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Ferndale resident taking part in Potters Market for first time

December 4, 2013

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Ferndale resident Kelly Kaatz will be part of the annual Potters Market Dec. 6-8 in Madison Heights for the first time. Kaatz originally went to school to study advertising, but she earned a degree in metal and sculpture before turning her attention toward functional pottery.

FERNDALE — Over the years, Kelly Kaatz has become well-versed at adapting to change.

Attending high school at a rural school without an art program, Kaatz progressed through her teenage years without ever taking an art class. When she went off to college, she realized her trajectory at the time — studying advertising — was not working out so well.

“When I started going to school for advertising, I struggled with it, and I thought maybe I wasn’t a good student,” Kaatz, 34, said. “I did an internship and I thought it would be awesome, but I was turned off by the whole idea of selling advertising, and I took a break for a year out of college. I bought a canvas and paint one day and started painting.”

Soon, Kaatz enrolled at Wayne State University and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a double concentration in metal and sculpture.

Still, Kaatz had an inkling to change up her routine a little more.

“While I was working on my own metal and sculpture projects, I was doing the complete opposite, working for a potter who had been doing the Potters Market for 30 years and helping her at art shows and art fairs,” Kaatz said. “I always loved functional pottery and eating and drinking out of the things you make.”

Kaatz starting taking classes again in 2008 — this time at Oakland Community College to study ceramics.

After more than five years since her first ceramics class, Kaatz has a fully functioning studio with an electric kiln in her garage, and from Dec. 6-8, Kaatz will be part of the Potters Market at United Food & Commercial Workers’ Union Hall in Madison Heights.

“There are going to be artists who have been doing (pottery) for years, and there are going to be artists who are new to it, like myself,” Kaatz said. “I entered some shows this year, and I just went all in and got a display put together and won some awards. It is going to be really cool and fun to be displaying alongside some really great artists.”

Each year, the Potters Market attracts around 150 artists who display their pieces of work for more than 8,000 patrons looking to buy more than 30,000 pieces made of clay. Beth Robertson, manager of the event, echoed Kaatz’s sentiment that the Potters Market is a blend of new and experienced potters.

“The Potters Market is a unique opportunity for young artists to be introduced to the public and learn about marketing their wares,” Robertson said. “It is also a top-notch showcase for the most creative and popular potters in the state who are well-established. It is a great opportunity for pottery lovers to buy work from these artists at good prices.”

Kaatz, who now resides in Ferndale, has done a lot of work in the past with giant outdoor sculptures in sculpture gardens, as well as mixed-media sculptures for fine art galleries in Detroit.

Working with metal and sculptures, Kaatz said not only was it hard to work in that medium year-round, but it also was hard to get noticed when her work was on display. But functional pottery, she said, appeals to anyone from anywhere.

“When I was doing sculpture and installation work, I felt my audience was extremely limited unless people went into a gallery to seek out the work I was making,” she said. “People either didn’t see my work or they didn’t understand it, so I was very limited when showing in galleries. With functional work, people appreciate it because it is art you can buy for under $30 and use on an everyday basis.

“For me, drinking a cup of coffee out of a special mug I made, it is a great feeling. Something about ceramics and functional art — you get a feeling you don’t get in any other medium.”

As for having a studio in her garage, Kaatz said working with clay allows her to work whenever she is in the mood. Having her own firing kiln plays into that same philosophy.

“When I started doing a couple more shows, I decided I did not want to limit myself to just working in the studio at OCC,” she said. “If I want to fire something at midnight on a Saturday, I can do that myself. I started building a tool collection, which is still very limited, but I think I made a great decision to get a kiln so I can have future exploration in clay.”

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