Stepping through the glass doors into the workshop of Mussels and More Pottery, a visitor is likely to see a toddler intently working away at moulding some Play-Doh.
Jayce Holmes is fascinated by running the company’s hydraulic press (with supervision of course), and watching its giant kiln moving on its tracks.
“He loves to help,” his mom, Erin, said. “If he can stand by a glaze bucket and pour glaze on something he’s happy.”
If Jayce’s joy for helping mom and dad (Blair Holmes) continues, the iconic seaside-inspired dinnerware company will continue to be in loving family hands for years to come.
The first piece of iconic mussel shell pottery was crafted by Jan Sell, Erin’s mom, more than 35 years ago. She and her husband Mike started Mussels and More in Erin’s bedroom as she tells it, and grew the business to the large warehouse/ industrial space it now occupies on the Island Highway in Campbellton.
Erin said she has always wanted to be a part of the company since she was old enough to accompany her parents to trade shows.
“I always told people at those shows, ‘I’m going to take over the business,’” she said, chuckling. “So, since I’ve been 12, that’s always been the plan.”
The plan has all but come to fruition, with Erin and Blair running the show with their six employees. The Sells are still very much involved – Jan is still chief designer, and Mike hasn’t stopped tinkering around the shop – but they are now able to take long breaks from the company whenever they feel the need.
“My parents feel super lucky they can go away and leave things in our hands,” Erin said.
Luck might have played a role in picking a perfect partner to help her with all the challenges of running a successful business in Campbell River.
When the pair met, Blair was going to school for plumbing, and he parlayed that into some success renovating houses. Every now and again, he would find himself in Mussels and More providing a little help here and there, and he came to find it quite enjoyable.
Before he knew it, Blair was working full time in the shop, and hasn’t looked back.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said with a big grin.
His mother was an artist, and Blair says he was able to tap into a creative side he didn’t know was within him since working at the company.
Between that, working with his hands, and learning how to run a business, Blair feels quite fulfilled.
During the more than 20 years since Mussels and More have been in the Campbellton area, the company has seen the neighbourhood undergo a bit of a face lift.
“It’s cleaned up a lot,” Erin said. “The Campbellton Association is just amazing in all the things they do to make this area more accessible, and beautiful.”
The Mussels & More mural has become synonymous with the transformation since completed in 2014.
The seaside-inspired painted wall was a collaboration between Jan Sell and driftwood artist/muralist J. Alex Whitcombe.
While Mussels and More’s wholesale and retail clients are still able to purchase all the quality shell-shaped pottery they always have, Erin has expanded the offerings in the gift shop to reflect the talented artisans to be found in the Campbell River area.
She was keenly aware of the support locals provided her family by frequenting their business, and enjoys the opportunity to spread around the good will to other creative hands-on types who are looking to get a leg up.
Shoppers can find candles, soaps and jewelry in addition to all the well-crafted pottery.
“People come into our gift shop to see our pottery, and now there’s lots of other beautiful art to see,” Erin said.