lived a mostly marginalized life over the years, his working and professional life had looked like some kind of Wile E. Coyote with a checkered employment history and an art career that faltered more than flourished. Cook closed his door on all conventional means after losing his last job, and dove full time into the visual arts,  knowing the sacrifices and what he was going to have to do. As he explained ‘’I am good in the visual arts, and I know it. Nobody can take that away from me’’.

Looking forward he states ‘’I’ve had one offshore gig now, and there will be more. I have a diploma in graphic design, and I’m looking at another in animation, a venture that will add digital and cinematography to his repertoire of mediums. Now that I’m into my 60’s, visual arts will be my hustle until they find me horizontal with a chisel in my hand.”

For those who would consider sculpture, Cook advises that you need the drive.  To alter the shape of something by whittling, chiselling, or moulding is usually instinctual and spontaneous. ‘’Follow your heart. Educational options vary from day courses in wood and stone carving, and blacksmithing to a college diploma in a creative field. It is your personal choice. How much attention do you wish to pay to the trade and how far do you want to go.  It’s like that AC/DC song, “It’s a long way to the top…’’

James does not have any pieces in galleries at this time as he operates mainly as a roaming artist (no permanent studio) and mostly works exterior venues in winter and summer. He does hope to explore stone sculpting further and build an inventory.

Facebook Page:(11) James W Cook | Facebook

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Artist of the Month, Bernadette Alcock, Lifelong Exploration

by Sandra Marshall

Bernadette Alcock holds fast to the creative drive of her family. She has great love and respect for the crafts that her mother and grandmothers taught her. Equally important, these women showed her that for a successful life, one should never give up.  Bernadette considers herself fortunate to have been surrounded by these strong women. They lived the notion that success is about feeling good about yourself. 

Bernadette has travelled from coast to coast in Canada and abroad, with opportunities to spend vacations in warm-weather seaside locations.  Wherever she went, she sought out art galleries to learn and explore on her journey. Her passion for learning and creating continued in graphic design, business analysis, social media marketing, chocolate making, landscape design, gardening: All types of art, be it painting, felting, fused glass, knitting, or sculpting. 

Bernadette pays close attention to her environment and observes what others may overlook. Nature’s energy inspires her, and she becomes engrossed in the subject she is sculpting, forgetting all else. Continuous learning is another important part of her process. An example is her discovery of liquid polymer medium which was developed in Europe in 2012. Bernadette has been captured by its sculpture potential- learning the techniques through in-person workshops and perusing the literature and art magazines.  She became a certified instructor in 2014 and has led many workshops. During Covid, Google became her best avenue in finding online workshops and inspirational ideas.

Bernadette enjoys the three-dimensional possibilities of liquid polymer and wire sculpture.  And she also relishes transforming objects and recycling from natural fabrics and old jewellery. In fact, any natural product: wool, hair, leather, even floral all inspire her compositions.  Her creations are fun, decorative pieces in the home -or in the garden where the polymer medium protects them from the outdoors. Up cycling for Bernadette is a fun way to not only reduce waste and carbon footprint. She can look an object that has seen better times and give it a new life, a reward for her.  Bernadette loves creating sculpture.

Paverpol and Powertex are the two main polymer products Bernadette uses.  They are eco-friendly, non-toxic textile hardeners developed for natural fabrics.  Her boundless imagination finds the possibilities to be endless.  As a universal medium for all artwork, sculpture, painting, and decoration, it can be used on canvas, textiles, paper, cardboard, plush, leather, fiberglass mat and all natural materials. The polymer can be perfectly combined with self-hardening clays, concrete, stone, ceramics, wood, sand, stone, even waxes. 

Her portrayal of women, young and old, suggests the historical inequality between the sexes, her way to ensure that gender equality remains a focus. She shows children as free spirits with expressive character and enthusiasm. Her days are brightened when creating them. 

Bernadette prefers to create with her own ideas and feels more freedom to experiment with subject and mood. When she started the sculpture process, women and children were always her source of inspiration.  Everyday life- sports, music, and dancing – was the source that was integrated into her work.  She selects bronze or black as the base polymer colours, which she enlivens with added colour and detail, part of her unique style.  She often employs many different types of fibres in her sculptures. Their texture adds enticing detail to work.

