Biggest pottery sale in Southeast kicks off in Watkinsville

What is being billed as the biggest pottery sale in the Southeast is off to a big start this year with more than 50 potters showing more than 5,500 pieces.

On a walk through the aisles of the 13th annual Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational visitors will find countless brightly colored coffee mugs, bowls, plates and decorative pots with shining glazes.

The Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation sponsors the show in Watkinsville on the grounds of the former Watkinsville High School. The main show is in Rocket Hall, the old gym that still has its original wood flooring. More decorative pieces are on show in the school building.

The sale, which started on Aug. 29, is open every day including Labor Day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. until Sept. 16.

Potters from all over the state are taking part in the show, which brings together an eclectic mix of styles.

Melanie Sgrignoli, an Athens artist, has been frequently visiting her display of pottery to restock it.

“I can tell it’s going well because it’s a lot more empty than before,” she said about her shelves of pottery on Thursday.

This is Sgrignoli’s first year showing her pottery at the sale after spending the last four years making art full time.

“I’ve always had to be making something. I fell in love with clay because I always loved the feel of it. It’s like playing in the dirt,” Sgrignoli said. “There’s something cool about starting from scratch and following something through to the end.”

Her method of pottery is Sgraffito style, which means she dips a whole piece – or a portion of it – into color, usually a dark black or blue, then uses dentist tools to scrape through the color revealing the white porcelain underneath.

The result is detailed figures that stand out white against a dark background on her pots.

“A lot of people say it has the look of printmaking” Sgrignoli said. “It’s very time consuming.”

Sgrignoli’s work stands alongside pieces made by Alice Woodruff, a potter from Watkinsville.

Woodruff was a production potter in the 1970s and spent her time mass producing pottery more useful than beautiful.

“The work was very utilitarian. There was a very functional appeal to it,” Woodruff said.

Over time her style has changed.

“I’m less concerned about selling and more concerned with taking my time and making one-of-a-kind pieces,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff said she has seen more people willing to buy her larger more decorative pieces that can be used as centerpieces in a room. She also still makes coffee cups and bowls – the pieces that can be used every day.

“If it’s a functional piece then I want people to use it. But, if it’s a decoration piece, I just want them to enjoy it every day and get great joy out of being around it,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff will also lead a class on the techniques of pottery making on Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. to share her love of the art form with others.

“It’s fun and it’s magic. There’s something about working with clay that allows your brain to turn off. You can let the clay do what it wants,” Woodruff said.

In addition to the pottery sale and lesson, there will be an informational speech by Georgia potter Michael Pitts about technique on Sept. 6 and Sept. 13 at 1 p.m.

The pottery show is at the OCAF Arts Center at 34 School St. in Watkinsville. For more, visit www.ocaf.com.