Sustainable Craft – Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design

Sustainable Craft

Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design has been sustaining and celebrating cultural and social practices for 50 years. We believe craft sustains Unama’ki, a sense of well-being, the economy and creative communities.

The Sustainable Craft Program is an initiative aimed at supporting the sustainable development of the Unama’ki Cape Breton Island craft sector. We understand a sustainable craft practice as the idea of balancing meeting our current needs with the needs of future generations through applied skills and material-based knowledge. However, sustainability can have many meanings. We understand sustainability to be social, cultural, economic and environmental.
• A culturally sustainable craft practice might take form through community teaching and the passing down of cultural traditions and knowledge.
• An economically sustainable craft practice would support a circular economy and the artist’s livelihood.
• An environmentally sustainable craft practice may consider the impact of the studio and the sourcing of materials.
• A socially sustainable craft practice may take labor relations into consideration and ethical working conditions.
We live, work, play and create art in Unama’ki, the land of fog. It is our responsibility to consider how we can contribute to a more sustainable future with craft practices.



As part of our new Sustainable Craft Practice program, which is aimed at supporting the sustainable development of the Unama’ki – Cape Breton Island Craft Sector, Cape Breton Centre For Craft & Design presents the first of our workshops.

Sustainable Pottery with David McMillan

Calling all potters! Join us on Tuesday, May 31 from 5:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design and learn to locate and test your own clay and glaze materials for use in your pottery. This workshop will cover the sourcing, harvesting and processing of local ceramic materials. While this workshop is accessible to all skill levels a working understanding of ceramics is recommended. The approaches covered can be transferred to any medium that uses geological materials in craft production.

This workshop is free of charge to participants thanks to funding from Canada Council for the Arts.

Participants will learn:

-The use of geological maps to find clay and glaze materials. Bedrock and surficial maps will be covered.

-How to identify various clay/ash/rock materials when in the field.

-Clay and glaze chemistry when dealing with natural materials of an unknown UMF (Unity Molecular Formula).

-Processing techniques suitable to different types of natural materials.

-Different approaches to testing. Line and bi-axial blends, porosity testing, shrinkage and volumetric blending.

With the knowledge acquired from this workshop participants will be able to confidently locate and test their own clay and glaze materials for use in their pottery.

To Register: 

Visit sustainablepottery.eventbrite.ca to register. 

For more information, contact Bailee Higgins, Sustainable Craft Coordinator, at bailee@capebretoncraft.com, by phone at 902-539-7491 ext 111. 

David McMillan was born in Brandon, Manitoba. Moving west he completed his BFA with honors at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design focusing on critical theory in contemporary ceramics. In the summers he lived in a tent under an old growth cedar tree and learned production pottery in a four-year apprenticeship. 

After returning to Manitoba David has spent the last fourteen years working exclusively with locally harvested materials in his ceramics.  Everything that goes into David’s pots is dug by hand in Manitoba. The different clays and sands are each carefully researched and then harvested. All processing is done by hand before the materials are combined to make the different clays that he throws on his kick wheel. The glazes on his work come from wood ash and different rocks that are crushed by hand.  The final step is for David to fire the pots in his wood burning kiln with trees that are sustainably harvested from his own wood lot. David takes pride and care in harvesting everything that goes into these pots to make truly local and sustainable functional pottery.