Perhaps it is the functional mechanisms of clocks and bicycles which pique Bernadette’s curiosity. She adds them to her collection for possible incorporation into her work, where they become functional, eye-catching ensembles. Bikes also embody asense of adventure and exploration, the thrill of riding free of cars and experiencing breathtaking views. Bernadette sees the bicycle as a powerful symbol of hope. Riding a bike spurs her creative process, connecting landscape with art and design.  Bicycles symbolize that intersection.

Often, an art enthusiast hesitates to bring a sculpture home because of a perceived limitation of placement. Bernadette suggests that how one displays a three-dimensional piece is often as important as the artwork itself. It can sit on a pedestal, shelf, be suspended from a ceiling or integrated into the outdoor landscape.

To start in the liquid polymer medium Bernadette says ‘’Start with an idea! ‘’  No matter what the subject, even abstract, think about the story of how it got in that position, what happens after that moment in time? Good Art flows from good design. I would estimate that by the time I start building a sculpture I’ve spent as many hours designing it (in my head) as it will take to physically build it.  Secondly, think about how to make it structurally sound.

I use wire to build my armatures.  The wire armature is key to the success of my sculptures as it not only holds the sculpture up but it’s the armature’s pose that will tell the story you want your sculpture to tell.   The armature also performs a very practical role in that it holds your sculpture up. Therefore, you need to make sure that you build in any structural elements necessary to support the weight of the sculpture or any extensions to the sculpture. I.e. any objects that you figure may be holding or carrying. Wire is a magical support for this medium because it can support the light weight of the polymer medium and has the flexibility to allow the many gestures that the sculpture can assume.

Be brave, experiment, the possibilities are endless!   There are no mistakes in art, and many  happy accidents. The sentiment that Bernadette feels when it is complete is joyous.

Bernadette connects with others at art exhibitions through conversations about her process- idea-conception-building.  Each sculpture’s story and energy engage people to identify with it and to share it with others. Those connections are strongest when children are part of her piece,  reminders of a child or grandchild. Each time a new member arrives into her family, a new sculpture is requested.  Faces light up with happy nostalgia when Bernadette incorporates a special vintage toy or childhood object.

Commission work is often intimidating for Bernadette, as she wants to connect with the client’s emotions and thinking.  First connections are the rock on which understanding grows.  Talking about reference photos, questions about details and intended placement are all important to better understanding.  People want to take pieces home because of an emotional bond, a cherished memory.  It is a thrill and breath-holding experience when clients first see their commissioned piece. 

You can see more of Bernadette’s work at

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Artist of the Month – Terry Schaub, Stone Sculptor

by Sandra Marshall

A most important aspect for Terry is that his sculpture tell a story – to inspire, to captivate, and draw people in – to ask questions. He wants the work to have an intention and a feeling and hopefully elicit a response.  A great example of that is when he noticed a young boy stick out his tongue in response to the outstretched tongue of a sculpture. He loves that his works raise a reaction from the viewer.

The love for the work was soon recognized by galleries and collectors. In 2006 he had his first show. Since that time he has been in multiple galleries and has seen his pieces bought by collectors from around the globe. In 2011 his piece, “It’s The Little Things”, was presented at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and now resides in their Museum of Nature and Culture in Montreal. The next year,  he was commissioned by CFB Trenton to commemorate the return of a WW2 bomber to its home base. The stone sculpture which was presented to HRH Prince Edward for his private collection.

Terry started buying rough stone from Ottawa suppliers and then built himself a studio, attached to his home. In time he started importing stone from different countries. He warehouses a large quantity of rocks from which he selects the one which most speaks to him through its veining, incidental colours, form and size. He might sketch some ideas on paper and sometimes, to get the creative juices flowing, he may mark the stone with a sinuous line to set his cutting direction. Making bigger pieces is a challenge that makes him happy. For the crouching-bear-and-orca piece that he is working on now, the ice slab alone weighs 80 pounds.

In 2019 at age 52, Schaub required major surgery for metastasized cancer. He spent the next day, his 53rd birthday, in a hospital bed wondering if he was going to live. He credits his wife, Kelly, for the fact that he did survive. Recovery was long and hard. It was another turning point for his life and his art.

Though he was putting almost full-time hours into the art at that point, he decided to leave 3M  and make art his sole focus.

Each stone has unique qualities: East Indian soapstone has an incredible variety of colour.  The harder stones such as alabaster, chlorite and fluorite are more challenging to carve. All of the stones take a commitment of time. The harder the stone, the more intricate the carving, the more time it takes to complete the piece. Once the rock is chosen, the hard work begins. He studies it for its shape, balance, contours, holes and other features.

