Thrown and Glazed

my picture, my pottery

I never met a potter I didn’t like.

Photographs and pottery draw me in every time. I rarely seek jewelry, lawn sculptures or food stuffs. My time, attention and dollars are committed to beauty snapped or thrown. We’ve all got our preferences, right?

Craft fairs, swap meets and Maxwell Street Days draw all walks of life, seeking unique and special items. The uniformity of big box retail shelves will not be found in the makeshift canopy storefronts of these temporary places. There, each item has been handcrafted; truly one of a kind.

As I’ve aged and find my walls and cabinets full, I am no longer a regular buyer. Yet, I still enjoy a stroll through the stalls, feasting my eyes on the creativity of passionate artisans.

Over the past half-dozen years I’ve frequented vendors lining the downtown streets of Hayward, Wisconsin. On Father’s Day weekend each June, I shop Musky-fest with my sister-in-law and niece, while the fishermen cast on nearby lakes. It has become a treasured tradition, with hopes for sunny skies and warm breezes.

I’ve found a favorite vendor who I make sure to chat with every year. Darrel Bowman is a potter with a down to earth personality. He crafts functional tableware in earthtones that match his disposition. He is quick with a genuine smile that says, “Please take your time and look. Pick it up and feel it in your hands. Whether you are a buyer or a browser, I am interested in you all the same.”

Although I do love Mr. Bowman’s pottery creations, it is his being that keeps me stopping by and purchasing one piece of pottery each year. My kitchen counter displays a bread baking bowl, an egg cooker and a molcajete crafted by his hands. The pieces are not only pretty and functional, they carry memories of their maker and afternoons shared with family. They carry the meaning of life. When I purchase a piece from him, I build up another piece of myself.

Last June, as my sister-in-law and I picked up and set down bowl after cup after vase, Janet selected two small bowls to purchase. Although she wanted four, she decided two would be a reasonable expenditure for the day. As she wandered off to the next stall, I quietly asked Darrel if he could set aside two additional bowls. I was able to swing by alone, later in the day,to purchase them. In just a few weeks time, when we celebrate the Christmas holiday, I will be excited to watch as Janet opens my gift to her.

Looking forward to next June, I anticipate another pottery purchase. I will find Mr. Bowman and his life’s work. In a makeshift storefront, I’ll choose a piece that has been thrown and glazed by his hands. I’ll pass payment from my hand to his, knowing that I am buying the meaning of life. I imagine we will share conversation and a smile, hoping another years passing will find us repeating the ritual.

* A special thanks to j.s.lamb and Michael Ramsburg for your encouragement and assistance on this one.