TORONTO — Rae Tobias has been sculpting with clay for 40 years, and the 92-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.
“I always did something with the arts –oils, painting, design, quilting,” Tobias says. “After my youngest daughter went to university, I felt it was time for me to try something new. Clay is something I have always wanted to try, so I took a two-year program at George Brown College. From college, I went right to the Koffler Centre of the Arts’ ceramics program and I’m still a student there.”
Tobias’ husband, Albert, died eight years ago. The matriarch of a large Jewish family, she has three daughters, 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Creating decorative and sculptural pieces with hand-making techniques, including working with the wheel, Tobias proudly showcases her handiwork displayed throughout her home.
“My eyesight is not what it once was. I have macular degeneration, but I somehow manage. My fingers have picked up the touch,” Tobias said.
A large part of her studio time is dedicated to filling many orders from her loved ones.
“My most recent request was from my seven-year-old great-grandson, Spencer Mozeg, who said, ‘I’d like a mirror, Bubbie,’ so I thought, ‘I have to create something that appeals to him.’ With his love of hockey, I designed a hockey player mirror with the Number 99 of Wayne Gretzky. The red hair peeking out represents Spencer, since he has red hair. I extended the ears a little bit, for the fun of it.”
Tobias said he loved it so much he put in another order. “‘Bubbie, will you make me a house?” he asked – then added, ‘And, Bubbie, I want people in the house.’
‘To that I answered, “What’s a house without people?”’
Michelle Mendlowitz, Tobias’ instructor at Koffler, says that despite being the oldest person in the room, she’s often the most productive.
“Rae has the ability to motivate everyone around her. She is always ready to share her knowledge with classmates.”
Koffler offers classes in ceramics, visual art, painting, photography, drawing, studio, and more, with programming at the Prosserman JCC on the Sherman Campus and at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre on Lebovic Campus in Vaughan.
“The love of creativity motivates me, as well as my being active in the community,” Tobias adds.
“I play mah-jong weekly with the ladies. In fact, I was inspired to design a sculptural piece of our group.”
Tobias confidently showed The CJN her sculpture.
“I have designed pieces on commission, but usually I don’t. I do this as a hobby. It’s a labour of love. I have no plans to retire anytime soon. I’ll go to the end,” Tobias says.