Local artist to showcase work at giant pottery expo

By: Kayla Dimick, Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 27, 2018

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/SOUTHFIELD — The journey into pottery for Julie Saponaro started with a pottery wheel.

The Clinton Township resident became enamored with her hobby about two years ago, exploring an artistic part of herself she had always wanted to engage.

“I finally decided, ‘You’re gonna do this,’ and I was excited,” she recalled.

A hairstylist by day, Saponaro perfects her craft in her off hours. She has a small kiln at home and focuses on hand pottery because she feels she has “a little more control with it.”

She owes her progress to Carrie Wiederhold, who owns Gailanna Pottery in Macomb Township. The venue offers individuals the opportunity to work with clay and focus intensely on the personal experience.

“(Wiederhold) gave me a very good foundation to get started,” Saponaro said. “I’m not a pro by any means; I’m still trying to perfect the craft. But I love it. It’s therapeutic. I’ve always been a creative person, considered myself more of an artist.”

After years of visiting the annual Potters Market in Southfield as a consumer, she said Wiederhold encouraged her to throw her own creative chops into the event.

“I figured, why not,” Saponaro said. “If anything, I could learn from it, from some of the other artists who are there. I look at it as an opportunity to perfect my craft.”

As the largest pottery sale in the country, the market is back again for its 43rd year Nov. 29-Dec. 2 at the Southfield Pavilion, 26000 Evergreen Road.

The free event will be held 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 2. Patrons can attend a special preview of the market for $10 admission 6-9 p.m. Nov. 29. Parking at the Southfield Pavilion is free.

The market recently relocated from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Hall in Madison Heights to Southfield, organizers said, and the transition has made the event grow larger than ever.

Bridget Blosser, the manager of the Potters Market, said that each year, the event offers a unique range of pieces by local artists.

“We have around 140 potters. It’s a real range, from students to hobbyists to professional potters, all at different price points,” Blosser said. “Shoppers can find anything you can think of that can be made in clay.”

Blosser said a portion of the market is sectioned off for items that are $30 and under, which is referred to as the bulk area.

“The bulk area encompasses everything from mugs, plates, garlic shredders — anything you can think of. I’m always impressed when I walk through there, because the artists are so creative with what they can come up with,” she said.

In 2016, the aisles at the market were made wider to accommodate more people. Around 8,000 people attend the market each year, according to organizers.

Back again this year are daily pottery demonstrations, as well as a cafe, food trucks and vending machines. The market this year will also feature live entertainment from local artists.

Each year, event organizers also choose a charity to support. This year, participating artists will donate their artwork, and the proceeds from the sales will be given to Camp Casey.

Camp Casey is a nonprofit organization that provides horseback riding programs to children with cancer and rare blood disorders.

Blosser said Camp Casey was chosen because it is dedicated to a cause close to her late husband’s heart. Blosser’s husband, Charlie Blosser, started the Potters Market 43 years ago.

“This is in honor of my husband. I try to choose a charity he would like. The first year, we did the Detroit Fire Department,” she said. “The last 10 years of his life, he just became obsessed with children — he loved children — so I wanted something local that would help children.”

Saponaro said she’s been working on functional pieces like garden markers made of clay that are more prevalent in warmer seasons. Once she gets a bigger kiln, she intends to get more experimental.

“It’s pretty fascinating to me that this all starts with a lump of clay,” Saponaro said. “There’s no base. It’s a primitive piece of clay and takes a lot of skill. I now understand why potters charge as much as they do. People don’t quite understand how to get to that final piece.”

For more information on the Potters Market, visit thepottersmarket.com.