Where potters come out to play: Warrandyte Pottery Expo turns 18
by Jo French & Photos by Bill McAuley
13th March 2018
THE 18TH ANNUAL Pottery Expo was held on the Warrandyte riverbank on the weekend of February 24–25, with an extensive list of almost 60 exhibiting potters, local music, wheel throwing demonstrations and workshops on offer.
Local studio potter, and event organiser, Jane Annois, was pleased with the turnout and the success of the Expo.
“We were lucky with lots of visitors, even though there was rain on Saturday,” said Jane, “and Sunday was fabulous, it was perfect.”
“The potters were happy, which is important too, with good sales and a few commissions and orders.”
And although it’s a lot of work, Jane says she wasn’t alone.
“A team of lovely volunteers helped make it a success.”
From the warm welcome I received as I entered, to each interaction with stall holders, I was instantly engaged with the creativity around me.
Local and intrastate potters, with guests from Tasmania and France, had certainly put on a sensory show of colour and natural aesthetics.
Marina Pribaz, a ceramicist from the Daylesford region and joint winner of the Innovative New Ceramics Award (INCA) summed it up nicely.
“Everyone is so individual; we all work with clay but it expresses in so many ways,” she said.
‘Cups to Go’ was my first stop, where a collection of cups and mugs from many of the exhibiting potters were available for sale, with the idea that you would purchase a handmade cup that took your fancy and then head over to the nearby coffee van for a fill.
Diane Williams, a potter from Central Victoria and a volunteer on the stall said,
“It’s a really good idea.
“It collects the diverse range of works from the potters in one place, and you get to enjoy your coffee in a beautiful mug.”
So I took my time choosing and then walked the stalls sipping coffee, keeping an eye out for the maker of my new mug while I chatted with some of the potters.
Exhibiting for their fourth year, Ali Duckworth and Karen Goldsmith make up the Clay Sisters in Croydon.
They enjoy coming to the Expo to connect with other potters as well as visitors.
“It’s lovely to catch up with other potters that you only see once a year,” said Ali.
“Pottery can be a solitary life and I think it’s important to have these kinds of things, to see what everyone is doing and connect.”
Josephine Cassar, from Montmorency, mentioned the importance of being part of a group of potters.
“We meet twice a week and have become a small community.
“I go for the company and to share ideas, we have a communal meal and chat and talk pots.”
Other exhibitors also mentioned the value of the network created by the Expo, saying how they appreciated coming back each year, catching up with people, and that the relationships built over the Expo are integral to their work.
Two awards are presented each year at the Expo, and this year’s judges were visiting ceramicists, Nanna Bayer and Bronwyn Clarke from Tasmania.
The Michael Hallam INCA award for innovative new ceramics, presented by the Warrandyte Riverside Market, was awarded to joint winners Marina Pribaz and Minna Graham, and the Lions Club award for the best stand was presented to Kim Haughie.
All three ceramicists are from the Daylesford region and have been exhibiting at the Pottery Expo for several years.
Kim Haughie said winning the award was a beautiful surprise.
“It’s a bit exciting,” she said with a big smile.
Kim’s work as a potter started over 10 years ago, but she says it all started much further back.
“I think it was seeded in my childhood.
“I spent hours in the sandpit, and then later, as I got into gardening, it went from there.”
Kim has a dam on her rural property and said: “Digging down deep I found clay; it’s lovely using the clay from my own property — my surroundings and my environment influence my work”.
Minna Graham, has been coming to the Expo for seven years and says that being a joint winner of the INCA is really affirming.
“I spend so much time on my own, at least eight hours a day just sitting in my studio, on my own, doing my thing, making my thing.
“You come here and you are surrounded by your peers and you really get some fantastic feedback.
“It makes you feel you are on the right track.
“This weekend is bolstering for me; it just makes me keep going.
“It’s the reset button for me every year.”
Jane Annois also likes discovering and supporting new musicians for the event and was very pleased with this year’s line-up.
“They were all good quality, local musicians, and there was a good feel about the place all weekend,” said Jane.
Wandering around, it was hard not to stop and listen to the music, and a nice patch of grass made the invitation to sit awhile even more appealing.
Nearby was the Manningham Arts Centre and Clayworks stall, where children, and a few adults, were deeply engrossed in painting and etching clay squares.
These terracotta squares will be returning to the community in a few months as a permanent piece of art for the community to enjoy.
Further along I came across French ceramicist, Jean Marc Plantier, who 20 years ago was part of the original idea to bring the Marche de Potiers (Potters Markets) of France to Warrandyte.
Jean Marc has been attending the Pottery Expo since it began in 2001 and clearly loves the river and the surroundings, and what has become of their idea.
“It’s a wonderful place,” said Jean Marc, “I like coming, and I will come again and again.”
Of course you will Jean Marc, for without you and Jane, we would not have such a glorious event.
Next year, Jean Marc will return with five other French potters, and as more and more local potters are applying to be part of the Expo, Jane says we can expect an even greater variety in the work.
Thank you Jane and Jean Marc, for you have brought something beautiful to our place.