People/Places in Spotlight-Bunty O'Connor: Ajoupa Pottery

Bunty works on "Mother & Daughter", inspired by Pat Bishop (photo courtesy ajoupapottery.com)
Bunty tours the garden barefoot, staying connected to the earth.
Google the name Bunty O'Connor or Ajoupa Pottery and you're met with a slew of articles, blog posts and imagery of the artist's work in clay. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Bunty, the artist behind Ajoupa Pottery; she is an elegant, insightful, free spirited, nature enthusiast who just happens to be an amazing artist. Bunty has experimented with different types of media from fabric to watercolour and glass but I'm inclined to believe that clay is her favourite. Ajoupa Pottery opened for business in 1987 as a workshop located in the hills of Carapichima, Central, Trinidad and Tobago run by Bunty and her husband Rory O'Connor.  The main focus was on experimenting and creating beautiful thrown, pressed and handmade terracotta wares and ornaments for sale. That particular workshop is no more but Ajoupa Pottery has been invigorated with new life and a new vision. 

Bunty and Rory sit in their home surrounded by Bunty's beautiful art.
In experimenting for over 20 years with Trinidad and Tobago's local terracotta Bunty discovered that the fragility and consistency of the clay only allowed for mosaics and smaller pottery such as urns, bowls, vases etc. Not one to be bound by limitations in her art, she expanded to internationally sourced clay which allows for the creation of larger figures. These variations in form and material can be found throughout the interior on every wall and floor of the O'Connor home and in the exterior on walls, floors and dappled throughout the garden as sculpture. 
Bunty's work gracefully adorns their abode, floor tiles, mosaic tables, ornaments and sculptures.

After the couple decided to close Ajoupa Pottery's main door Bunty's classes moved to a portion of her garage. While the artist enjoyed making other people's visions come to life she is now at a stage in her life where she needs to share her own visions with the world. Her pieces are inspired by her spirituality, connection to the natural environment and her sense of the history which abounds in it. She creates art at her leisure and hosts open houses at her home for sale of her pieces (by appointment) throughout the year.

Bunty has fine tuned the process for a new clay with which she has been
experimenting and is ready to hold classes with this particular material.

The kiln for firing the pottery and work in progress
Conservationists at Heart
The O'Connors practice responsible, environmentally conscious living: recycling, reusing, composting and conserving wherever they can. Greywater is collected and reused for garden irrigation and rainwater is collected for household use during the dry season. As often as possible laundry is dried 'en plein air' conserving electricity, lengthening the lifespan of clothing and bedding and naturally killing large amounts of bacteria through the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Line drying laundry conserves electricity and more.
A large cistern collects and stores rainwater for use.
Salvaged antique doors from an old building
find a home in the new studio.

New Studio (in progress)
The new design studio, its storage and workspaces are being constructed by Rory, using salvaged and local materials and in some cases cedar wood from their own backyard.  
The new studio comes complete with slab roller and large workspaces.
Storage solutions above and around the sink

Rolling storage housing paints, glazes, moulds etc
The Ajoupa Pottery studio offers classes in ceramics, glass fusing and slumping and the Japanese technique of Raku ware.

Raku Kiln and Cooling Bin filled with sawdust.
Raku Method - followed in Bunty's classes
  1. Bunty takes the participants through an exercise with the clay that releases them from preconceived ideas about what they want to make. They have to work spontaneously and quickly.
  2. After this the pieces are made left to dry over 3 or 4 days.
  3. In between the 2 weekends the clay is fired and then...
  4. On the 2nd day, participants glaze and do as many firings as necessary. In the case of raku, each firing takes about 2 hours.
  5. The soot from the fire is then scrubbed off and the fabulous artwork revealed. This is the point that Bunty describes as the "OOO and aaah moments"

    The process is an exciting one which seems to be in demand and loved by all who attend these workshops. The process of removing the glowing form from the kiln surrounded by flames and heat then swiftly but precisely dropping it into a sawdust filled drum, to the sounds of crackles, smoke and more flames must be thoroughly gratifying. Sign up for Bunty's classes and let me know how it goes!
Ajoupa Pottery's Class Schedule for the remainder of 2013
  • Apr 7, 14, 21 Making Ceramic Mosaic, start to finish
  • Jun 9, 16 Glass Fusing and Slumping
  • Jul 7, 14, 21 Making and Using moulds for Ceramics
For further information on classes, give Bunty a call at 868 673 0605 or email her at bunty@ajoupapottery.com.

The couple's love of animals and nature is evidenced by their environment and the variation of domesticated animals on the estate. During my visit, I saw a chicken that lays on a table in the garage, another hen with several chicks following at her feet, several cocks parading about the place, a cat sprawled lazily at the top of a flight of stairs in the main house and I heard anecdotes about two squirrels that had been rescued as pups, that now believed that the dog Dingo is a larger version of themselves. I was very fortunate to make the acquaintance of Dingo, a friendly, beautiful dog with the most amazing coat I have ever seen. I must admit I was smitten by her wonderful disposition the first moment she bounded in my direction. She stayed at Bunty's side throughout the majority of my visit with the O'Connors, ensuring their safety and affirming her position as a worthy companion to the couple.
Dingo keeps Bunty and Rory company at every turn.
If you're a nature lover, a lover of fresh air, cool breezes and a good view or simply a lover of art and good people you should make your way to Ajoupa Pottery for some good ole relaxation and rejuvenation. In that one visit, I left feeling revived and ready to take on the world!