Terry Schaub feels at peace when he is carving. He might work from early morning without breakfast and rarely stops for breaks. One day he was in that flow and remembers when his wife came to knock on the door and asked him if he had finished yet. He thought that it was almost suppertime. She surprised him by saying ‘’No, its midnight.’’

Rough shaping begins with reciprocating saws and a large angle grinder with an 8 inch diamond blade. Then he might use an electric Foredom tool, for which he estimates he has about 200 bits, and shaped files called rifflers for smaller details. Then a marathon of sanding starts- often more than a week to work through different coarseness of sandpaper from #200, #300, #400 grit to the finest #2000 as he smooths the surfaces. It has taken him time to appreciate the long periods of sanding. The small changes made by each higher grit becomes a lesson in patience and a time for reflection. Then he reaches the magic time when the sheen appears on his sculpture.  Polishing brings out the colours and veining. He adds beeswax, tung or linseed oil, clear coat lacquer or rendered fat to give the work a sheen and bring out the rich colours that the rock previously lay hidden.

Terry has exhibited his work in at NCNS show in the Museum of Nature many other galleries such as OWAA , Shenkman Art Center, Gallery on the Lake, Remington Art Museum in NY,  O’Connor Gallery, Gallery 6, NAK’s Ottawa Gallery and Patrick John Mills.

As most artists know, Covid stalled everything. People were not spending on art, so it is now a time to reboot with new works.

Terry suggests that, to a newcomer to this art, education and experience are not necessary to start the journey, but the love to create is essential. Persistance is required!

For more of Terry’s work visit:

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Artist of the Month – Eiko Emori – The Magic of Glass

by Sandra Marshall

Eiko Emori’s glass sculptures are based on a unique craft called pâte de verre, in which grains of glass are heated together in a high-temperature plaster mould to fuse them.

She was first attracted to glassmaking when admiring the colourful work of French artist, Émile Gallé, whose factory produced remarkable examples of Art Nouveau, and she wanted to learn more about glass work.

Japanese born Eiko earned a Masters degree of Fine Arts at Yale University and a Diploma in Design at the London Central School of Arts & Crafts. She also studied in France at Académie Grand Chaumière and worked as a graphic designer in Tokyo, New York and Toronto. She came to Canada in her mid-twenties, settling at first in Toronto and finally in Ottawa. Eiko’s graphic design expertise is in book design, including type and typography.

In the 1990s, she returned to Tokyo to support her mother. At that time, the glassmaking craft was located in a ward of Tokyo and Eiko took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about these arts. Following classes offered at a glass factory, she became enamoured of the pâte de verre process. When she returned to Canada, she carried on with this interest, refining her skills.

As member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and Graphic Designers of Canada, Eiko continued in her graphic design business in Ottawa. She also began to develop her skills in working with glass, a process totally different from print media, in which the final product closely resembles the final sketch. She explains that working with pâte de verre is a collaborative process between the artist and the glass. In 2021, Eiko’s work was recognized by the Pattie Walker Memorial Award for excellence in architectural glass from Crafts Ontario and has also received an Ontario Arts Council Individual Craft Project Grant.

Glassmaking originated in the Middle East where artisans would gather sand from the desert and fuse the silica particles in hot wood fires. Unlike glassblowing, pâte de verre is a process of glassmaking that has relatively few established rules and examples. As a result, Eiko’s work continues to evolve, as she tries different approaches.

Movement in Blue Green – 41 x 33 x 8cm

Eiko describes the first part of the pâte de verre process as similar to the labour intensive preparation for bronze sculpture. First she makes a wax sculptural form. She then prepares a high-temperature plaster using a recipe that she developed through many iterations. The mould must be strong enough to tolerate the high temperatures needed to melt the glass.

The next step, the plaster removal process, is very tedious. Even with the help of electricity and a computerized thermostat, pâte de verre is still very time-consuming and cumbersome. She is not surprised that the technique was completely abandoned for two thousand years until it was revived in the early 1900s in France. However, Eiko is excited to see the piece emerge from its hard cocoon in the last stage. She sees glass as her partner and is happiest to see the piece emerge more beautiful than expected.

Eiko was trained in seeing as a child by a well-known painter, Takuji Nakamura, father of a classmate. He was a strict teacher, and encouraged his pupils to keep on drawing. She continued drawing throughout her formal art education. Eiko reminds students who wish to take up visual art that basic training in seeing is essential. Keep practicing, as this develops the critical hand/eye coordination of a skilled artist.

