Potters Market returns

Nation’s largest all-clay pottery sale runs Dec. 6-8

By: Andy Kozlowski | C&G Newspapers | Published December 4, 2013

 At last year’s Potters Market, David Ellison, of St. Clair Shores, stands next to his immense red tile of Bacchus, Greek god of wine and merriment. — File photo by Donna Agusti

At last year’s Potters Market, David Ellison, of St. Clair Shores, stands next to his immense red tile of Bacchus, Greek god of wine and merriment. — File photo by Donna Agusti

MADISON HEIGHTS — Billed as the largest all-clay pottery sale in the country, with more than 35,000 pieces of pottery, the Potters Market has become synonymous with the holidays for the thousands of people who frequent it every year.

Run by a collective of 135 artists, the popular event takes place within the cozy confines of Madison Place, also known as the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union Hall. The 12,600-square-foot facility is located at 876 Horace Brown Drive, one block south of 13 Mile, between I-75 and John R. More than 8,000 people visit the event during the three-day weekend.

This year’s event is Dec. 6-8, opening at 10 a.m. each day, and closing at 8 p.m. on Friday, 6 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Parking and admission is free. There is also a special preview event from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 5. Admission to the preview sale is $10.

The potters who stage the event and man every aspect of its operations adhere to high standards of creativity and craftsmanship. Some are regulars at the sale; others are talented newcomers. Some hail from the studios at the Orchard Ridge and Royal Oak campuses of Oakland Community College, while others come from Pewabic Pottery and other labs across the state.

They aim to bring multiple copies of every piece, which they continually add to the shelves as stock clears out and space becomes available. In this way, the pickings are never slim, and guests can see something new with every lap around the room.

The potters also run a plethora of cash registers, helping guests bundle up their goods and finalize their purchases quickly. The entire operation is a well-oiled machine by this point — everything coming together like clockwork.

Each row gleams with a wide variety of pottery, in many a color-coalescent glaze. Expect to find stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, raku and smoke-fired pottery, in all shapes and sizes, from the no-frills functional to the decorative and downright whimsical.

Prices range from $5-$400. One of the most popular areas of the sale is the bargain area, where all pottery is $5-$30. The selection is tremendous and continually replenished, just like the rest of the sale.

On that note, guests can even ask one of the many potters staffing the event to go behind the curtains to see if specific items are available in different colors or styles.

Linda Ashley, event spokesperson, had some shopping tips to share for those new to the Potters Market.

“If you go into another type of store, things are arranged in clumps, but here at the Potters Market, once you get the hang of going through the rows of pottery, you realize that there are different potters in different styles, one next to the other, so you have to look carefully,” Ashley said. “It’s really fun. And since they’re restocking, it’s best to go around at least twice. If you see something you really like, but it’s out of your price point, keep looking, and you will likely find something similar but by a different artist and at a different price point.”

Ashley also said to look forward to some fresh faces at the show.

“While they always have new artists, this year’s Potters Market has more new artists than ever before, with 13 potters making their debut,” Ashley said. “That was an effort on the part of the organizers, who saw it as an important way to grow. Some are new to pottery — they have art backgrounds but are now exploring pottery, with some beautiful ideas and gorgeous glazes. There’s also a potter who moved here with her family from Italy, and another from India, so they’re bringing an international perspective, as well.”

One new artist is Kelly Kaatz, of Ferndale. She comes from a background in sculpting and metalwork, and was exposed to pottery by way of an artist she assisted at events. This individual had been in the Potters Market for years and introduced Kaatz to the appeal of functional pottery.

“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,” Kaatz 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.”

These day, five years after her first ceramics class, Kaatz has a fully functional studio in her garage, complete with an electric kiln. She’s enjoyed some success winning awards at art shows and said she’s excited to contribute her creations to the Potters Market.

“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. “It is going to be really cool and fun to be displaying alongside some really great artists.”

Mary Manzitti, of St. Clair Shores, a former art teacher in the Van Dyke Schools and Lake Shore Public Schools districts, has been creating pottery since she was in college.
“In most cases, I work on the potter’s wheel, and I will form some of my sculptures on the potter’s wheel and I combine it with hand carving,” said Manzitti, 68. “I love faces, so I’ll do vases that have faces on them, and usually they’re very angelic.”

She said she loves the therapeutic nature of her work with clay.

“I don’t really need to go to a counselor,” she quipped. “I work out my issues working with clay, and I love to even include other people in that. If I see somebody who’s having a difficult time, I invite them to come and work out their issues.”

She said she can’t believe how the Potters Market has grown over the years.

“If you want a gift that’s unique for Christmas, that’s why people go. There are people that come over and over again through the years.

“It’s a wonderful way to have gifts that are made by Michigan artists. They’re homemade, and so that means they’re made with love.”

The 38th Annual Potters Market will take place at 876 Horace Brown Drive, one block south of 13 Mile, between I-75 and John R, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 7, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 8. Parking and admission is free. The preview sale is 6-9 p.m. Dec. 5. Admission to the preview sale is $10. For more information about the Potters Market, call (248) 219-4385.

C & G Staff Writer Josh Gordon contributed to this article. C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske contributed to this article.