By appointment only:
220 Milltown Rd, Shannonville
Twenty-something years ago, a serious accident involving her four-year-old daughter and a school bus made Marleen Murphy say, “I’m just going to stay home and figure out something to do.”
With her mother-in-law in tow, Marleen started to go to ceramics classes in the evenings, and there the wheels started turning. “Geez, I could bring this to the [reservation]. I could do some of this stuff here.” And so, once certified, starting with one long table in her basement, she did just that, eventually teaching others what she’d mastered in class.
When you saw Marleen’s magnificent marvels, you assumed profits were her goal. But her students insisted she bring her creations to the local Pow Wow. Twenty-three years ago, with their six-month-old daughter in the playpen beside their booth, Marleen and her husband started a thriving business that ships product internationally today.
Marleen’s pieces use traditional Mohawk colours and images. It’s no surprise that her work was chosen to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Each piece is an opportunity to learn about an incredibly artistic Indigenous culture. My favourite piece, the Three Sisters, represents the three main agricultural crops—corn, beans and squash, which are always planted together because they thrive together, like three inseparable sisters.
This particular piece comes in many versions, but the one I can’t take my eyes off of is the most vibrant shade of purple I’ve ever seen, the colour of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, sourced from the inside of the quahog shell, which was regularly used to make purple and white beads.
The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte suffuse spiritual meaning in everyday life, and through Indigenous artistic expression, Marleen at Millside Ceramics teaches a history full of unique, relevant lessons in respect and gratitude.
For more about local artists, visit the Quinte Arts Council.