Eiko’s work is shown at the Foyer Gallery and Craft Boston. You can also see more of her work online at These images are examples that show Eiko’s unique work. They are the results of her experiments in varying the method of plaster investing and temperature control of the kiln.

During this process she carries on a conversation with the glass inside the kiln.

Little Woods – 33 x 46 x 33cm

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Celebrating Rosemary Breault-Landry

Read the story of Rosemary’s bronze sculpture of Canada’s first indigenous Senator, James Gladstone “The Gentle Persuader”. He was a lifelong advocate for Indigenous rights and he helped secure the vote for his people. Congratulations Rosemary on this wonderful recognition!

Read the full story in the Senate of Canada newspaper at:

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Celebrate Ottawa

Thank you to Leila Grein and the team at Rogers for a great segment on Celebrate Ottawa. Although the Fall Sculpture show is over, there are still several sculptures on display by NCNS artists. It’s well worth the trip out to Westboro and the NAK Gallery.

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Artist of the Month – Colette Beardall – For the Love of the Wild

by Sandra Marshall

Colette Beardall was born in the sixties when Toronto was still considered a grouping of small towns with friendly neighbourhoods rich in culture. Her parents had immigrated from Germany and established businesses in Toronto. She was always surrounded by art experiences growing up. Besides enjoying music concerts, her mother excelled as a professional dress designer. Concerts and excursions to the ROM and art gallery were regular outings.  Beardall remembers her youth as always being involved in some sort of artistic or animal rescue  adventure.

The Colour Has Faded

She had to drop out of high school to take care of her mother who had developed dementia following a car accident. Her father had died the previous year, so there was never time to go to art school or pursue higher education. However, she is proud of the fascinating jobs she undertook throughout her youth. Punk band bass player in the 70s, and jobs such as wardrobe head on feature films and in other capacities on film sets. During the time she was working as a legal secretary, she met her husband.

After they married, the couple settled in the Yukon and were entranced by the wild north. Her husband had a position as a federal prosecutor based in Whitehorse and travelled regular circuit courts. During that time Colette was a new mother and interested in learning native crafts such as moose hair tufting, bead work and creating traditional northern parkas. Living, hiking, horseback riding and driving in the  wild splendours of the Yukon and Alaska strengthened her love of nature. Then following an eleven year sojourn in Alberta, they moved again, settling in the town of Metcalfe, south of Ottawa, where they raised two children and a lively animal menage including her beloved miniature horse Montana.

I Am Your Shelter

Covid has put a blanket on travel for Colette, but she is happy living with her dog and horses on their little five acres of woods, which has brought her into closer contact with wildlife than she expected. Her backyard woods have been home to foxes and temporary shelter for porcupines, bears, raccoons, skunks, stoats, coyotes, and multitudes of birds. That has been her pleasure and respite: in the woods soaking in the atmosphere and watching the seasons change. She considers that has been a great influence on her work.

Throughout her adventuresome life, she has explored different art mediums, searching for something to suit her unique interests. She loves woodworking and sewing, but felt her efforts paled in comparison to her mother’s skill and her father’s furniture design and refinishing abilities.

When the Beardall children were very young, the family had settled in St. Albert Alberta for a time, which Colette felt was fortuitous. The city’s vibrant art community boasted a beautiful municipal centre designed by Douglas Cardinal. Mother and daughter registered in mom-and-tot clay classes and her interest in clay really just evolved from there. Her skills developed, so that soon enough she started teaching at the St. Albert Potters Guild when her son began half days at school. She taught kid’s and adult hand building classes and created school board art curriculum. Colette also enjoyed some local success as a potter. But her love was always sculpture , an attraction which had begun when she was a youngster.

 In 1971, family friend and professional sculptor artist Sigfried Puchta sculpted 11 year old Colette’s likeness and in so doing, set her artistic direction: Puchta gave Colette her first lump of clay and asked her to make something in time for their next sitting. She made a torso of a male figure on one side and a female on the reverse. Watching Puchta’s face as he studied it, she remembers his words to this day. “You have a gift. You need to pursue it”. It’s taken her time, but she is now firmly dedicated to figurative clay sculpture.

