Monday, November 10, 2014

40th Annual Pottery Show & Sale: Daze of Clay

Forty years ago, a Pottery Show and Sale was born in the small town of Demarest, New Jersey, just south of the New York state border and a few miles north of the George Washington Bridge. It came into existence through a long-time friendship between two respected potters, the late Mikhail Zakin, co-founder of the Art School at Old Church, and the eminent Karen Karnes. 

Sometimes called the “grandmother of American ceramics”, Karen Karnes taught at the avant-garde Black Mountain College in North Carolina into the early 1950’s, and later moved to Vermont where she has lived and worked since 1979. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among numerous others.

Back then, Karen decided to make a pottery sale to benefit the newly formed community art center, but she also wanted to create an event that served as an annual gathering place for potters to meet and exchange ideas. The grassroots culture of the school and the familial convening of potters helped to quickly establish the Annual Pottery Show & Sale as one of the best invitational shows in the country.

The Annual Pottery Show & Sale is unique because it has remained relatively unchanged in forty years. Karen has continued to curate the sale, bringing together some of the nation’s best potters of one-of-a-kind, functional and sculptural pieces. Pottery is displayed on humble wood benches and adorned with unpretentious flowering branches and sprigs of greenery. The show is held each year on the first weekend of December. This year’s preview reception is on Friday, December 5th, 6-10PM, and the show continues on Saturday, December 6th, 10AM-6PM, and Sunday, December 7th, 12-5PM.
The 40th annual Pottery Show & Sale marks the first noticeable change in the event’s long history. This year, Bruce Denhert and Chris Gustin join Karen in co-curating the show. Both are well-known figures within the American ceramics community, recognized among their peers as experts in the field.

Bruce Denhert is currently the director of the ceramics program for Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ, and has taught workshops internationally. He has published in many journals on ceramic technique and processes.

Garth Clark, a chief writer and critic on ceramic art and fine craft, calls Chris Gustin “one of the leading ceramists of his generation”. Chris is cofounder of the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine, and retired from academia in 1999 to devote his energies to his studio work and tile production company. Before then, he was associate professor of ceramics at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Their collaboration brings together 30 potters from around the nation for the 40th annual invitational, including:

Richard Aerni, Dan Anderson, Mary Barringer, Ingrid Bathe, Bruce Denhert, Judith Duff, Heather Mae Erickson, Julia Galloway, Scott Goldberg, Tyler Gulden, Chris Gustin, Kenyon Hansen, Bryan Hopkins, Nick Joerling, Karen Karnes, James Lawton, Robbie Lobell, Matt Long, Matthew Metz, Maureen Mills, Ted Neal, Aysha Peltz, Doug Peltzman, Seth Rainville, Rob Sieminski, Mark Shapiro, Jeff Shapiro, Jack Troy, Adero Willard, and Erica Wurtz.

Each potter will ship and tote hundreds of their best pots to Demarest in early December, arriving on Thursday morning before the show to set up their displays. Then, Friday through Sunday, they will meet and greet both potters and ceramic enthusiasts, sharing in relevant discussions about pottery-making, and having the pleasure of seeing their wares in the hands of those who appreciate artisan pottery just as they do.

For more information about this year's show, check out

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Art of Community


By guest writer Carol Avery.

I took a pottery class.  I was about 11 years old.  I walked across the street from the Demarest Middle School and went down into the basement, as I was told to do by my mother.  "Just cross the street and go down into the cellar.  I have signed you up for a pottery course at the new cultural center." 

The “new cultural center" was of course the Old Church Cultural Center now known as The Art School at Old Church.  A beautiful 1800's arts and craft style Baptist church which had been rendered obsolete by the 1950’s A frame style of the new church next door.  

My parents had been early supporters.  They went to meetings and fundraisers to help.  My first memory was an Italian film event we attended in the fall.  My father was in his suit as usual, and my mother had put on perfume.  We entered the old church building at night. The street lamps made very sharp contrasts of shapes and shadows.  Upon entering I immediately realized I was the only child there as the noise level was singularly adult.  There was wine and cheese, I ate the crackers.  We were congregating in what I disturbingly recognized as the church's main hall.  Churches were mysterious places for worship, not cocktail parties. A white move screen had been placed where the alter should have been.  

A few glasses of wine later, some metal folding chairs scraping on the floor, lights dimmed and the projector sputtered to life.  The words "ROMA" in back and white appeared on the screen.  For the next hour and thirty minutes I was transported to a place I knew I would never see.  Only director Federico Fellini could construct the fantastic combination of beauty, pathos, the sublime and the grotesque in one moving image. "Well" my father said to my mother, "she will want to go there now."  I wouldn't go to Rome for many years, but I did go to art classes until I got there.

As I descended the stairs the smell of wet and dry clay was a new smell.  I had molded clay at camp, maybe even in school, but down the stairs was different. It was more serious and more cool at the same time. There were important looking tools and unfamilar equipment and beautiful ceramics the likes of which I had never seen. Shapes and colors I had not considered. Unique, one of kind pieces that gave pinch pots a newness I had not understood before. The adults were different too. Not the usual art teachers one finds at camp or school.  The new cultural center's teachers had a secret excitement and whirling liveliness with their long colorful skirts, big smiles and free flowing hair.  I of course was a bit concerned, in my saddle shoes and corduroy jumper.  

I went every week to my class in the basement of the old church and I worked the clay.  After many hours of hard work I could throw and center a ball of clay on the potter’s wheel.  Spinning the clay into a beautiful pot- it was mysterious and transformative.

Last year my daughter attended her first class at Old Church.  I am sure her impressions are much different than mine.  She is a few years older and she has the beginnings of artistic ability.  Eloise pointed out that her mother had also signed her up for a class.  “A Teen Art Class- you will love it, Saturday mornings for a couple hours.”  

Eloise reminded me that she had been to the Old Church Cultural Center before taking a art class as well.  “It was your birthday party and Margo came.” When we moved back to Demarest, I co-hosted a Farm-to-Table party there in the spring.  It was about 4 years ago.  She would have been about the same age as my first memory.  “It was light outside.  Not in the main hall of the church but the side studio where I have my art class” she continued. 

There were other children, and her brother.  Some wine, some cheese and raw milk was served along with pastured meats and homegrown vegetables and fermented foods.  It was a wonderful meal.  Artwork was everywhere and many who came were artists, my friends.  It felt very good.  Some came with instruments and someone sang. The opposite of Felliniesque.  I could turn out to be a disappointing mother. 

I enrolled my daughter in the Teen Art Experience class on Saturday mornings.  "I was a little nervous, but I was soon busy with the class activity and my fellow students.  I learned a lot of different techniques and my teacher, John taught us about so many different artists-like Edvard Munch.  I really enjoyed painting on snow or the time we painted without using our hands."  Eloise is now in her second session at Old Church and it seems she will be the third generation in our family, to enjoy all that the school has to offer.