The Recorder – 23 potters sharing their work for the 18th Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail

Published: 04/22/2022 14:02:26

Modified: 04/22/2022 14:01:10

Twenty-three nationally recognized potters will share their work during the 18th year of the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail, which will welcome the community to eight pottery studios in Franklin and Hampshire counties.

The free, self-guided tour opens online April 29 and in person April 30 through May 1.

“We’re an eclectic bunch and everyone has a variety of backgrounds and approaches,” noted Stephen Earp, a Shelburne Falls potter who’s been at the event for 16 years. Earp’s pieces are inspired by traditional New England red ware and Delft blue and white ware.

The Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail has been a way for community members to learn and connect with local art for nearly two decades. The trail offers passports, which participants can have stamped at all eight studios for a chance to win a piece from one of the featured potters.

After being reduced to an entirely remote event in 2020, in-person studio tours returned in 2021. The event is the primary way many local potters sell their work throughout the year.

“Often our customers want to come back every year,” said Tiffany Hilton, a potter from Florence who specializes in tableware and has been involved with the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail for 17 years. “I love hearing their feedback and the reasons why they add to their collections.” She added that “people who appreciate handmade pottery notice every little thing.”

Potters said the event is also a way to encourage people to explore other local shops and restaurants in the Connecticut River Valley.

“A lot of people eat and drink in the area and spend a whole weekend there,” Hilton noted.

“We are helping to create a creative economy in the west of Mass. … By participating in the trail, you are supporting the local economy,” said Lucy Fagella, a potter from Greenfield who helped found the pottery trail. Her work showcases her love for food and gardening. “People who buy pottery want to see this craft continue and want to support the makers.”

“I love having people here for this weekend,” said Mary Barringer, a Shelburne Falls-based potter, who will showcase dishes, bowls and mugs, as well as sculptures for the wall and garden. “It allows me to see my workspace in a new way.”

Over the past two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local potters have seen their online sales increase. But Barringer said nothing compares to the feeling of having guests visit his studio.

“Compared to watching people interact with my work, selling online is a necessity but not as satisfying,” said Barringer, who has been on the Pottery Trail for about 15 years.

“My favorite part is being a part of people meeting and what I do,” she continued. “I love having people in my studio. … My studio is like a slice of my brain, so it’s always fun for me to have conversations about the stones I have or the pictures I have on the wall.

The event is expected to attract a few hundred participants.

The other potters present are Steve Théberge, Molly Cantor, Donna McGee and James Guggina, as well as 15 guest potters.

Barringer explained the special connection customers have with pottery as an art form.

“People have direct access to it in a way that is less true in the so-called fine art world,” she said. “Everyone I know who has interacted with pottery has had a tactile epiphany.”

For a full list and map of participating pottery studios, visit asparagusvalleypotterytrail.com.

Maria D. Ervin