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.