The Old Church Pottery Show and Sale began in 1975 as a fundraiser for The Art School at Old Church by long-time friends Karen Karnes and Mikhail Zakin, Art School founder. They wanted to bring together their vibrant community of potters with the local community to offer an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind works of art while supporting the newly-established cultural resource. The show has grown to include 30 national and international artists and offers more than 2,000 pots for sale over its three-day span.
For more tahn forty years, Karen Karnes curated the Old Church Pottery Show. On July 12, 2016, Karen died peacefully in her home in Vermont at the age of 90. Karen was an innovator, progressive thinker, mentor, and a dear, dear friend. Her salt- and wood-fired pots set a new standard for the possibilities of studio pottery, and she will be missed by all she touched.
In 2014, artists Bruce Dehnert and Chris Gustin joined Karen to collaborate on the selection of artists, and through this relationship have forged an aesthetic language that will inform generations of potters to come. Bruce and Chris have continued this tradition with Karen in their hearts to guide them.
Last year's Pottery Show was dedicated to Karen and everything we loved about her—her forthright manner, indelible wit, her devotion to ceramics, her legacy.
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"In 1974 when Ann and I offered to make a benefit pottery sale for the Art School at Old Church we were following the path of many organizations choosing to raise money in this way. I thought to make an event that would consider the potters who offered their work. Potters would only need to bring and remove their work at the end - we would take care of everything else.
In the early years I invited potters who lived nearby, but soon I was attending craft fairs to choose potters, and my focus as I traveled was always to look for pottery that would make a rich and varied exhibition, one that showed a wide range of styles. I have always wanted each person who attended the show to see something they needed to own, and to have all the work be the best of its kind. Soon, potter friends were able to recommend new clay workers.
It was also important to make an exciting meeting of potters, as I lured them with the promise of a bed in a member volunteer’s home, a delicious potters’ supper (which I cooked in the early years), and the possibility of a day or two in New York City.
It was fun for us all to be together. Potters and the clay-loving public have become friends, as they come every year, lining up to be the first to come into the Pottery Show on our opening night. Our potters report that our buyers are both passionate and knowledgeable.
I have a policy of inviting new potters every year, in addition to a core group who is invited every year as well. It is always a difficult choice; there are so many excellent, sensitive and original young potters at work now, for the field is steadily widening.
I thank my many friends who have helped me with the show along the way – particularly Robbie Lobell, Mark Shapiro, Mary Barringer and Scott Goldberg to name a few. For our 41st anniversary, I thank my co-curators, Bruce Dehnert and Chris Gustin for making this show a success.
We are so excited every year as each potter unpacks and places work on the modest display areas we provide - and at last one can see the full richness of the show. Every year we say, “This is the best yet!”
It makes me very happy to help make this wonderful show."
Bruce Dehnert Before receiving an MFA in ceramics at Alfred University, Bruce Dehnert studied English as an undergraduate. He continues to cultivate a written life that weaves together his creative outlook with the nitty gritty of ceramic art creation. Bruce celebrates the pottery process from kiln construction to dining room table. His treatment of form and surface before firing often inform how to interact with the piece after it is fired. Bruce has been published in journals including Studio Potter, Ceramics Monthly, and Ceramics: Art and Perception. He recently collaborated on Simon Leach's Pottery Handbook praised as "an amazingly detailed, step-by-step text for all major processes in ceramics". He is currently Director of the ceramics program at Peter's Valley Craft Center.
Chris Gustin In 1975, Chris entered the MFA program at Alfred University, where he studied under storied faculty members Randall, Turner, Cushing, Hepburn, and Higby. During his second year at Alfred, Chris met Karen Karnes and was immediately drawn to her fiery character and the seriousness with which she approached her work and the business around it. Her approach was inspirational to him as he began to make plans for life after school. Shortly after, Chris moved to Guilford, Connecticut and opened his first professional studio. In 1986, Gustin collaborated with Margaret Griggs, George Mason, and Lynn Duryea to form Watershed Center For The Ceramic Arts in an abandoned brick factory in Newcastle, ME. Their vision was to create a place for clay artists to live and work in community that nurtures the evolution of artistic practice. Following his early successes, Chris was invited to join the faculty at The Program In Artisanry at Boston University which later through many transformations, became part of UMass Dartmouth, now one of the top ceramics programs in the nation. In 1999, Chris retired to a full-time studio practice in South Dartmouth where he lives with his wife, artist Nancy Train-Smith.
Julia Galloway Julia Galloway's love of clay began as a high school student when she was inspired by the peaceful atmosphere of her school’s pottery studio. She used her babysitting money to purchase her first potter’s wheel and threw pots in her bedroom. Julia entered the New York State College of Ceramics (NYSCC) at Alfred University, where she earned her BFA, and went on to earn her MFA from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Julia is a utilitarian potter; her work is both functional and beautiful. For Julia, “utilitarian pottery supports and represents our intimate rituals of nourishment and celebration.” She is “interested in pottery that is joyous; objects that weave into our daily lives through use.” Her pottery is made from porcelain clay and combines wheel-thrown and handbuilt elements. Currently, she is a potter and professor at the School of Art at the University of Montana, Missoula. Julia is on the board of the Archie Bray Foundation, Director at Large of NCECA, and on the Curatorial Board of accessCeramics. Julia is guest curator for the 2017 Old Church Pottery Show and Sale.