Local artists featured at nation’s largest pottery sale

Potters Market hits Madison Heights from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2

By: Andy Kozlowski, Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published November 28, 2012


Nearly 140 skilled artist entrepreneurs will bring some 40,000 pieces of handcrafted pottery to this year’s Potters Market, now in its 37th year.

A holiday tradition in metro Detroit and the largest all-clay pottery sale in the U.S., the event will feature talent from all over the state. The artists run the Potters Market as a collective, handling everything from constantly restocking the shelves throughout the weekend to checking customers out lickety-split at one of the 14 cash registers.

“It has a life of its own,” said event spokesperson Linda Ashley. “I’m always inspired by the creative energy, the sense of color and artistry. You’ll go down one row, come back later and see something new.”

The 2012 Potters Market will be held at the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union Hall, 876 Horace Brown Drive, one block south of 13 Mile, between I-75 and John R. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 1; and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 2. Admission and parking during the three-day weekend are free.

There will also be a special preview sale from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 29, when admission is $10 per person. Guests don’t need to attend the sneak peek to get the best selection, since items are continually restocked, but the crowds will be lighter than during the main event.

And the Potters Market can get crowded, so no strollers are allowed. Each year, more than 9,000 customers pack the venue, which is also known as Madison Place.

There will be stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, raku, and smoke-fired pottery on display in all different shapes and sizes. The available items include bowls, mugs, platters, pitchers, planters, pots, pans, vases, mirrors, tables, lamps, birdbaths, necklaces, ornaments, statues, tiles and more, all in a variety of eye-catching, color-coalescing glazes. Some are functional, others are flashy or fun, but all are unique.

Prices in the popular bargain area range from $5 to $30, and attendees should not worry about pieces being out of stock. They can ask the staff to check if a particular item is available in a different color or size in the back room.

The potters all had to prove themselves in order to be selected for the Potters Market by meeting high standards of quality and producing enough pottery to keep the shelves stocked. Many of this year’s artists are returning favorites, back with brand new wares.

“The goal for them is to constantly be changing their work so that there is something fresh,” Ashley explained. “It’s their aesthetic and their talent that people have learned to love, but there’s always something new that they’re bringing to the market.”

Then there are the new potters, such as George Erdstein, of Huntington Woods, a longtime architect who continues to work in residential architecture while trying his hand at burgeoning interests, such as pottery. He is currently studying at the Royal Oak campus of Oakland Community College. The Potters Market was once run by OCC and still features many pottery students from its various campuses.

“I am learning, and I have lot to learn,” Erdstein said. “I learn from the people around me. I like being in the studio, because everyone is so friendly and open to offering their little bit of expertise, and everyone has their own style.”

Erdstein makes a variety of pottery, including ceramic tiles and plaques that he calls “fairy doors.”

“The idea is that they’re kind of quirky fronts of houses that are full of fancy,” he said. “They’re quirky front elevations, featuring a door, a window perhaps, a cockeyed roof, sometimes even a basket of fruit hanging on a ledge — whatever pops into my mind or is fanciful.”

He noted that the fairy doors can be hung from trees, nestled in a garden or displayed in a kitchen. Customers like to set them up in all sorts of indoor and outdoor places.

“I was surprised by how popular they are,” Erdstein said. “Some people, even in the (OCC) studio, have asked me to make them for them. They’re just fun.”

While Erdstein is a proud newcomer, other local artists have more experience with the Potters Market. For Jeremy Forman, of Ferndale, who specializes in teapots and bowls that are functional and artistic, this will mark his fourth straight year at the event.

Forman’s pottery is created in a plethora of different ways. Some of his pieces are made using a wheel while others are made by hand, and many utilize overlapping glazes to create unique color combinations.

“It’s a really magical and exciting process,” he said. “But it’s also a leap of faith because you never know if glaze A and glaze B are going to decide to be friends with each other. My work is extremely functional, but I like that you can still tell when something was all made by hand. I don’t ever want it to become too mechanical and lose that human touch you get with handmade pottery.”

Forman has been making pottery for nearly a decade, and his talent with ceramics has proven to be valuable to his career, as well. He works by day as a clay modeler for the auto industry, a career path that would not have been possible without the skills that he learned from his passion.

“There’s a lot of cross-pollination between what I do as a potter and what I do as a clay modeler,” he noted. “My background in pottery definitely helped me get this job, which is a cool way to make a living.”

Forman is a huge supporter of the Potters Market, both as an artist and a spectator. He loves the camaraderie with the other potters that he gets to experience every year, not to mention the sheer size and variety of the art selection.

“There something for everyone at this event,” he said, “and I think that’s why it’s so appealing for a lot of people. It’s really busy and hectic, but in a good way. You’re rubbing elbows with a lot of really talented potters, sharing ideas, learning new techniques. There’s definitely a lot more to take away from this event than just pottery — although we do hope that people take away a lot of pottery with them!”

For more information, call (248) 554-5570 or visit www.thepottersmarket.com.