By Emma Castleberry
On Saturday, June 9, the Southern Highland Craft Guild (SHCG) will host its annual Clay Fest. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., more than 20 potters will gather on the hill behind the Folk Art Center to sell their wares and demonstrate various techniques. “Clay Fest showcases some of the finest potters and their work,” says participating potter Mike Lalone, who will be demonstrating his wheel throwing techniques. “The event shows the rich heritage of the potter’s craft from the entire region as well as the diversity of styles. All kinds of techniques will be displayed and the public will be able to ask many questions of the participating potters.”
One of the major draws of Clay Fest will be the second annual Clay Olympics. Several exhibiting potters will compete in two contests: one challenge to throw the tallest vessel and a second challenge to throw the widest bowl. Each contestant starts with a five-pound wedge of clay and has five minutes to complete the challenge. Prizes will be given to the top three contestants.
Clay Fest will also present a variety of interactive opportunities for visitors. Haywood Community College’s Professional Crafts Ceramic students will offer visitors the opportunity to throw on a wheel. For $10, members of the public can also create and fire a raku pot, which can be taken home that day. The three exhibition galleries and the craft shop at the Folk Art Center will be open for browsing during Clay Fest.
Potter Judy Brater sees her participation in Clay Fest as a way to give back to the community for its support of the SHCG. “For me, there is nothing more important than preserving the history of handmade craft that makes this region distinct,” says Brater, who will be demonstrating her technique of slab and coil construction with sculptural embellishments at the Clay Fest. “The longevity of the Guild fulfills this role. Hopefully, through events that the Guild sponsors, such as Clay Fest, we will inspire the next generation of craft artists.” SHCG is a nonprofit, educational organization established in 1930 to cultivate the crafts and makers of the Southern Highlands for the purpose of shared resources, education, marketing and conservation.
The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the Highway 70 entrance in east Asheville. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., April through December, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., January through March. Learn more at craftguild.org.