By Natasha Anderson
The 17th Annual WNC Pottery Festival returns to Jackson County on Saturday, November 6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in downtown Sylva’s Bridge Park. Selected by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the Southeast’s Top 20 Events and regarded annually as one of the most popular arts gatherings in the mountains, the festival attracts several thousand pottery aficionados each year.
“Since I became involved with the festival in 2007, I have never missed a year, even when it meant traveling from wherever in the country I was living at the time,” says potter Alysha Baier. “It is more than just a venue to sell our wares. It is about our greater clay community and the connections and inspirations that come with gathering artists together who share the same passions.”
All potters are juried and compete for limited booth space in the festival. This year’s event will host a total of 33 exhibitors from 16 states lining Bridge Park with tents featuring some of the country’s best handmade pieces. During the festival, visitors can watch throwing and firing demonstrations by some participating potters. A large variety of styles and techniques will be showcased, ranging from glazed sculptural tree forms to mixed media pottery.
Baier will show a selection of drinking vessels as well as thrown, altered, cut and slip-decorated forms resembling lanterns. Some of her pieces are up to 26 inches in every direction. Rich color combinations and a half-dip glazing technique are often incorporated into her work.
“Each year, I get cleaner and more confident in my techniques,” says Baier. “As long as I give each piece the time and care it deserves, it comes out better than the last.”
Iowa potters Tony and Mindy Winchester, who have participated in the festival for more than ten years, will offer high-fire stoneware with a variety of surfaces including slip-trailed, sculpted and incised imagery. The partners incorporate many designs including landscape elements, horses, fish, dragonflies and flowers.
“Our work is in constant evolution,” says Mindy. “One pot relates to the next; one idea translates to another. We are always searching for what feels right.”
Bridge Park is at 76 Railroad Avenue, in Sylva. Attendees arriving by highway can take Exit 83 on Highway 74 to arrive right at the show and parking. Shuttles will be available to and from the parking lot. Admission is $5 per person and includes a raffle ticket. Children under 12 are admitted free. Dogs are welcome, but admission must be paid for their entry and they must stay on a leash. Attendees are encouraged to buy tickets in advance and sign up on the festival website for 30-minute early admission. For more information, visit WNCPotteryFestival.com.