The hands of a potter act as the tools through which pliable pieces of clay take shape and develop. But as Jeannine Marchand can attest, sometimes it’s the unintended development that leads to the happiest growth for the piece as well as the artist.
One day Marchand, a resident of Spruce Pine, in the N.C. mountains between the Pisgah and Cherokee national forests, was in the studio manipulating and stretching a piece of clay when it suddenly ripped apart and flew across the room.
“I looked at it and it was folded, like fabric,” Marchand said. “I didn’t know clay could look like that.”
That incident led to Marchand’s signature style, clay folded and gathered into waves. Her style, along with the styles of 65 other North Carolina potters, will be on display at the 14th annual Mint Museum Potters Market Invitational, Sept. 8 at the Mint Museum Randolph. The event is used by the Delhom Service League, the ceramics affiliate of The Mint Museum, to promote ceramic arts and education.
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Vince Long, who chairs this year’s PMI, says some of the criteria used to assemble the group of potters are geographic representation, style of work and quality of work. (Thirty-one of the participating potters are represented in the Mint’s permanent collection.)
The potters’ tents open at 10 a.m., and Long says people line up well before then to make sure they have access to their favorite potters and first chance at purchasing items in this one-day sale. (The sale includes $10 mugs and small dishes and bowls at $50-$100, while Marchand’s work begins at $50 and climbs to $9,000.)
Long advises “the best way to prepare is to visit the Mint website and view images of the featured artists’ works.”
The work of Josh Copus is featured on the main page of that website. The resident of Marshall, north of Asheville, specializes in wood-fired ceramics and uses wild clay, distinctive for the ground from which he digs it up. Many of the pieces he will bring to PMI use a blue clay he excavated from a tobacco field.
“The current body of work I make has to do with the material and the raw, unprocessed quality of it,” Copus said. “I consider (the clay) to be a collaborator with me.” (His pieces range from $30 for a small wall tile to $3,000 for a large vessel.)
Along with Marchand and Copus’s creations, look for the simplistic, yet elegant pottery of Donna Craven; the wood-fired designs of Eric Knoche and the useful home decor of Cynthia Bringle.
PMI attendees will have the opportunity to talk to the potters and learn about their philosophies and the materials that go into creating the pieces. The PMI will have a festival atmosphere with folk musicians, pottery-making demonstrations, food and – new this year – a beer garden featuring local craft beer.
Copus says PMI potters take this chance to catch up and view each other’s work, as most of them are sequestered in their studios for much of the year. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Copus said.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.
Potters Market Invitational
14th annual Potters Market Invitational, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road, 704-337-2000. Admission fee ($10 through Sept. 1; $12 after that) includes access to the potters’ tent and admission to the museum and docent-led gallery tours.