For Colette, the process of sculpture begins when she is moved by an engaging news story or conversation, She imagines it in a sculptural context and seeks to express that emotional quality in her work.  For example, concern about difficult historical events engages her feelings and is  translated into her art. The sculpture Nightingale Whisper, a prize winner at the national . Figureworks Exhibition this year is a powerful example of the haunting tragedy in the Ukraine. She does not make for the sake of making, and says that is why she finds that she is slow in producing new work.

Nightingale Whisper – Figureworks 2022 Honorable Mention

Clay is a fantastic, soft flexible medium. If a piece is not working for you, you can reclaim it before it’s fired. So nothing is really lost. And maybe some ghost in the previous work finds itself adding to the work to come. If she is feeling blocked, Beardall simply rolls newspaper into shapes and ties them with masking tape to solidify a form. Other times, inspiration may be a rough sketch of an animal. The best way to move forward is to just start making. And if it’s not working, smoosh it and start again.

For Colette today, the most difficult part is starting. Bur near the middle of the creation process, she engages. Previously she really disliked glazing because it so often can take away from and ruin a piece on which you’ve spent a long time. But she has refined her method and now is excited by her new technique. She began using lots of clay slips, engobes and oxides to colour the clay and then firing it to higher temperatures. She finds this method is great because it makes the work stronger. Beardall is also known as a raku artist, but it is a low firing method and the pieces can be delicate.

Clay is a medium where you will never know everything and of course, in her opinion that is a great thing. It is a lifelong adventure of learning.

Curled Baby Fox

Every sculpture Colette makes will have a different emphasis and motivation, but animals are one theme that she returns to often. She quotes her hero David Bowie. ‘I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you.’

As a self-taught sculptor, Colette Beardall has taken workshops in every aspect of the medium – except sculpture  strangely enough. From throwing workshops to hand building classes and glazing studies, she feels that she always comes away with some kernel of new information. She advises her own students to learn from many other teachers. Each will impart something unique, and some will speak to you more personally than perhaps another. Read on the subject. Working in clay requires many steps. Practice, practice, practice. If you are doing figurative sculpture, devour a good anatomy book.

Challenge yourself.

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Fall Sculpture Show

Monday to Wednesday 10am to 5pm

Thursday and Friday 10am to 9pm

Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm

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Artist of the Month – In Memory of Shirley Jean Lawrence

By Sandra Marshall

Shirley Lawrence was a a go-getter and a generous Ottawa artist as well as a top-of game-sports enthusiast. She died peacefully in April, and the NCNS wishes to honour her memory with this tribute. She dedicated her life to her husband and family of 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. She somehow managed to fit in her love of competitive sports and clay sculpture. Described as tenacious, she taught tennis, badminton, squash and pottery classes for many years. She was one of the first women in Canada to obtain a very high level of coaching in squash, won awards and commissions for her clay sculptures and was the oldest player at the pickleball club!  She also loved hiking in nature and gardening in her own English flower garden.

Shirley Lawrence emigrated with her husband Peter from England in 1962. Looking for some fun after the birth of her fourth child here, she was introduced to working in clay.  She needed something to make her smile, away from more serious matters. She began making whimsical dragons and elves.

As she developed her skills, she attended many courses and workshops including the School of Fine Arts, Algonquin College, Haliburton School of Fine Arts, Nepean Visual Arts Centre and with Mary and Roman Schneider.

She developed a passion for sculpture, and is well-known for her humorous characters in ceramic. Her keen observation of facial expressions led her to depict droll clay sculptures of humans and animals, captured in expressive moments of action or contemplation. Her pieces were often inspired by observing the work of others in various media. Her depiction of The Chief was a favourite of hers. Her love of dance is depicted in her Dancing Woman sculpture.

She also taught pottery classes. One of her former students was delighted by Lawrence’s course: “I stumbled into pottery because a friend took a course in hand building and encouraged me to try it. I had a phenomenal teacher, Shirley Lawrence. It’s like baking, rolling dough and you’re playing with your hands making mud pies,” she jokes.

Shirley Lawrence was a member of the Ottawa Guild of Potters for many years and  contributed to the sculpture exhibitions with the National Capital Network of Sculptors. She and her husband Peter were the very generous hosts of a yearly BBQ at their property on the shore of the Ottawa River, but Shirley Lawrence also donated her energy and time in helping in the Children’s Wish Foundation, Heart Institute, Food Bank and other charities.  She remembered the hard times of her early life in England.

Shirley Lawence lived a full and adventuresome life, always active, always learning, and always meeting new friends.

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