Lillie Turner | Episode 659
Lillie Turner is in love with clay – not a guy named Clay, as her husband’s name is Jeremy, but clay, as in pottery clay. Lillie’s first exposure to pottery was in 2015, at a community club taking 6 nights of wheel throwing classes. Throwing on the wheel did not come easy and is still a struggle somedays to center the clay, pull up the wall, and make pieces that match in shape and size, but she does not give up easily!
The community pottery club in town allowed potters 24 hours access to the studio which was great for a newbie who was very enthusiastic. Many hours were spent at the wheel- but Lillie had a keen interest in learning all aspects of pottery, so she volunteered to load kilns, maintain kilns, which gave her great experience early on. The next big step was to learn about glazes, with the approval of the club Lillie organized a 3 day glaze workshop with John Britt from North Carolina, which was incredible, but quite advanced as Lillie had never even mixed a glaze before- but that did not intimidate her- she bought a kiln, and set up a small studio space in her garage- and started glaze testing. The more glazes Lillie made, the more she wanted to learn about glaze chemistry. Lillie found a fantastic online workshop for cone 6 glazes taught by Matt Katz of Ceramic Materials Workshop, which is an in depth course of over 50 lessons to work through at your own pace. Lillie jokes that she is now trying to learn chemistry at the age of 41 years old- as she was homeschooled from grade 6 onwards and never took chemistry.
Lillie’s business is called My Lil Shop Canada- as she is not just a potter- she is an entrepreneur of many things, including soap making, and beekeeping which compliment pottery so well- the soap sells nicely with pottery soap dishes, and Lillie makes beeswax tea light candles for pottery candle holders, and honey pots as special gifts.
Recently Lillie has started to focus on making serving trays and dinner plates as cooking is a huge passion of hers. In 2009 Lillie left her career in banking to go to Culinary school, as she had always wanted to learn the tricks of the trade and become a better cook, as she and her husband love good food!
Lillie became a full time potter April 2020 after selling a wholesale skin care company she owned for the past 7 years, and is loving doing something she is really passionate about- being creative, and making pottery for people to enjoy for many years to come! She sells most of her work through ETSY, as well as sells her work wholesale to a handful of stores in British Columbia, and one in Nova Scotia.
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How much does being a local or being a locally sourced artist, how much does that play into your success?
I would agree with you that Canadians are definitely proud of our resources and our artisans, Nowadays with Amazon where you can order anything and have it shipped to you in a couple of days, I would say that that is definitely a challenge for a lot of us artisans. But Canadian stores are really turning a huge page in just supporting local. They are willing to pay to bring in those products. So many people who have bought my pieces, in their comments, will make that comment, that it is just so great to buy something local. Especially with Covid I think that has really brought in this new kind of drive for people to support local businesses and I have seen the shops that are doing everything they can to support shoppers and support people who want to buy local, support people who are makers and want to sell local and they have probably worked harder than they every have before during this time. But I think it has paid off for both the artisan and the store owner.
So even though Amazon can ship anything anywhere you find being local is a power position?
I really think so. I feel that people just feel this sense of pride when they buy something when the potter is from Camloops not China, not somewhere overseas and maybe it is just our Canadian instinct, I don’t know, but we just feel really proud of our own makers. I am using Canadian clay. I am using ingredients that are mined in Canada and many of my pieces have a Canadian motif. I’ve got bears on some of my pieces and trees and that type of thing, so I think it just draws a little bit of that Canadian pride out of my work.
Do you look for stores that specifically support the local artists in order to say you want to be in those shops?
I would say it gives me great pride and pleasure to sell at store that want to sell Canadian, just ot be grouped in that group of Canadian artists for me it just does something. When you can put your work beside other Canadian potters and feel like you are part of this bigger group of artists, especially in a craft that you work alone so often. And the stores do such a good job of promoting local and they are willing to sell at a really great rate in order to support us local makers. They understand that we need to make a living and we can’t sell our pieces comparable to what you can buy at a local housewares store and whatnot and so they honor that and they basically say, You set your price and we are going to work with that and sell your pieces. It is pretty awesome to have that.
How does that translate to online sales? And I ask that specifically because you said you put them up on Etsy and they sell out really quickly. How do you use the power of being a local potter for selling to global audience?
So first of all I have to work out the cost of shipping. I can’t ship things out not considering the cost. In my previous work selling skin-care I had a pretty good idea of how the shipping system works here in Canada which is unfortunately not as awesome as down in the states. We do not get free boxes, we do not get free fragile sticks as you have mentioned before. So I definitely have to incorporate those into my costs. But I do offer a ten dollar discount if someone wants to come pick up a piece from my home, so that’s an offer obviously only offered to Kamloopsians, but it is a way that I can spread my product within Canada and still be selling local.
Do you play up the idea that you are a Canadian potter on Social Media?
I haven’t really much, but I think that people would notice from my profile where I am located, that type of thing. Every now and then I will put made with Canadian clay but I really haven’t focused on that a whole ton. Most of my followers are locals for the most part.
Speaking of local things, what is the biggest attraction of Kamloops?
The heat in the summer. It’s a desert. If you love the heat, this is where you can come. Yesterday it was 37 degrees, today we are supposed to have 35 degrees, it’s a hot one.