Edith Klepsch was one of the founding members of the very first Kitimat Arts and Crafts Show which started 40 years ago in 1972. Klepsch was instrumental in bringing the first Ceramic and Pottery Club to Kitimat. Klepsch will be back again for this years Christmas Craft and Gift Sale will take place Friday and Saturday November 2-3 at Riverlodge.
Edith and her husband Horst and their three young children at the time arrived in Kitimat on March 18, 1971 from the coastal community of Ocean Falls, about 200 kilometres down the coast from Kitimat.
“Horst worked at Crown Zellerbach and they had cut back in the late 1960s and in 1972 we thought it was time to leave and we came here to Kitimat because Eurocan wanted my husband to work in the pulp and paper industry here,” said Klepsch.
Today Ocean Falls is a Ghost Town of about 100 residents.
“It’s a little ghost town but still some people there didn’t want to leave. They survive by boats coming in. There’s nothing there, but everything comes to an end and so did Ocean Falls,” says Klepsch.
After arriving in Kitimat, Klepsch found nothing here in the line of ceramics. She then contacted the local YMCA who offered her a facility to teach ceramics free of charge. She then got in touch with the municipality who provided a $500 grant as start up money for the club.
“I had to fly to Vancouver that September anyway so while I was there I found a supply store and bought two medium size kilns, two wheels and several moulds,” says Klepsch.
On November 29, 1971 the Kitimat Ceramic Club was officially opened by mayor Springer.
“We didn’t have the moulds available to make all the items we wanted to so we decided to raise some money,” said Klepsch.
“I had two classes every week with about 12 ladies and each of us made about five or six items. I asked if the Riverlodge would let us use the small room to sell our items and that’s how the arts and crafts started.”
The arts and crafts fair has grown exponentially since its modest beginning back in the 1970s.
“Now we have 120 to 130 tables and they are not only from Kitimat but as far as Vanderhoof and Smithers,” says Klepsch. “They come to set up their goods even here in our seniors centre because the Riverlodge is not big enough.”
In addition to the Christmas event, Kitimat also has its Spring Craft and Business Fair every April which has grown into a major event as well. Klepsch kept busy teaching her lessons as well as raising her three children. When the youngest was 16, she went back to nursing.
“To me teaching was to simply make the people happy doing what they were doing, for years I gave it up to go back to nursing,” says Klepsch.
After 41 years of residing in Kitimat, Klepsch is very happy her and Horst chose to make this community home and they had no intentions of retiring elsewhere. They have lived in the home her husband built for them on Yukon Street for many years now.
She spends every Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Kitimat Seniors Centre.
– Written by Sean Glanville