Maine Pottery Tour features handmade art

WINTHROP — Diane Harwood didn’t have long to wait Saturday to make the first sale of the day with the second customer through the door of D. Harwood Pottery, her studio and boutique.

That honor went to Susan Simpson, who had her pottery tour of Maine planned with the stops she planned to make at pottery and ceramics studios on Saturday, and she came prepared with the measure of the place. where she wanted to place a piece of pottery on her bridge at Monmouth.

Simpson doesn’t go on the tour every year, but she decided to come out this year and go until her budget ran out. She dented her spending plan with two plates and the bowl she was carrying, neatly wrapped in paper.

Nick Shelton demonstrates how to throw a bowl on a potter’s wheel Saturday during a Maine Pottery Tour stop at The Art Walk Shop and Studio in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said as she unwrapped the green and white bowl to show it off before setting off on a quest to visit other studios and acquire pottery for her daughter.

In central Maine, more than a dozen studios from Windsor and Whitefield to Litchfield and Bowdoin were set to open their doors to the public on Saturday as part of the Maine Pottery Tour.

Now in its 10th year, the tour helps kick off the season of art fairs, craft shows, farm tours in Maine, inviting locals and tourists to see how things are made and the artisans and the small business owners who make them.

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Although it is art, it is also commerce. In Maine, the broader arts and culture sector accounted for approximately 2.3% of the state’s gross domestic product in 2020, or the total value of goods and services produced. This translates to nearly 14,900 jobs and total compensation of $902 million.

“For many people, the arts are an ideal job, the kind of job many dreamed of when they were young,” said David Greenham, executive director of the Maine Arts Commission. “As we get older, we tend to lose some of that idealism, and it becomes practical. The artists among us still cling to the idea that a day at work should involve creative exploration, engaging your imagination, and creating something beautiful, thought-provoking or challenging for the viewer.

The sign for D. Harwood Pottery in Winthrop says it is open for business. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

While society tends to admire celebrities in the arts — movie and TV stars, artists and architects — it also tends to take for granted creative and inspired individuals working hard in local communities, Greenham said. Even if they continue their creative work, this work allows them to earn a living by doing jobs that they love.

Clay is a tactile pleasure for many, and she grabbed Harwood early on. Her childhood home in Newbury, Massachusetts had a mud hole in the front yard full of clay that she dug with her hands.

“I used to do stuff in my sandbox,” she said. “I was mad about it.”

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And it stuck.

While she eventually started throwing clay on a wheel, she now works pressing designs into sheets of clay with the help of Jamie Ault to make mugs, bowls and trays.

“I love all pottery, but we wanted to do crazy colors. I even bought pink,” she said, pointing to a large mug on a display. sell.”

As part of the Maine Pottery Tour, some potters demonstrated different parts of their processes in addition to studio tours.

Just down Main Street from Harwood’s studio and boutique, Nick Shelton was installed on the lower level of the Art Walk Shop and Studio, shaping a vessel on a potter’s wheel, coaxing its final shape using pressure of her hands and fingers, dipping her back into the water from time to time to keep the clay usable.

Shelton has been making pottery for about 12 years. He started with a plastic potter’s wheel and got his first “real” wheel two years later.

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Diane Harwood talks about her work Saturday during a Maine Pottery Tour stop at D. Harwood Pottery in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

On his first pottery tour of Maine, he set up four wheels and made balls of clay for visitors to throw around and try their hand at shaping the clay.

“I think it’s so relaxing,” he said.

Lori Keenan Watts is referring to the first Maine Pottery Tour outing she hosted as a proto-tour, during which she and a handful of her fellow potters decided to hold open houses on the same day. Studio sales can be profitable in many ways, from building relationships with potential clients to making sales without having to incur travel or other expenses.

Keenan Watts, who owns and operates Fine Mess Pottery in Augusta, scheduled this first tour for Mother’s Day weekend. She figured she’d put up some shelving, visit her family, fire up the grill, and help people get in.

“I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal,” she said. “It was a big deal.”

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Because many of the potters were mothers, or had mothers, or were partners of mothers, she decided to move it a week earlier to preserve the family vacation.

Based on the success of that first tour, she expanded it the following year and it kept growing. This year, 54 potters are participating. She expects more to join next year as the tour grows, with other potters helping her with any tasks at hand, such as setting up a new website and The advertisement.

Keenan Watts said she hoped to expand the tour’s footprint, noting that she only had two in western Maine — not enough for a full-fledged geographic group on the website — and none in northern Maine.

The pottery tour continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

“It’s deeply satisfying to create things that people will use, that will improve their lives in a tiny way, that will make their morning coffee a more enjoyable experience,” Keenan Watts said. “And maybe because of that, they’ll have a nicer day overall.”

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