One of the benefits of adulting is being able to afford the finer things in life, like tickets to a local pottery sale preview party. It’s not proper adulting until the word “hors d’oeuvres” is tossed around flippantly, people make straight-faced promises that tours and demonstrations will be “intimate,” and all around you, talented people are making conversation about such topics as creative processes, the inclusion of the concept of time in a work of sculpture, and the benefits of pairing pureed squash with a local, small-batch rye whiskey.
I’m straight-up sophisticated.
Usually, I admit, my weekends are lovingly spent never leaving my jammy jams, my couch, or my bowl of Cheez-its. Luckily for me, though, I have friends (and specifically, a roommate) in cultured places, so last weekend, I put on my big-girl clothes and made my way over to the Union Project Pottery Collective for a night of artistry and community, in the form of their “Mother of All Pottery Sales.”
My roommate, Mark Vanderheide, and 39 other ceramic artists convened in the Great Hall of Union Project last weekend and showed off their fine wares. All the artists were local and some of them were favorites of mine from previous ceramic events I’ve been to. For instance, Jenna Vandenbrink and Araina Marsden, both former Union Project darlings. Jenna’s two different lines–one in earthenware, one in porcelain–have both long been favorites of mine, and though I didn’t purchase any pieces of hers this past weekend, that was due entirely to the drain in my bank account that is Grad School, and not at all to a lack of desire. Unfortunately, low insists on a depressing need to prioritize.
Araina’s familiar line of travel mugs and hanging decorations were of course tempting, but her newer focus on brightly colored mugs, planters, and bud vases was what won me over in the end. In fact, since leaving the sale, I have lamented more than once that I didn’t buy one of her excellent planters to match my new mug.
In fact, “regret” was sort of the theme of the event for me. Not in the way that “regret” colors a trip to Cedar Pointe that neglected to include anti-nausea pills, or a transpacific flight seated next to a toddler. I’m speaking of the “regret” that you feel in your gut, almost like a nostalgia for something you never had. Regret that I couldn’t take half the artwork home with me. Regret that I would probably lose every business card I picked up that day. Regret that I made eye-contact with so many amazing artists and yet had to look away sullenly because I just don’t have a place in my little apartment for all the ceramics I want to display.
For every artist that had a booth at this sale, I had an average of about three pieces of theirs that I wanted to buy. Al Faler had some amazing, dark, sensory works that I fully regret not being able to purchase, and if my house plants die outside of his planters, I have only myself to blame. Kyle Houser always has an enviable display, and I regret not spending more time there. I’m regretfully not very familiar with Carina Kooiman’s work, even though she, too, hails from Calvin College (we didn’t choose Knights4life, Knights4life chose us). I did pick up an amazing porcelain mug from her, but I am having troubles bringing myself to stain it with coffee.
I did get the chance to watch Talon Smith do a Raku firing, which was exciting. As the wife of someone whose primary interest in ceramics is the chemistry, I thoroughly appreciate the opportunity to watch something so scientifically fascinating as flash firing vases in a DIY kiln made of chicken wire and ceramic wool, powered by propane. Meanwhile, my inner history nerd got to learn how the Raku technique originated in Japan, and has changed so much in the past fifty years that now Western Raku artists are going to Japan to share their divergent techniques.
Jeff Brunner of Hey Beast Studio was the guest artist at this year’s MOAPS, and my husband and I spent a good deal of time making pinch-pot critters under his careful tutelage. He was an excellent, patient teacher, and his works were all adorable, and I fully regret not buying enough of them to make a mystical zoo diorama. Because, if you know me, you know my apartment needs yet another mystical diorama.
Between the weather, the food, the booze, and the ceramics, the preview for the sale was one of the best events I’ve ever paid to go to. And by far, the free event on Sunday was the most fun I’ve had without dropping dollars in a long time. Although I did end up dropping some dollars, because there was pottery for sale, so while I thoroughly endorse this event as a great Freegan find, I can’t in good conscience tell you it’s completely free. If you walk out of there without buying something, you’re going to have nostalgia-flavored regret the size of kidney stones.
The only beef I had with this sale, though, was that I’m not sure it was very well advertised. I knew about it because of my aforementioned cultured roommate, and I spread the word to all my friends and convinced a few people to go, but without me and, consequently, without my roommate, I’m not sure I would have known about it. I certainly haven’t known about it in years past, and that, I think, is a disservice to these amazing potters and this fantastically structured event.
I’ve already cleared my schedule for the Highland Park Pottery Tour in December, and if you’re planning to be in Pittsburgh at that time, I recommend you do the same. You’ll have some serious regrets otherwise.