Locals participate in nation’s largest all-clay pottery sale

Potters Market is back Dec. 2-4

By: Andy Kozlowski, Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published December 1, 2011

 Tove Bruning of Royal Oak said her chicken sculptures are popular with shoppers at the annual Potters Market in Madison Heights. Bruning has participated in the event for 34 years.

Tove Bruning of Royal Oak said her chicken sculptures are popular with shoppers at the annual Potters Market in Madison Heights. Bruning has participated in the event for 34 years.

Photo by Edward Osinski


MADISON HEIGHTS — When Tove Bruning moved to the United States from Norway 50 years ago, there wasn’t much of a demand for her skill.

As a milliner, Bruning supplied hats for a few bridal boutiques and specialty shops in the area, but eventually found herself looking for other means of expressing her creativity.

“I worked here four or five years, but my mission sort of died,” said Bruning, a longtime Royal Oak resident. “I took a lot of art classes, and in clay I hit the jackpot. It’s just my cup of tea.”

Her milliner work taught her about the use of shapes in art, which likely helped her in pottery.

“I do a lot of sculpture pieces and slab work on the wheel,” she said. “I also do some functional work, jewelry and ornaments. I enjoy the artistic part, things maybe not everybody is making. I start one thing, and one thing leads to another.”

Her private shows at her home studio once a year are usually well attended, and her booth is always popular at the Potters Market in Madison Heights. The 36th annual event will be Dec. 2-4 at Madison Place in Madison Heights.

Bruning has participated in 34 of the last 36 Potters Markets.

It’s a popular event, both with local residents and artists from Clawson and Royal Oak. Also participating is Lori Rodgers of Clawson, who lived in Alaska before moving to Michigan and sells the popular Kiss of Luck piece, which is a mini-rendition of a lucky talisman found hanging in the huts of an ancient native tribe on a Pacific island. The talisman is supposed to be kissed in the morning for good luck throughout the day.

Also representing Clawson will be David Duff, whose daughter inspired his love of pottery, Alice Lewis and Ann Mullins.

Jan Bostwick, a veteran potter, will represent Royal Oak at the event along with Chris Jackman, Julie Herridge, Marcia Hovland, Caroline Berard, Debra Burr, Chris Emmick, Joanne Ewers, Dale Fournier and Clare Greenwood.

The three-day Potters Market is the largest all-clay pottery sale in the United States, with tens of thousands of items to choose from, all handmade and one-of-a-kind.

The crowds number 9,000 strong over the three-day weekend. Nearly 40,000 pieces of pottery will be available from 135 independent potters, who also staff the event.

There will be ornaments, pins, necklaces, vases, relish dishes, serving platters, tiny pots, tiles, wall hangings, bowls, mugs, pitchers, planters, statues and more, in many an eye-catching, color-coalescing glaze. Prices range from $5 to $400.

“If you’re a pottery lover, oh my God, it’s every variety of pottery you can imagine,” said Linda Ashley, event spokesperson. “It’s staggering to see all the things that can be made out of pottery, all the types of objects, and the techniques and colors and textures.”

Many of the vendors are advanced ceramics students from the Royal Oak and Orchard Ridge campuses of Oakland Community College, who had to prove themselves as skilled, successful production potters to earn a spot at the show, and then generate enough stock to ensure they don’t run short of a given item.

Vendors receive most of the item’s sales price, while a portion goes back to OCC to keep the kilns firing and pottery wheels spinning.

“One of the founding principles of the Potters Market was to give the potters an opportunity to sell their work,” Ashley explained. “You need to be a great potter and know and develop your craft, but also how to sell your work, what people want and how to present it. Over the years, the potters get a tremendous amount of feedback. It’s been a huge success.”

When shoppers are done perusing all the stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, raku, smoke-fired pottery and more, they can expect a speedy exit thanks to 14 cashiers working like clockwork to complete each sale.

The Potters Market will be at Madison Place, 876 Horace Brown Drive, one block south of 13 Mile, between Interstate 75 and John R, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Admission and parking is free.

A special preview event will be from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Admission to the preview is $10.

For more information, call (248) 246-2686 or visit www.the pottersmarket.com.