Crafting a family success

Bruce, Laura and son Grant Nyeste opened up their studio, Mud Sweat and Tears in Blind Bay.

Honey pots on display

Honey pots on display

They came from across the globe, but their contribution to the Shuswap’s artistic community is undeniable.

Bruce, Laura and son Grant Nyeste have been creating remarkable works of art for years.

Bruce and Laura picked up the skill almost by accident in 1977.

Still living in New Zealand with two little kids running around the house, Laura decided to take up an art class at a local school.

Taking a liking to pottery, she discovered that she could rent a wheel for cheap and brought one home.

Once in the house she set the wheel up with Bruce’s help, and got to work.

Bruce didn’t know much about pottery and certainly never tried it before. Yet soon enough, he found himself by the wheel creating works of his own.

He fell in love with the craft and a few months later quit his job and took up the art full time.

Together, Laura and Bruce began honing their talent, diversifying their skills and creating beautiful pieces.

Making a name for themselves in New Zealand wasn’t easy however.

With more than 18,000 professional potters in the area, competition to make a living was fierce.

It isn’t like Canada, Bruce said, explaining that in New Zealand they were not permitted to import any goods that could be created there.

In Canada, however, goods are supplied in large part by China, Japan and other areas.

This means that we do not need to rely on homegrown talent to create quality items.

Yet, despite the large population of potters in New Zealand, the couple earned success.

“We were trying hard to feed our young family and pay bills,” explained Bruce. “We just produced to supply the market.”

That is where many young artists go wrong he said, pointing out that they just want to make the artsy things.

“If you want to make money, you need to make your 500 coffee mugs,” Bruce said. “You need to be disciplined too.”

In 1981, the couple moved to Canada and immediately began honing their craft in their new environment.

Not long after moving they opened up their studio, Mud Sweat and Tears  in Blind Bay, and have been creating a far- reaching reputation ever since.

The duo along with their son Grant go through between 12 and 16 tons of clay each year and create tens of thousands of pieces.

The family business produces a full range of high-fired functional pottery items including casserole dishes, coffee mugs, serving trays and more.

They also play with crystalline glazed porcelain, something only about 120 potters in North America are skilled enough to do.

The results are stunning.

Their best-selling pieces, however, are honey pots filled with 10 ounces of Nicola Valley honey  produced in Merritt.

Sales of the pots alone are in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 per year, with Bruce estimating about 150,000 sold to date.

The popular honey pots are available in several craft markets and stores in the Shuswap.

While a large number of their items can be found in galleries throughout the surrounding areas, the family also attends about 12 shows a year from Vancouver to Calgary, and throughout the Okanagan Valley.

Their artistic pieces have become so popular they are unable keep up with demand.

“We turn down about 300 stores a year,” Bruce said.

While there is little doubt that the family has struck success with their talent, the question is, when will they decide it is time to close up shop and relax.

“I do not see retirement in the near future. I have been potting for 35 to 36 years and I enjoy it now more than ever,” he said. “Most people retire and find something to do like we do; we don’t even need to retire to do it.”

You can learn more about Mud Sweat and Tears pottery by visiting the Nyeste’s website at www.mudsweatandtears.ca.

Their work will also be available for sale at the upcoming High Country Pottery Sale being held on Saturday, Aug. 3 and Sunday, Aug. 4 at Sorrento Memorial Hall.