Humans of Campbell River: Mussels and More Pottery
Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place. This week we’re sharing the story of Mussels and More Pottery.
It was 1975 and I was 17 years old when I sat on my first pottery wheel. I was hooked! After making mostly utilitarian pottery on the wheel, in 1983 I made my first Mussel Shell out of clay. I had been going to the beach and laying large slabs of clay over rocks creating very free-formed bowls that resembled abstract shell shapes. A customer who was attracted to these abstract shapes asked me if I could make a realistic-looking Mussel Shell out of clay. And so I did! I designed my unique Mussel Shell with the hope that one day I would develop a line of pottery seashells that would be both functional as well as decorative for people’s homes. I remember thinking, “What fun it would be to bake and serve food from a giant clay shell.” At that time I lived and worked from a home studio which was built on the deck of an old rock loading barge. An immense floating home, this barge measured 100’ by 32’ and once worked the waters off the Wild Pacific Coastline. During the 8 years, I lived in this unique style on the water, I became acquainted with Mike, a commercial fisherman. Mike would occasionally come by in his fish boat and tie up to the barge for a quick cup of tea and a visit. Little did we know that he would later become my husband and business partner. The real turning point in my small pottery business came when I married Mike in 1996. Our unique partnership and vision for something bigger and better threw us into years of trial, error and success.
Together Mike and I launched into a serious plan of making and selling the Mussel Shell Bowls to stores all over North America. What started out in the house soon led to a home based business in the garage. It was quite a scenario, our family with two children immersed in the complex and fragile world of drying pottery all over the house. As young children
Erin and her brother Gibson would earn their Christmas gift buying money by making clay snowmen and trees for selling at Christmas Craft Fairs. At home they would also make their allowance by helping to make the clay barnacles for the Shells and help in the retail selling of the pottery when I was busy cooking dinner. Business grew so we bought one and then two warehouses to work out of. Looking forward Mike and I knew our business needed to expand to retail sales and a store of our own. So the search began for a large studio space as well as a storefront in a visual high traffic location. In 2006 we bought our present building in Campbellton. As a teenager, Erin would work after school and on Saturdays learning the making and glazing of the pottery. She would also join Mike and I displaying our pottery and writing orders at large Wholesale Trade Shows in New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. By the time she finished High School, she was full-time in the Shop learning all the complexities of running the diverse business.
In 2013 Erin met Blair and he joined us at M & M. Blair started to learn all aspects of M & M and soon he and Erin took over the day-to-day running of the business allowing Mike and I to take a step back. Four family members working together requires a lot of communication, listening, caring, understanding and love so that tensions can be overcome. The love our family has for one another is what makes Mussels & More WORK!! Then in 2019 Erin and Blair had a baby boy Jayce. Jayce was two weeks old when he started coming to the shop every day while Mama and Dada worked. This was a new challenge trying to work and look after a growing and demanding baby. It takes all four family members to tag team watching Jayce. To help with keeping Jayce happy and busy during work hours Grandpa Mike created a lovely playroom in his office space.
The gift shop was proving to be very successful, so being very competent people we took on the task to renovate and expand the retail space. A larger, brighter and beautiful West Coast style store was created giving our customers a wide selection of handmade products. Erin was key in sourcing out locally made, desirable items that would entice and please our wide range of shoppers.
Erin, Blair, Mike and I all wear many hats at Mussels & More. Erin divides her time between the running and stocking of the gift shop, managing the office, customer orders and account duties, as well as being one of the main pottery glazers. With many other jobs thrown in here and there. Somehow in her spare time, she has designed and created a line of skincare and bath products called Mermaid Apothecary. It now sells in our store as well as other stores in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Blair runs the production of the pottery, managing the staff and keeping the quality control to our high standard. All kiln duties fall on Blair to keep production running smoothly, also Blair is now one of the main pottery glazers.
Erin and Blair join forces daily to communicate and plan the running of the business. Blair has his artistic side as well which he lets show with the gorgeous wood products he creates in his hard-to-find spare time. Mike is, of course, our master of all trades and talents who now after many years of hard work building Mussels & More focuses on keeping our website running and updated when he isn’t fixing something in the business whether it be a kiln, air conditioning or coffee machine. I continue to create new designs as well as keep my hand in the glazing and can be found creating new and exciting glazes. I assist Erin and Blair where needed in the business operation and am busy at home creating some hand-painted table runners which are soon to be for sale in the shop. With more spare time I have also created a new Botanical line of pottery which is all one of a kind and sells out very quickly. All in all our family business is one to check out and see what our energy, creativity and love have created.