Our Potters Guild pottery show this weekend was made up of pretty diverse people and their pretty diverse pottery. From the face jug potter who calls her little fellows by name as she chattily sets them among the fifty other pieces of colorful pottery on her table, to the quiet potter with just six groups of nine perfect pots each, we run a gamut of styles.
Here was a potter whose creamy white, glossy porcelain cups, plates and buttons are incised with personable barnyard animals and a kitchen dooryard mama. Her table was set up beside another potter's whose glazes are mostly as dark as the sky when the sun has just set, swirling with black and navy clouds and with highly textured, unglazed handles of deepest brown. Contrast!
Across the room another guild member had arrayed her crystalline vases and cups, each one having grown a surface of smooth crystals in sparkling colors in her kiln, looking as if she managed to flatten the insides of geodes and apply them delicately to her pots.
Aesthetics varied even more widely. One potter’s brightly glazed, shiny majolica earthenware bore little likeness to another potter’s arched and lobed stoneware across the room, in moody, rocklike grays, blues and browns, though both were tableware.
My own pottery on the right half of my shared table contrasted in intention with that of my tablemate to the left. My soft green, black, blue and white, homey pieces are clearly about function. My table mate's vases, bowls and teaware are really 360-degree canvases for her extremely elegant and quite beautiful drawings of fish, birds and trees. Though we are both functional potters, our work speaks two very different languages.
Some of us have been making our pottery for years. I’ve been at it for 25, but have shown my work less often than many with shorter potting lives. The woman I shared my wrapping-table shift with began with clay less than three years ago, but she was ready to show. Another, longtime guild member does five shows in November and December alone, and has a devoted following.
I took half a table for this show, thinking I might not have enough work for a whole, and then loaded it with nearly as many pots as it would bear. I could have had enough for a whole table in the end, but this is my first guild show in a while and I wanted to get the feel of the terrain again.
I wasn’t there on Saturday, the first day of the show, (it being the Sabbath, with no personal commerce,) but when I came in Sunday I found a few shards of a mug peeping from under my table. Someone had broken it the day before, and paid for it, so I had made back some of the table fee by accident. Two other mugs had sold Saturday, and that's all. Without the potter being there to jazz up the exchange and talk pottery with the customer, fewer pots are sold.
Still, on Sunday, when I was there, I sold only a jam jar and two little soy sauce dishes. (I did have higher expectations than that...) The jam jar customer loved the jar, “even though it’s imperfect, but of course that’s part of its charm.” She was energizing to talk to, another benefit of doing shows. And I acknowledge that the lid, being hand-built, wasn’t an absolutely perfect fit for the jar, which was wheel-thrown. It was only a pretty good fit. But I saw the customer studying and stroking the glaze on the front of the jar and knew they were a match.
If that’s all I sold, was it worth it, you ask? Was it worth the inventorying, pricing, tagging, packing, unpacking, setup, the day on my feet at the show, and the repacking of unsold work? (In short, you are asking, "How was the show?")
Here’s my conclusion. From noon to six I looked at pottery, wrapped pottery, and talked life and shop with my fellow potters, an interesting, fun and lively bunch. I was glad to be there. By the end of Sunday I was tired, not much richer, but happy enough. I was ready to pack up and head home to a new and different cycle of pottery-making already in process in my studio, with visions of a different sort of show setup next time. I have glazes to test and fish to carve. I am also thinking about how to make more money than I did this weekend. Tune in for the next show or the next gallery- or hey, come see it.
When I was about ten, my friend and I were wandering one summer day in a field near our neighborhood. We found panes of old window glass, and a mud puddle. I spread mud on a pane of glass and began trying to draw a landscape by sticking leaves onto the mud, using daisy, black-eyed-Susan and Queen Anne’s Lace petals like brushstrokes. My friend didn’t like to get dirty, and she thought I was a little nuts, but I was in a glory of summer innovation. The piece was as ephemeral as summer, too, drying and crumbling in a day, but it left an impression in my mind. Art out of mud, leaves and glass is spontaneous. Art out of clay, carved natural forms and glazes is a continuation of a thought pattern. Imagination is not dead. I suppose that I am still ten, along with being five times ten, when I am in my studio innovating.