August 17, 2013 § 7 Comments
A number of people have asked me how Potfest went. In a nutshell: brilliant – and, really, unexpectedly so.
Having been as a visitor for the last two Potfests, I was familiar with the set-up and so felt comfortable in the surroundings. I found my stall to be in a good location, in the aisle directly opposite the entrance, which also settled me down. We couldn’t get access to the site until 6pm, so I spent the earlier part of the day in my workshop and getting the final bits and pieces ready. I ended up not leaving Shipley, though, until 6pm and didn’t arrived in Penrith until 8pm. By midnight, having pitched my tent in the half-light and found something to eat, my stall was just about ready.
I had borrowed some small plinths from Hugh Leishman, which were a revelation in terms of adding height and visual variety to the table. I displayed the same number of pots that I usually do but had them across the two tables provided, which really gave each piece room to breathe.
What struck me straight away on the first morning we opened was that the visiting public were there with intent. Everyone, almost everyone, was there with a serious interest in ceramics in all its multi-faceted glory. That’s the thing about Potfest – by being a non-selected event it attracts every type of maker that uses clay. The phrase ‘something for everyone’ really could have been coined specifically for the event. But whether looking for rabbits or garden ornaments or studio ceramics, it was all about clay in the end. And that for me was extremely significant. And really, I know I should have expected it, but it was truly eye-opening. Immediately people engaged with the pots and were hugely encouraging and supportive. And that continued for 3 days.
The other main difference between Potfest and other mixed craft events, which were all I had done previously, was that for the first time I could see what I made in its true context. I could see my pots in relation to other potters that made functional ware and I was able to talk with other potters that made functional ware. What was my pricing like compared to the others? What was my throwing like compared to theirs? What made my pots different? And gradually over the 3 days my ideas about what I made changed. When I first started to make pots, two years ago, I felt strongly that I wanted to make pots for everyone, that everyone should be able to have access to beautiful handmade pots for their home. I still believe that but what has changed is that I don’t now believe that everyone should, or would want to, buy them from me. I don’t, and can’t, make pots for everyone. I make a particular style of pot, which appeals to a particular audience. The trick is to know your audience. I am beginning to get a feel for what mine is. This was helped enormously by seeing my pots in their context and by talking with an engaged and knowledgeable public.
Far from being a curmudgeonly and aloof group of people, I found the other potters to be incredibly supportive and understanding. Each goes through similar trials and tribulations in the privacy of their own workshop, works hard and long hours and is passionate about their craft. I felt at home in their company.
Showing my pots at Potfest has made me re-think where I feel I should be selling my pots. Next year, I want to do fewer mixed craft events, where only a fraction of the buying public have an interest in pots, and do more clay-only events. It seems a natural place for me to be.