Happy Potters Journey to Clay Festival

Getting 14 Potters to hold still long enough is an accomplishment!

Lynne Kelsey

On Oct. 21 a group of 14 Happy Potters escaped the studio and headed for the hills—the Hill Country, that is—to attend the much-anticipated 30th Annual Texas Clay Festival in Gruene. Gruene is the historic German town near New Braunfels, built on the Guadalupe River. It is famous as being the site of the oldest Texas Dance Hall, but for potters, “the clay is the thing” that brings them here from all over the state.

The festival featured Texas potters displaying their vessels for the weekend of Oct. 22 and 23. There were over 80 booths full of unique pottery, and our members enthusiastically visited all of them.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the festival featured two large tents where demonstrations were given on a variety of throwing and hand building techniques. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, our members viewed skilled potters demonstrating the process of texturing, carving, and altering mugs, bowls, and nesting sets. Another feature was Raku firing demonstrations by Randy Brodnax, a renowned potter and educator, throughout both days. Raku is a form of “low fire” pottery in which glazed pieces are heated until they are glowing red, then placed into a container with combustible materials such as sawdust. The container is sealed, which starves the piece of oxygen and produces dramatic glaze effects (as well as a great deal of smoke). It’s an exciting process, made even more so in the hands of a skilled master.

Each year the participating potters at the festival donate a piece of their work to a silent auction. Proceeds are used to help potters in need, award clay-related scholarships, and fund festival events. There is pottery and the all-important annual t-shirt available for purchase, and several of our members came home with beautiful new items to display and study. Fourteen exhausted but exhilarated potters returned home ready to dig in and create new works of art.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, it was sell, sell, sell, at the annual Holiday Market! Customers were in a buying mood, and we couldn’t be more grateful. More than once, individuals made a purchase and then returned later to buy more items. The Happy Potters took in a record amount from the sale, which will help purchase equipment for the studio and fund our educational presentations. We have also welcomed a new orientation class. As the year winds down, our members are focused on finishing last-minute holiday gifts and planning for projects in the future.

As always, we welcome you to visit the window outside the studio to see our members’ work. If you are interested in taking our orientation class, the roster for 2023 is already filling up. Please visit us in the Wine Cup Room and fill out an interest form if you think you might like to become a Happy Potter!