Out To Lunch with Marie St Hilaire


I am sitting at Nambawan café, admiring the stunning views of Port Vila harbour and the impressively huge bamboo that supports the newly-built natangora roof. I am here for a ‘girls’ lunch’ with Marie, woman-Canada, co-owner of Etam, and pottery artist ‘extraordinaire’.

Marie has been a regular visitor to Vanuatu since 2001.Coming almost every year to visit her family, each time was harder to leave. In 2012 she took the plunge, packed her Canadian life into a container and farewell the snow.

smIMG_0412She is the proud co-owner of Etam, the family business that opened in 2011 to the delight of the female population in Port Vila.

Her heart is in pottery. After completing her visual arts degree in Quebec, she enrolled on a three-year pottery and ceramics program. ‘There were ten of us in the first class I attended and we spent the entire three hours kneading clay. It was the first and last day for many but I love it.”

smIMG_0244In 2009 she won the ‘One of a Kind Award for Excellence in Ceramics’, presented by the Gardiner Museum, Canada.

She loves the technical aspects of pottery making. Her pottery is functional, yet each of her pieces is completely unique and an art piece itself.

Marie shipped her complete studio across two oceans, including all her pottery and each one of the hundreds of bricks that make her kiln.

smDSCN5025She travels to Paris each year to hand-pick Etam’s clothes and lingerie from its French collection.

smIMG_2102One of her favorite things is her surfboard. When she is not ‘pottering about’ in her study or surrounded by lovely lingerie at Etam, you can find her at her local surf break on Pango, nurturing her love for the waves.

Her favorite places in Vanuatu are the neighboring islands of Pele and Nguna, where she likes to spend her weekends. In Efate, she loves Pango point, “for the beauty and quiet solitude that it offers”.

smIMG_2062She treasures family time with her brother and is totally smitten by her nieces, Ulyssia 9, Auguste 6 and little 2 year old Eleanor.

She loves Vanuatu for the wild and unspoiled beauty of the country but foremost, for the warmth of its people. “Living in Vanuatu I am reminded every day of how kind people can be. That they embraced me with open arms is the biggest gift.”

On her ‘to do’ list is a visit to the Bank Islands. “I have not had the opportunity to visit yet but hope to get there soon.”

smIMG_2105She is living the life she dreamed. “I feel so privileged to be living the simple ocean life that I have dreamed of for years”.

She can speak French, English, a little Spanish and is currently trying to get her Bislama up to scratch.

smIMG_0593In May last year, she held a very successful exhibition, her first in Vanuatu, together with renowned artist Sophie de Garam at the Espace Culturel Francaise.

Her pottery is available at Etam and Pandanus shops or by contacting her directly [email protected]. www.mariesthilaire.ca.