David Hendley on wed 16 jun 99
Since there seems to be so much interest in the idea of craftspeople
organizing their own shows, here's a report on the 'Texas Clay Festival'.
When my friend and fellow potter Dee Buck first called me and
asked me to participate, I thought, 'Great, a show with ALL potters.
No one will make any money.'
You see, I was in the 'craft-fair-mind-set' from doing 'regular'
shows. At these things, the first thing you want to know is, 'OK,
who's the competition, and where are they set up.'
Suffice it to say that I was amazed that first year that a dozen
potters (mostly functional pottery, some sculptural vessel forms
and non-functional work) could be set up side-by-side and all
do well financially. Of course, we had a blast the whole weekend -
what could be more fun than hanging out with potters?
Yes, everyone actually looks forward to this craft fair. After spending
all day together, we fill a banquet room at a restaurant and spend
the evening together.
Almost as much fun as the Clayart room at NCECA.
Like the 'camp photo' from your youth, another highlight of the weekend
is the group photo of all the exhibitors and their families. The poor
designated photographer has to take the picture with about 20 cameras.
At the end of the weekend, most folks stay around and help clean
up the grounds, and dismantle the demonstration areas.
Sooo, if you want to start your own fair, my advice is to do it for
reasons other than money. Change your thinking. Do it so you
can get your friends together. Do it to educate the public.
Do it to reclaim the selling of your work.
It's the old idea of 'do what you love and the money will follow'.
This is really possible, folks. There are a couple of other people
in Texas who do their own fairs (all media, not just clay).
The Texas Clay Festival
The Texas Clay Festival takes place on the grounds around
Buck Pottery, every year on the fourth weekend in October.
This year's festival will be October 23rd and 24th. The idea
for the festival grew out of an alliance of five potters who
joined together to promote the idea of a "Central Texas Pottery
Tour". In 1992, the five decided to get together and plan an 'all
pottery' art fair. Each potter also invited one other clay artist
whose work they admired. Buck Pottery in New Braunfels, Texas
(close to San Antonio) was chosen as the location for the show
simply because it was a good convenient location and there was
ample room on the grounds around the shop for setting up
several individual pottery displays.
Of course they wanted to have sales and make money, but, as
much as anything, they just wanted to get together and enjoy
the company of other potters. Gradually, more ceramists were
invited to participate; a total of 12 the second year, then 16,
then 20, with 30 artists exhibiting at last year's festival. The number
of visitors and customers has kept pace with the increasing numbers
of exhibitors. Many returning customers travel hundreds of miles
to attend the show each year.
One thing that has not changed through the years is the focus of
the show. True to its name, "The Texas Clay Festival", it is still a show
made up exclusively of artists who work with clay. There is no
music and there are no food or drink booths. There are numerous
restaurants in the area, so pottery lovers have places to relax and
re-fuel, and area business people are glad for the business and support
the show. Education and demonstrations have remained a central
focus of the festival since its beginning. All participants in the festival
demonstrate some aspect of their craft. At any time during the festival
there are simultaneous demonstrations taking place at each of the
three clay workstations scattered around the grounds. Raku firing
demonstrations take place every hour throughout the weekend,
and a "hands-on" area for children, complete with 18-inch high tables,
is staffed with knowledgeable teachers to help the kids learn about
working with clay.