After four decades of creating ceramic wares, Darrel Hancock says he still wakes up happy every day.
“I used to have a fantasy when I was in college that I just lived beside a mountain of clay and made pots all day,” said Hancock. “It’s so wonderful to be able to do what you love and make a living at it.”
The Qualicum Beach ceramic artist lives in the ‘rural part of town,’ in a large house with a pottery studio out back. The shelves of his two-room studio brim with mugs, bowls, jugs and casserole dishes, to name a few of his creations, all in various stages of completion.
“I find it completely fulfilling because there’s such a wide range of things you can make,” Hancock said. “So it’s never boring.”
When designing a new piece, ergonomics plays a significant role in his work. Not only doesn’t he want his work to pose a challenge in use, but for it to invite use with ‘touch and feel.’
“My standard line (for customers) is that it’s just like buying a pair of shoes. You have to buy the one that feels right. They have to find the one that’s ‘theirs.’”
Hancock’s greatest inspiration is derived from nature, as an appreciator of natural colours and shapes. He said he finds himself looking to the landscapes around him, such as the sky and mountains, for ideas.
His recent works are more abstract by design as there’s ‘more communication between the viewer and the item,’ and people often see their own unique interpretation of his work.
Previously, his brushwork designs would be of specific things, such as plants and animals, but then he started doing more abstract work, which he realized was more popular.
“When I was doing specific designs, then I’ve nailed it all down. But with the abstract designs, there’s more movement.”
Originally born in Port Alberni, he moved to White Rock with his family at the age of five. He remained on the Lower Mainland until 2005 when he set up shop in Qualicum Beach.
Like most artists, Hancock started his pottery career in school. Initially his aspirations were in the graphic arts, as he could ‘draw somewhat’ but quickly learned that it wasn’t his cup of tea.
He first attended Douglas College for graphic arts, but decided to continue his education at the Vancouver School of Art, which later became the Emily Carr Centre. In 1980, he graduated with a Fine Arts degree.
In remembering his college days, Hancock recalls seeing ‘all the hippies down the hall laughing, talking and having fun.’ It was then he decided to take a pottery class as an elective.
“As soon as I touched the clay, it was like I found my medium,” he said. “I just got hooked on it.”
After graduating, he then went to work with 12 different potters and learned various tools of the trade to develop his own craft.
Throughout his ambitious career, he’s also taught pottery for 18 years in several different community centres across the Lower Mainland. His enjoyment, he said, came from the ability to impart information to others and help develop their skills.
In 2005, when he moved to Qualicum Beach, the potter understood he was coming into a small community with already existing ceramics classes, and decided to “leave the teaching behind.”
Hancock remembers well the advice he was given by an instructor at Douglas College.
“Even once you learn how to make pots, it takes you about five years to find your own language.”
As he occasionally participates in local craft fairs, he said there’s been times where the fair is nothing but other ‘potters.’ When asked if that feels like a competition, he responded: “no, because we all speak our own language.”
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