Phyllis Erwin

Phyllis Erwin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived in Toronto, Ontario from 1956–1995 before she moved 100 km east to Cobourg, Ontario.

She studied Interior Design at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) and later transferred to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Fine Arts Department where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in design.

Other studies included a summer school painting course at the Banff School of Fine Arts (Banff, Alberta), drawing courses at the Artists’ Workshop (Toronto) under John Gould, clay workshops in Toronto with visiting ceramic artists such as Kimpei Nishimura (Tokyo, Japan), Ruth Duckworth (Chicago, Illinois), Paul Soldner (Colorado), Merton Chambers, Bob Bozack, and Jack Sures.

Her clay vessels are hand built, using slabs and coils, then coated with terra sigillata.  Before dry, the surface is burnished to produce a smooth, shiny finish.  The pieces are bisque-fired first in an electric kiln and later, smoke-fired in wood shavings, sometimes with the addition of dried cow dung.


I think of myself as a “naive” potter because I am for the most part, self-taught.  Due to the lack of formal training, I have an uninhibited and unrestricted approach to clay.  I especially enjoy using primitive hand building techniques which offer endless possibilities.

The magical results of smoke-firing constantly surprises and delights me.  It’s always exciting to see how the natural elements of fire, smoke and wind complete the process.