- Robin Hopper and Judi Dyelle have spent a lifetime cultivating work in clay and a singular masterpiece in British Columbia, the gardens of ‘Chosin Pottery. Photography by Allan Mandell
Just inside ’Chosin Pottery gardens near Victoria, B.C., two ceramic “Mad Dogs” transform broken tree branches into sculpture. Farther along, new plantings bask in sunlight exposed after strong winds felled beloved trees.
As Robin Hopper walks the curved path of his two-and-a-half-acre Asian-inspired gardens, the Chinese expression Wu-wei comes to mind. Natural action. Effortless doing. Hopper has spent more than 50 years with his hands in the earth—both soil and clay—and he’s learned to live in sync with its rhythms.
An internationally recognized studio potter, Hopper says he was only 3 when he became “intoxicated with [clay’s] possibilities.” Reared in England, where in 1961 he graduated from Croydon College of Art, he drew from the inspiration of legendary potters David Leach (Bernard’s oldest son), Michael Cardew and Ray Finch, all of whom he knew personally.
But Hopper is no traditionalist. In 1968, he sailed to Eastern Canada to establish his own reputation. That didn’t take long. By 1977, he was awarded the first Saidye Bronfman Award, Canada’s most prestigious award in fine crafts. Decades of traveling, teaching and perfecting his pottery followed. “I really enjoy functional work,” he says. “It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure to give pleasure to people who use my pottery to enrich their lives.”
The gardens, which Hopper whimsically describes as “Anglojapanadian,” surround the main house with inspired interpretations of the five basic forms of Japanese gardens. The Stroll garden blends into the Scroll garden, which leads to Tsuboniwa—the courtyard or pond garden—and on to the Zen garden.
For more of “Living in Paradise, Playing With Mud,” pick up the June 2009 issue of AmericanStyle today!