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Potters Market returns to Southfield

Nation’s largest all-clay pottery sale is Dec. 4-6, with preview Dec. 3

By: Andy Kozlowski | C&G Newspapers | Published November 24, 2015

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SOUTHFIELD — It won’t be long before the Potters Market opens its doors for business.

Now in its 40th year, the Potters Market will feature around 35,000 pieces by 140 potters. They’re made to the show’s exacting standards, including many in the $5-$30 price range. It’s an event where you never know what you’ll see next, since the selection changes as items are sold and new items take their place. 

Last year’s event had organizers on pins and needles as they changed venues from the UF&CW Union Hall in Madison Heights to the 20,000-square-foot Southfield Pavilion, part of the Southfield Municipal Complex at 26000 Evergreen Road. While the new facilities were more accommodating, organizers worried they might see a drop in attendance.

But their fears were unfounded: The fans followed them to the new location and brought more people with them, making the event a huge success.

This year’s Potters Market will once again be held in Southfield, running from Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6. Parking and admission are free. The show runs from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

There is also a preview event on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to the preview sale costs $10 at the door. Since the event typically draws more than 8,000 customers over the three-day weekend, the preview sale is a great way to get first dibs on the show’s offerings.

Improvements at this year’s show include more parking, a refreshment café, vending machines and ATMs, and a free coat check. There will also be daily pottery demonstrations where artists will throw hundreds of pounds of clay on the wheel in real time and explain their work as they go. 

“We have so much wonderful talent,” said Carol Fitzpatrick, co-manager of the Potters Market and a potter herself. “We all help each other; we’re always sharing techniques. We’re a tight group.”

The potters run every facet of the show like a well-oiled machine, from the cashiers to the stock room. Some of them are students at local ceramics studios, while others are professionals from across the state and region. The event not only helps them hone their craft, but it also teaches them how to market themselves.

One of the changes during the move to the new venue last year was the way the pottery is arranged on the shelves. Back when the show was in Madison Heights, pieces by different artists were all mixed together for the sake of variety. But once the show moved to Southfield, the setup changed so that each artist’s work is grouped together in a collection. So if you like one piece by a certain artist, you’ll be able to find more work by that same artist nearby.

“To have the items together as a group, they complement each other because you can see the progression and creativity from one to the next,” Fitzpatrick said. “We find it looks a lot better, and it reflects each potter better.”

The show has become a holiday tradition for many. There is a huge variety of stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, raku and smoke-fired pottery, in many colorful and eye-catching glazes.

Some pieces are strictly functional, while others are more fantastical. You could be looking at an exquisitely detailed platter one moment, and then a Cheshire cat-shaped incense burner the next.

“The event has a wonderful reputation that’s growing statewide,” said Linda Ashley, spokeswoman for the Potters Market. “You have the most established potters in Michigan and the region, as well as the young potters. That is one of the concepts, one of the goals — it’s a commitment to ceramic art and to the growth of ceramic art. The older potters mentor the younger potters through the experience of the Potters Market, which is unique in how it’s organized. Since the potters man the whole thing, there’s a lot of camaraderie.”

She noted that there’s a popular customer service area that can help people see if certain pieces are available in different colors or patterns. If you have an idea of what you’re looking for, they can help you find it. But half of the fun of the Potters Market is discovering something completely unexpected.

“The whole business of going around with your friends and family, seeing new things each time, is so exciting,” Ashley said.

The Potters Market will take place Friday, Dec. 4, through Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Southfield Municipal Complex, 26000 Evergreen Road. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Parking and admission are free. There is also a preview sale on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to the preview sale costs $10 at the door. For more information on the Potters Market, call (248) 554-5570 or visit www.thepottersmarket.com.

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