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Mel Bolen

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Mel Bolen, whose name is synonymous with pottery in Saskatchewan, is known for his distinctly decorated, finely crafted thrown porcelain ware, mugs, plates, tureens, lidded jars, often with lusters and gilded rims, marketed under North Star Pottery.

Mel was born in 1947 and grew up in Regina, Roman Catholic, middle class, a jock who was asked to leave the Engineering department at the University of Regina for not working. His first introduction to pottery was through a Fine Arts elective he had taken and from that moment on he was hooked. Switching to Fine Arts he majored in sculpture and decided to take classes that interested him rather than simply filling academic requirements. For Mel, living in an art school environment in the seething intellectual milieu of the late ‘60’s was exciting.

At the age of 25 Mel was Head of the University of Regina Extension Department Pottery studio -- he says, "not a high credit, high salary position." But the Extension Department was incredible, plenty of space, excellent facilities, a good supply of materials, big budgets and open 24 hours a day.

The early days of North Star Pottery were characterized by a frenetic level of activity. The four individualistic artists experiments criticized, showed work in exhibitions across the country and lived with their partners in living quarters built into the vaulted ceiling of the church above the studio.

Mel's focus swung from largely experimental, one-of-a-kind work for exhibition to largely production work and marketing in the search for a better breadline income. Long hours, high quality work and an established reputation have secured that.

"My job is a bit of a luxury. I get paid to do something I love to do. If I wasn’t getting paid for it, I’d be doing it anyway in my free time."

Since 1980, Mel and his wife Karen Holden own and operate the studio. Both work on their art, Mel maintaining his reputation for quality and beauty, and Karen working to establish her name in the art community. Together they have done extensive renovations and landscaping.

Mel has pieces included in several national and international collections and has participated in over 70 exhibitions including Clay in Canada, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1995, and Expo ’86 in Vancouver. Mel continues to keep to himself in touch with ceramic trends shown by his recent educational pursuits at the Banff Centre of the Arts.

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Updated last on June 14, 2017

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