For Spry Bay potter and former pediatrician Geri Frager, you are what you eat off

·4 min read

SPRY BAY – The pattern that adorns the cup that Geri Frager made appears to be a floral filigree with interwoven strands of blue and green running from brim to base, and you think you want to drink your coffee from it.

It’s so affecting, you want to drink your coffee from it right now, this morning, and on all the mornings to come. Until, of course, she corrects you. “Actually,” she says, “it’s an image of a human cell seen at a microscopic level.”

It’s a what?

She says, “It kind of merges my love of pottery with the marvels of the human body. I have pieces that I’ve designed — everything from dinner plates to wine cups and salad dishes — that all show images of human cells seen through either a light or an electron microscope. It’s marvellous. I think the cells are gorgeous. But it’s also interesting just in terms of understanding what our bodies contain.”

Look closer, and you begin to see what she means. Strands connect to swirls; swirls form delicate meshwork and hashtags; in jewel and earthy hues, everything is connected. “You see,” she says. “It’s really magical stuff.”

Frager, who is a former pediatrician with a whimsical streak a country mile wide, is preparing for a month-long solo show of her unique pots, cups, saucers, plates and bowls opening in November at the Craig Gallery at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. Also, the author of a book of poetry extolling the potter’s craft — Signs of Life: Images Formed from Words and Clay — she says: “I’ve always been interesting in art. It’s been quite a lot of fun.”

Originally from Montreal, Frager graduated with a degree in nursing in 1973 and one in medicine in 1985. She relocated to Halifax to become an attending staff physician at the IWK in 1995. Not long after, she created her first pot. “I started with one class and was just totally enthralled with it. I enjoyed merging the arts and humanities with health and healthcare education as director of the Medical Humanities-HEALS Program at Dalhousie University. It’s all about integrating art into health care, research and education.”

That passion has taken her all over the world. “I’ve gone to Italy for workshops and the United States,” she says. “I’m now at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax as a mature, independent student. I attend as many workshops as possible. I enjoy learning, and enhancing my pottery skills … Whenever I go away, I always come back with a bowl or something ceramic. I love the aesthetic of it of it.”

Increasingly, it seems, people love hers.

According to friend and associate Mark Krause, owner of Sheet Harbour Radio, not only is “Geri is an award-winning potter, whose work has appeared in curated exhibitions and purchased by serious collectors, she’s the current president of the Artisans of the Eastern Shore and has spearheaded the group through the Covid pandemic single-handedly.”

She says the “group” existed under another name before she came along, but she adds: “We kind of revived it and got some graphics up. We’re approaching some 40 members now from East Ship Harbour to Port Bickerton. It’s a network. The big event every summer has been a show and sale at Sheet Harbour at the Lion’s Centre. We’re basically coming back after three years.”

As for her upcoming show in Dartmouth, she says it’s going to be interesting and certainly different. But, most of all, it’s going to be fun. “It’s going to be set up like a dinner party for 10 with wine cups and plates and salt and pepper shakers all featuring images of the human body.”

She’s carving one shaker in the shape of a miniature brain; the other, in the form of a heart. The plates will look like ordinary dinnerware, except their surfaces will feature ceramic decals of human cells. “Like on the rim of the wine cups, for instance,” she says, “there will be epithelial cells of the skin of the lips. I got permission to use them from two physicians who run a histology website for medical students.”

She chuckles, “You are what you eat off, right?”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal