HUNTSVILLE – Art has been a part of Eric Lindren’s life from the moment he was born. With an artist for a mother and an architect for a father, Lindgren was surrounded by creativity. As a young boy he also spent Saturday mornings at art school.
Art has been a part of Eric Lindgren’s life from a young age but it wasn’t until he used a potter’s wheel that he found his passion. Lindgren loves the simplicity and versality of working with clay.
Photo by Mandi Hargrave
Despite that artistic energy, Lindgren focused in physics throughout high school. He followed the science route through post-secondary school but became disenchanted with job prospects and returned to school to study art.
He began taking classes at The Three Schools of Art in Toronto, with a focus on painting and drawing. But it wasn’t long before he realized he didn’t want to draw or paint. It wasn’t until he was introduced to working with clay, that he stumbled on his artistic career.
“I got on the potter’s wheel, which is a very simple, old device; you use your hands, the clay, and water and sometimes a little piece of wood or metal and you can do all sorts of things,” said Lindgren. “It seems so simple and yet it’s so versatile.”
While studying applied arts at Georgian College, he met his wife Cathy, who was studying textile design.
The two moved to Lindgren’s family farm in Huntsville in their late 20s.
“It was a large property that gave us lots of space,” he said. “We had some business momentum by then. I had already been selling in Ontario for several years so we considered moving out west, considered moving down east. We decided we wanted to be in Ontario not far from a provincial park, and Huntsville, because of the family farm, gave us the greatest opportunity. It turned out however, that we had dumb luck, that this was the best place to be to market the work.”
When cottagers and tourists visit Muskoka, Lindgren says they’re in a better frame of mind and couples shop together while here.
He and his wife established Lindgren Pottery in 1981, a year after getting married.
“It’s nicer to live in the country and breathe in fresh air,” he said. “You have beautiful surroundings, nature, the crickets and the wolves.”
While there are many things that can be done with clay, Lindgren prefers to make functional stoneware: dinnerware and pots for the kitchen and garden.
“I don’t encourage anybody to do it,” he said. “You get young kids coming in and they want to take up a life of the arts and I say, ‘give your head a shake.’ I’ve got friends that are retiring now and they’ve got good pensions. They stuck it out in factories, teaching or the business world and there’s a lot of sense to that. Mind you I got to do whatever I wanted in my 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s now.”
But Lindgren doesn’t regret living the artists’ life.
“It’s a wonderful life, it’s just not a great way to make a living, that’s all,” he said. “I still believe you’ve got to follow your heart. It’s not just a job.”
Coming up with new ideas is always a challenge, like any other art form. But one of Lindgren’s most challenging experiences he says was creating the dinnerware for the 2010 G8 Summit of World Leaders.
It was a large job for Lindgren, creating 483 pieces, with a tight turnaround that left him feeling pressure.
“It’s something I’m glad I did, but it was stressful,” he said.
Luckily the area has many ways to de-stress, from canoeing in Algonquin Park to lounging lakeside.
“I can’t think of living anywhere else except in Muskoka,” said Lindgren. “There’s something about Longs Lake, something just idyllic about it. There are so many beautiful situations (in Muskoka).”
While vacationing in St. Lucia in 2004, the Lindgrens helped start a pottery in a hotel there owned by Nick Troubetzkoy, a Canadian architect.
Lindgren and his wife developed a product with local clay that employees there could recreate. They managed to keep it afloat for six years, and discovered the love of diving in the process.
He and Cathy have gone diving in a number of places throughout the Caribbean and New Zealand.
“If you like beautiful things and if you like nature, you’ve got to dive. And you’ve got to dive in warm water because up here the fish are all green and they all swim away from you, it’s cold and it’s murky,” said Lindgren. “Down there the water is clear, it’s warm, the fish are colourful and they swim toward you.”
To recommend someone for Muskoka Mosaic contact Mandi Hargrave by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-789-5541 ext. 285.