As an artist, the place you live can have great influence on what you create. Take Bunny Safari, a Guelph potter whose roots as a maker are intertwined with our Royal City.
With a renovated garage as her studio, Bunny’s commute to work is approximately 10 steps from her house. Her studio is a treasure trove of trinkets and things that inspire and bring joy to her process.
Bunny has called Guelph home for nearly 30 years and Guelph’s community has been part of Bunny’s process throughout her career. “I used to have a booth at the Guelph Farmers’ Market for 12 years and it was a great experience.” Vending at the Market while studying ceramics at Sheridan College gave Bunny the opportunity to receive feedback as her work grew and evolved, “I’ve heard everything from everybody in Guelph,” she laughs fondly.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else other than doing something with my hands.”
As a creative person, it is a delight when you can blend multiple passions together into your craft. Bunny incorporates her love of photography and collection of vintage press lettering into her work, but, there was one passion-fueled idea that put her on the map – literally.
In 2015, Bunny had made a series of mugs incorporating a map of Toronto, inspired by the TV show Murdoch Mysteries. While selling at a local show, someone mistook the map for that of ‘The Ward’ in Guelph. Sparking inspiration, Bunny made a small selection of mugs featuring the iconic area between York Road and Elizabeth Street for Guelph’s Art on the Street event that same year. She was sold out before noon with requests coming in the rest of the day.
Today, Bunny has depicted many of Guelph’s neighbourhoods on mugs, pitchers and plates, using a map she purchased from the Guelph Civic Museum. She smiles impishly at the friendly rivalries that have started between the neighbourhoods of Guelph, “the most popular mug used to be for The Ward […] but the next contender is the Exhibition Neighbourhood.”
Bunny’s mugs have become iconic Guelph souvenirs for travelers to the city. Whether it’s a visitor from New Zealand gifting to a friend in California, or exchange students from Saudi Arabia looking to take home a memento, the mugs have made it around the world to nearly every continent.
“I’m able to make something that connects with people through a vessel, something they can use every day – that gives me a bit of joy. I’m doing something and people appreciate it.”
Bunny continues to be active in Guelph’s arts scene and can still be found at Art on the Street – well equipped with enough map mugs. “Now, when I do shows I get great feedback on the mugs, but what’s awesome is the stories, […] these maps on the mugs, it’s just opened up a whole other world of community.”
Being a maker isn’t an exclusive experience, “We are all creative. I think we all need to be able to express ourselves.”
So, what is it about Guelph that inspires Bunny to stay and continue as a maker?
“My favourite part of living in Guelph has got to be the community. It’s the people. It’s the rivers, it’s the environment, it’s the music festivals, the art festivals, the film festivals. We’re such a creative community, I’m so lucky to be here.”
Guelph is embedded in every part of Bunny’s life as a maker. With a sparkle in her eye, she chuckles, “You have to be careful because it’s a vortex. Once you come it never wants you to go, it wants you to stay.”
Follow @visitguelph on our socials over the next few weeks to see the makers we’ll be highlighting ahead of Culture Days, running September 27-29, 2019. Thank you to Ward 1 Studios for supporting Guelph’s makers by contributing to this project!