Slightly potty about ceramics


At the Showcase: potter Scot Cameron Bell

Tastes change. An ornate floral flatware I once thought pretty soon looked fussy. The simple charm of a Dhurrie area rug later felt as appealing as a horse-hair shirt. A “timeless” black sofa with red stripes almost immediately appeared full of all kinds of time, most of it best forgotten in the ‘80s.

I loved them all until I loved them not. Maybe that sounds flaky. I prefer to think of it as evolutionary.

Yet, there is a little earth-toned, wheel-turned, glazed pot that has absolutely no place in my house but has apparently taken up permanent residency in my heart. It’s kind of brownish, greenish-blue and bumpy. It’s too clunky to be a drinking glass. It’s too chunky to do flowers any justice.  It is definitely not dishwasher safe. It’s  possibly not any kind of safe but I don’t think the chopsticks it holds on a shelf in the cupboard are  in any danger.

Several times, I’ve considered tossing it in a box headed for a charity shop. More than once, I’ve picked it up with that intention. But there is something about the weight of it in my hand, the feel of the glazed clay, the murky colors dripped imperfectly down its sides that suddenly reminds me of the person who made it  — a person I’ve never met — and for a few seconds I feel extraordinarily aware of time and how we choose to spend it and how I am holding evidence of somebody’s hours on this earth. And I put it back on the shelf, gingerly.

Silly? Probably. But I’m ready to risk more inexplicable emotional attachments to pottery at the 30th Annual Ceramic Showcase from May 4-6 at the Oregon Convention Center.

The event brings together more than 150 Oregon Potters Association members (from Oregon and Washington despite the name) for a public show-and-sell. The variety of things made from clay is extraordinary — everything from practical dishware and whimsical figures to sophisticated clay “canvas” paintings. Honored entries from past shows will be also be on display.

“I think some of the things that really draw people to the event, beyond the shopping which is great, are the demonstrations,” says spokeswoman Kate Kaufman.


At the Showcase: work by artist Michelle Gallagher

Potters reveal techniques and talk about the creative process. These are casual presentations and the audience is free to drift in and out. For those willing to get their hands dirty, there are established clay areas with wheels and tables to play in the mud with guidance from potters, and information on where to fire your creation should you choose to take it home.

Pottery is an ancient craft. You could say old as dirt. The ingredients are simple. Just combine a bit of earth and water, air dry, and fire away. What keeps pottery relevant, and even exciting, is the imagination of the artists.

Expect a whole lot of imagination on display at the Ceramic Showcase.

When: May 4,5 & 6, 2012
Where: The Oregon Convention Center
No admission fee.