Mountain biker and pottery artist finds calling with the resources and landscapes that surround her.
Ginette Brinkman was always an artist, but her love for pottery and clay would come after she moved to Redcliff with her family over five years ago.
She attended the annual Medicine Hat Chili Cookoff, where home-made, hearty meals were served in beautiful, locally-made pottery bowls people would purchase for $10. She was immediately fascinated and curious as to where the pieces of artwork were sourced from, and this was when she first heard about Medalta in the Historic Clay District.
“I ended up taking my children to do a pottery class. I took two classes back to back, because I couldn’t get enough. That was just over three years ago, and now I’m a full-time potter,” says Brinkman, owner of Mud to a Rock.
After her first few classes at the National Historic Site, Brinkman joined the Potters Association and learned the craft with experienced artists who’d been doing pottery for up to 40 years. She’d always created with her hands through stained glass and fiber arts, “I believe I was made to create with my hands.” But pottery was something Brinkman had yet to explore.
“Learning ceramics at Medalta was very inspiring to me, because it’s rare that an artist gets to live right by an incredible resource like this. People come from all over the world to be an artist in residence at Medalta, and I got to learn from the best in such an inspiring atmosphere.”
Before 2020, Brinkman was connected with the owner of The Hat’s Olive Tap, Carmen Lambert. Mud to a Rock pottery currently sits beside quality oils and balsamics inside the tuscan-themed taphouse in Medicine Hat’s Historic Downtown.
“The Hat’s Olive Tap has been my number one supporter. I’m their only potter, and they are the only place I sell in the city. Carmen and her staff have cultivated such an incredible atmosphere in the store, so I feel honoured to have that be the primary location for my pieces.”
Historically, The Hat’s Olive Tap’s location used to be a studio for one of Medicine Hat’s artist legends. It was a destination for people to buy ceramics. Lambert wanted to find a potter so people could still find ceramics when they went to her store, to keep that characteristic alive.
Brinkman built herself a studio in her home and purchased a kiln in 2020. It feels natural for the artist to be in the mud, whether it’s on her mountain bike surrounded by coulees and red rock, or in her studio surrounded by indoor house plants from Botanicals.
“We can ride out from our house straight to the mountain biking trails in Redcliff. There’s 30 kilometres of mountain biking trails that wind all around the coulees and along the South Saskatchewan River. We have all the trails we could ever want right in our own backyard,” says Brinkman. She and her husband have been mountain bikers for over 20 years and say the trails in Redcliff, located just 10 minutes outside of Medicine Hat, resemble Moab, Utah.
Sometimes for the artist, the two worlds tie together, and she often finds herself creating henna designs that reflect the coulees, wildlife, greenery, flowers, cactus that grow naturally in the area, and mountain bikes on her clay work.
“When I worked in the Cultural Centre, it was a very idyllic spot with a pond. I once saw a moose, and I would often see deer and baby goslings.”
Clay is a satisfying tactile thing Brinkman craves in her bones. The outlet is calming, and throughout the process, she always designs new ideas, and, sometimes, lets the clay lead the way.
“I come up with new shapes and designs very organically. The shapes themselves flow out of my hands. For instance, I’ll start off with thinking I’ll be making a set of sunflower mugs, and then they end up being vases. It’s very spontaneous. That’s a huge part of my artistic experience.”