There are many signals for the start of spring like seeing your first robin or the tulips beginning to open, but for me it is the start of the Potters Guild Sale. My community is really fortunate to have an active group of potters creating wonderful ceramics, both practical and beautiful. The Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild (GLPG) offers their creations only twice a year, once in early spring and again in late fall for three magic days of ceramic goodness. Last spring, I brought along my camera to capture some of the items the potters were creating. Please join me for a walk around the sale as you learn more about the Potters Guild.
A group of 40 experienced and beginner potters joined together back in 1969 to form the Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild. Their enthusiasm for pottery was contagious as they came together to build a studio space, as well as a gas kiln for firing their creations. Early on, classes began to form to allow inexperienced potters a chance to learn techniques and advance as artists. The original space was destroyed by a fire in 1975 but the commitment of the potters, and support from the community, allowed the group to recover from the tragedy.
The current GLPG space includes a large studio with electric potters wheels, slab rollers, extruders and a variety of kilns which offer the potters many artistic possibilities limited only by their creativity. They also have access to a large meeting space which includes a library, offering many resources to inspire the potters like books and videos. One thing you will not find at the GLPG, is a sales space. Twice a year, all member potters contribute pottery to the sales which have been hosted for as long as I can remember at the All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing.
Today the Potters’ Guild has 30-35 members who have joined only through invitation. The Guild members are supported not only in access to the studio but also offered workshops to assist them in developing their craft. Additionally, nationally recognized potters are invited to give additional training and inspiration. The Guild is run by its members and they assume all required management duties in addition to their ceramic creations.
The Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild offers classes to the general public. You may choose to attend either a morning class or an evening class which will be held for a 10 week term. These classes are offered 4 times a year which gives people inspired to try pottery, opportunities to get instruction when it works best with their schedule. You are also able to use the studio during lab hours set aside for students.
In addition to the programs they offer to members and students, the Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild also does community outreach. One important effort is providing the ceramic bowls used at the Empty Bowls event which raises funds for local food banks, shelters and soup kitchens. This year, Empty Bowls will take place on October 15 at Cooley Law School’s Temple Conference Center. In 2012, they contributed 275 bowls to the event which raised over $10,000. Through the years the GLPG has participated in many different community initiatives as well as providing grants and awards to assist art programs in schools and community groups.
The pottery pictured in my photos was from the Spring 2012 sale. They are representative of the wonderful ceramics always offered but you may not find the exact same piece in this years sale. I find that over the years, I have become attracted to certain potters and seem to reach for their creations time and again. My experience is that as they continue to develop as artists, I always like their newest creations so you are likely to find that this year’s selection is even better than what is shown in my post.
The Potters Guild Sale always begins on Thursday at 5:30 pm until 9:00 pm. They reopen on Friday morning at 9:00 am and stay open until 9:00 pm. Saturday is their final day which begins at 9:00 am and lasts until 4:00 pm. The sale is incredibly popular and it is not unusual to have to fight for a parking spot at peak times. The good news is that there is always plenty of pottery for everyone. The sales tables are constantly restocked throughout each day so you will always be able to discover more pieces you want to bring home with you than you may have originally intended.
Since I have been going to this Pottery Guild Sale for over twenty years, I have developed some strategies for shopping it that I will let you in on.
- Dress comfortably as you will need to spend close to an hour to really see all that is being offered.Leave your jacket in the car. Wear sneakers or other comfortable shoes. In my photos, no more than 30-50% of the sale space is ever pictured at one time.
- I like to take a purse that coverts to a backpack so I have both hands free and don’t have to worry about it sliding off my shoulders and into pottery. At busy times, you want to be able to easily maneuver between other pottery lovers down the aisles. Maybe you just slip your credit card and i.d. in your pocket even for maximum maneuverability!
- Grab the biggest basket available as you walk through the door to the sales room as you will need that space. It comes lined to help protect fragile items.
- To the right of the sales room door, is a holding area. If you fill your basket, you can place it (or larger pottery items you don’t want to carry around) in the holding area to pick up before check out. (Feel no shame about using this! I have regularly had 3 baskets full waiting for me as I grab more pottery!) Just fill out the holding card to identify your items and don’t forget to pick them up.
- Ask questions. The potters work the sale themselves so they can tell you all about the pieces you are interested in. You may even be able to meet the potter who made the exact piece you want to buy. How often do you get to shop and meet the artists at the same time? Take advantage of this great opportunity. The potters love the feedback, too, about what you like and want. It helps them to plan for future sales.
- The Potters’ Guild always offers a drawing for a chance to win some beautiful pottery, do enter it. I suggest doing it at the end of your shopping time instead of the start so you don’t miss out on that special piece only to see it in another basket. That always stings!
- There are so many offerings that you may be overwhelmed. Come to the sale with an idea of what you might need. Is it a gift for someone ? Only looking for a certain color? All you need is some new mugs? Searching for specific items will help you to focus.
- Potters’ Guild items make wonderful gifts. They are one-of-a-kind that you can be sure no one else is giving. This is a great time to pick up items for Mother’s Day, Weddings, Graduation gifts, Birthdays, Housewarmings or “Just because I was thinking of you.” I first learned of the sale when presented with a beautiful bowl filled with fresh fruit from my boss to help me through a busy week. Everyone loves beautiful pottery. You can’t go wrong. Don’t forget to buy something for yourself too! You deserve it!
- At check-out, pick up some of the free description cards available. A variety are offered to include with gifts or remind yourself about care, types of pottery and glazes used. Its a great way to remember details after you have left the sale.
- Make a note of the dates for the next sale and add it to your calendar so you don’t miss it. You can also sign up for an email or postcard reminder. I like to put the dates in my phone right away while I am in the check out line. You will want to come back in the fall for Thanksgiving serving pieces, Holiday gifts, Christmas ornaments, etc.
- Buy the Potters Guild shopping bags to take your pottery finds home in. Not only do the funds go back to the Guild but you get an attractive, sturdy bag which can double as a gift bag. It also shows you have great taste and support the GLPG all year round.
As you can tell, I have been enthusiastic about pottery and the Greater Lansing Potters Guild for many years. Even if you don’t live in the Greater Lansing Area, or are unable to travel here for the sale (I’m serious!) search out other guilds in your area. Pottery is alive and well throughout the United States so seek out opportunities to support your local artisans. Not only will they appreciate your purchases but you will be gaining items and gifts that will be treasured for years to come. Each piece is unique and special.
After returning from the Spring 2013 sale, I created an album on Facebook to share more images. You can view them in the Greater Lansing Potters Guild Album at the WanderShopper Facebook Fanpage . Be sure to “like” WanderShopper while you are there too so you can be alerted to future posts as well as notified of Facebook only content.
What kind of pottery do you like to purchase? Where is the best source in your area?
Until we shop again,