Pottery Wars

Get all fired up for Pottery Wars, the pottery throw down of the year! The story of three northern Canadian men on their quest for pottery treasures at the annual Yellowknife Arts and Crafts Christmas Sale, the ‘Black Friday’ sale of the North.

Creative team

Writer/director/producer: Michelle Swallow

Filmmaker’s statement

Michelle Swallow says:

“Part of the magic of Yellowknife, a town of only 20,000 people, is the support that Yellowknifers give for creative projects. One way this support can be seen is at the annual Yellowknife Arts and Crafts Christmas Sale. Unlike southern sales where people line up to buy big screen TVs, here in Yellowknife, people line up for hours to get their first pick of handmade teapots.

Although I had many friends that were excited to go to the sale, I had noticed over the last few years that my friend Jason’s enthusiasm for purchasing pottery was reaching a whole new level. Once Jason explained his strategic approach to the sale to me I knew his story would make a great short film.

I had never made a film before, but as the sale approached last December I decided to go for it. I borrowed a video camera and a tripod, and recorded Jason and his team as they went to the preview event, strategized in his living room and lined up at the sale. Friends all chipped in to provide additional camera support and advice, and I even had a dedicated ptarmigan cameraman (ptarmi-cam).

I asked my friend Darha, who was at the sale, to bring out her inner pottery snob, but she was the only one that was improvising – everyone else was just being him or herself. To add additional texture and quirks to the footage of the sale I added in ptarmigan animation, live ptarmigan footage and ptarmigan sound. Ptarmigan were a big ticket item for the pottery shoppers that year and are a big part of a Yellowknife winter.

Yellowknife is home to a vibrant creative community and supportive arts organization like Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP) a non-profit arts organization that supports and promotes local filmmaking throughout the Northwest Territories. I was lucky to be granted funding through their 4 Seasons program for 2013. I used the funds to hire a local artist for animation (Jillian Mazur) and an amazing editor (Joanna Grant). In addition, WAMP staff provided advice and support on post production.

Whether it’s grant programs available through WAMP, our new NWT Film Commission, the NWT Arts Council and other programs or the hundreds of people that line up on a cold December day to buy a mug with a Ptarmigan on it, Yellowknife is a fun place to see a creative project come to life.”

About Michelle Swallow


In 2011, Michelle Swallow published a book on the Mackenzie River and is now in the planning and research stages of a documentary project on the Athabasca River.

She hopes to incorporate a connection to nature along the Athabasca River and history through interactive digital media.

Pottery Wars is Michelle’s first film.

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