Weekender

Lemont’s Potters Guild fired up about holiday sale

The Potters Guild Holiday Sale will feature pottery from local artists.
The Potters Guild Holiday Sale will feature pottery from local artists. Photo provided

The Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania will present its Potters Guild Holiday Sale on Friday and Saturday in Lemont. A grand opening will be held on Friday night, where visitors can shop for Christmas gifts, meet the artists, hear live music and learn about the Potters Guild and the Art Alliance.

The Potters Guild is a community of local potters — from novice to professional — whose goal is to support the art of ceramics in central Pennsylvania. The Potters Guild was started in 1971 with the enthusiastic backing of a small group of about 30 members headed by Shirley Siegenthaler. A high-fire kiln was designed and built with volunteer labor, while other equipment was bought, borrowed and assembled, and the studio space rented from the Art Alliance. Guild activities, centered around ceramic art and community, have continued since that time in the same Lemont location.

“The Guild, which has been thriving in Lemont since 1971, is first and foremost a community of potters who work in the old stone-walled basement studio of the Art Alliance building on Pike Street,” said John Ziegler, president of the Potters Guild. “In addition, there are pottery classes taught in the studio by Guild members.”

The Potters Guild host sales and gallery events centered around the ceramic arts and offers classes throughout the year. Many of the Guild’s artists are shown in galleries and boutiques around the world, and some are available for commission. A number of potters have been teachers and professors for their careers, or simply hobbyist potters.

Ziegler has been involved with the Potters Guild for more than 40 years.

“I taught art and humanities at Bellefonte High School for 30 years, and along the way, I developed a passion for pottery and joined the Potters Guild in 1974,” he said. “My work is in stoneware using an earthy palette of glazes that suggest the presence of the colors and textures of nature. Most of the work is wheel-thrown stoneware — functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.”

Several members earn their livelihood through their work, including Amy Romanec, Ross Adams, Christine Stangel, Tiffany Friday, Linna Mushchlitz, Lynne Anne Verbeck, Jason Bloom and Danny Stainton.

“Many other art classes, drawing, painting, sculpture and photography are taught by Alliance members in the upstairs studio, which is usually a hive of activity,” Ziegler said. “Exhibits and sales of Alliance members’ work take place several times each year.”

Guild members have the option to pay quarterly fees and have access to the use of a well-equipped studio, including wheels, electric and high fire gas kilns, access to prepared glazes and glaze materials, personal and common shelf space, and access to a range of activities including raku firings, workshops, classes and a valuable learning interaction with other potters with a wide range of experience and artistic inclination.

In March 1972, the Guild received the building permit to build the gas kiln and later that year, the first firing took place. Later years saw the rebuilding of the propane kiln. The studio now provides facilities for the “once in a while” potter as well as the production-oriented potter.

Final touches for the Potters Guild’s new gas kiln were recently added, with a stainless-steel stack and roof top. The new kiln was first used last month.

“Our old high-fire gas kiln is still functional, though leaning under the weight of age,” Zeigler said. “It was a successful firing, but we have much to learn about the ways of this new fire beast.”

For Zeigler and Guild members, variability of process is part of the charm of pottery work.

“We learn to manage clay, glazes and tools, make adjustments for weather conditions and share knowledge from past firings,” he said. “But there are always results beyond our knowledge, and sometimes that is what provides the magic.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Potters Guild Holiday Sale
  • When: 6-9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania, 818 Pike St., Lemont
  • Info: pottersguildofcentralpa .org
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