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JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Village Potters Guild shapes talent

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

A small, talented group of potters, serious about their craft, make up the Village Potters Guild, which originated in the fall of 1994 after then-retiring Plymouth art teacher, Kris Darby, decided she “wanted to have a place to do pottery and work with other people.”

“We met in a little house in Plymouth,” recalls Carolyn Hook of Canton, who helped co-found the guild. “We developed our bylaws and we elected officers, and then we eventually found another space in Plymouth.”

That second location, 326 N. Main in the historic factory district of Plymouth’s Old Village area, has been home to guild members for the past 23 years. It’s a studio where members, both men and women ages 50 and older, can work anytime, day or night. “When you become a full member, you have a key and can use the studio 24 hours a day,” said Hook.

But being a “full member” requires a number of responsibilities. “There is required work, including maintenance of the studio, helping with sales and working on committees. Twenty hours of work a year is required,” explained Hook.

Becoming a member can be a rather lengthy process. “We usually recommend they take some classes from us. It gives us a chance to see what they’re like, and they get to see what our guild studio is like. We have membership open twice a year. They can fill out an application, and they have to bring in some of their work. If they’re not accepted, they become a guest member for two years. Then after that, they’re voted into permanent membership, but some people decide it isn’t for them.”

Hook said permanent membership is based on “technical craftmanship or quality of work, their creative ability, experience, and what we think they’re willing to do for us.”

Mary Hastings of Plymouth, a guest member since last November, said becoming a permanent member is her “goal.”

“I’m a gardener and kind of a naturalist. I just had an immediate connection with the clay. The fact that you can use earth, water, your imagination and hands to create something — I was very taken with it. I have no art background, but just kind of an intuitive connection, so it’s been very challenging, and frustrating at times, but the potential for creating wonderful things is there. I think that’s what keeps me very interested in it. I particularly like making pieces with tops — boxes embellished with natural material — and would really like to pursue jewelry making.”

As founder of the guild, Darby has taken great pleasure in being able to work closely with other potters. “We share ideas,” she said. “I feel we’re more creative when we’re working with suggestions, ideas and hints from others. You’re not copying, you’re just garnering ideas and techniques, because we’re always learning new things from one another.” Her favorite items to create are buildings that represent ancient cultures, kimonos and dishes.

According to its mission statement, the Village Potters Guild is “committed to bringing an increased awareness to the community by providing education service in pottery at the highest levels.”

Hook said, “We offer ceramics classes and workshops, also a scholarship for a local high school art student once a year, and participate in local events such as Art in the Park.” (This year’s Art in the Park is set for July 7-9 in downtown Plymouth.) Guild members also host two annual sales at their studio, one in May and the other in November.

The guild’s current officers are Anne Borello (Dearborn), president; AnnaMarie Wagner (Northville), vice president/secretary; Leslyn Rank (Westland), treasurer, and Jill Maki (Plymouth), studio director.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact the Village Potters Guild at villagepottersguild.org, or email: villagepottersguild@gmail.com.