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Potters Market returns to Madison Heights

All-clay pottery show to feature several Royal Oak artists

December 4, 2013

» click to enlarge «
Jan Bostwick, from Royal Oak, uses a potter’s wheel while working on a piece. Bostwick and several other city residents will have their pieces on display at the Potters Market in Madison Heights Dec. 6-8.

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 are 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.

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 large 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.”

The show features several Royal Oak artists, like Jan Bostwick, who has been selling her art there since 1982. Bostwick focuses her skills on more functional pottery — items that can be used at a party or during dinner.

In order to keep her ideas fresh, she tries to get into the minds of others.

“I just keep thinking, ‘What would people like at parties?’” Bostwick said.

Sticking to that niche has worked for her. Bostwick has been making pottery full-time since 1998. Before then, she would attend pottery shows during the weekends and return to her day job at General Motors on the weekdays.

One day, though, she decided the office life was not for her.

“Cubicles were too much for me,” she said. “They felt confining.”

Since moving on to full-time pottery making, she’s traveled to art fairs as far as Florida to sell her pottery, and her pieces appear in retail stores across southeast Michigan.

After more than 30 years of selling her items at the Potters Market, Bostwick said that she has become part of a cohesive community of artists.

“Everybody gets together and helps each other,” she said. “There’s no cutthroat type of mentality. It’s more about working together.”

Other Royal Oak artists that are due to appear at the Potters Market are Joanne Ewers, Dale Fournier, Julie Herridge, Marcia Hovland, Caroline Berard and Gretchen Kramp.

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 are 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.

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