CANADIAN POTTERY SERIES - RUTH MEECHAN
Ruth Meechan (1914-2007) was born in Glenavon, Saskatchewan. She moved to Vancouver in 1940 where she began as a graphic artist/illustrator. Ruth was also an advocate for social justice with unions and women’s issues. She was also a potter and established a studio in Maple Ridge, BC. She was an early member of the British Columbia Potters Guild.
The work shown below is typical of what we find. All these pieces are slip cast in moulds, glazed and fired. The designs represent North West First Nation images. They are marked on the back with the name of the design i.e.. Haida Eagle, Tsimshian Bear and Man. There is always the stylized initials R (over)M for Ruth Meechan.
You will also find some of this work with an small orange sticker that says Gene Barker, Webster’s Corners, B.C. When I first saw these stickers, I thought that Gene Barker was the potter. There was little info on Gene Barker. Webster’s Corners is a suburb of Maple Ridge. If you google Ruth Meechan, you can get her obit and other info. Ruth is also pictured/listed in the 1977 book - A Catalogue of British Columbia Potters. There is still little info on Gene Barker. There is one piece of info that suggests that Gene Barker was a female potter who worked with Ruth and that her work has a different wording.
You will note in the last piece shown is a piece that has the engraved mark “The Quest Victoria”. This would be a piece made for sale that that particular shop. I also have a piece that has a sticker from the B.C. Arts and Crafts Centre when it was located a 577 Granville Street in Vancouver. These pieces would appeal to the tourist trade of the time. This would explain why you see a lot of these pieces in Ontario.I believe these work fall into the late 1950’s to late 1960’s period.
*** In the early days of Ruth's career, she worked closely with another lady named Gene Barker. Gene ran a small home based business in Webster's Corners which is an eastern suburb of Maple Ridge centred on the intersection of 256th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road, she was lucky - she was able to dig her own clay, at is was present in her area.
Ruth Meecham worked with Gene and eventually took over the part of the business that used First Nations. They sold their work into the souvenir market and they got spread quite widely. A few stores in Banff carried their work.
The mark "Hand Made of BC Clay" is usually associated with Gene Barker, while Ruth used "Handmade in BC" but some pieces might be from the early days when Ruth work with Gene. Gene later moved to Hornby Island and passed away there about 5 years ago.
Special thanks to Mapleridge Museum for providing early history on Ruth & Gene's working relationship. You can see more of their pieces at www.mapleridgemuseum.org