Taking Form: Creating Kentucky's Premier Pottery Festival

Across the country pottery markets flourish our landscape and bring together collectors, artists, pottery enthusiasts, and those curious about pottery to galleries, museums, arts centers and facilities focusing on the handmade vessel. In many cases several markets happen in event spaces bringing in hundreds of visitors, who travel near and far to collect a few pieces for themselves or to purchase handmade gifts for friends.

Before I continue, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jason Bige Burnett and I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and graduated from Western Kentucky University. I continued my interest in art & craft by studying at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, and as an Artist-In-Residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. In 2016 I was brought back to Louisville to be closer to family and to continue a studio practice in ceramics. However, there was one big hang up with my return home -- there are not many venues focusing on ceramics that have national recognition or the funding to advance the ceramic field in our region. Now what I just said is by no means a negative thing, it's just an opportunity still waiting to happen!

In many major cities potters are working with local restaurants and chefs, clay centers are creating social awareness opportunities to promote the use of handmade pottery and accessibility, plus using vessels to create a positive change in neighborhoods. I spent a year getting to know Louisville, what it has become while away, and what has always been here. Louisville is home to Hadley Pottery and Louisville Stoneware Co. -- two well established pottery production manufacturers as well as studios like AA Clay Studio, Payne Street Pottery, Magpie 3x3, along with several others that offer workshops, classes, and studio rental for locals to learn how to work with clay. In 2016 Kentucky MudWorks, with its original location still based in Lexington, KY, opened up a sister shop right on Baxter Ave to begin manufacturing clay and glazes for a large thriving industry.

Our town is fortunate to already have a long time running clay community called Louisville Clay and home to annual potters market hosted by the Louisville Potters called L.O.C.A.L.S. (Living On Clay And Louisville Soil) -- a group of nine potters along with special guest potters that host an Annual Holiday Sale in November and an Annual Seconds Sale in the summer. How could I borrow from my time spent living in the western mountains of North Carolina -- a place with a thriving industry of production and studio potters, group sales, markets, studio tours, and ceramic exhibits and provide something similar to our regions potters? Were there other potters in town who also shared a similar vision and experiences?

Winter 2016 friendships ensued with studio potters Amy Chase who works at Louisville Visual Art as Creative Director and Steven Cheek, an Artist in Residence at the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts at Mount Saint Francis (IN). Conversations with them regarding studio and business practices, exhibiting, teaching all kept coming back to a particular point -- that our own art flourishes outside Louisville because there aren't many opportunities for us here in town. We want to add a new element to the art scene, something that would make a positive impact on our town, educate audiences on ceramic arts, and an event that would push us to become stronger potters. Spring 2017 we began developing a new potters market.

 Guests of our Potters Market VIP Sneak Peek and First Pick event admiring Jim Gottuso 's pottery. March 2nd, 2018 | Copper and Kings  Photo: Erika Doll

Guests of our Potters Market VIP Sneak Peek and First Pick event admiring Jim Gottuso 's pottery.
March 2nd, 2018 | Copper and Kings
Photo: Erika Doll

March 2018 we introduced our very first Southern Crossings Pottery Festival! Not having a brick and mortar our market could take place anywhere in Louisville. It is important to us to be at a place that shares a mission to educate audiences on quality, creativity, and the significance of handcrafted products. Needless to say we're thrilled to have our event at Copper & Kings Distillery. The two-day market is curated like an exhibit selecting potters who represent our local and regional scene, as well as introduce potters from across the country. Then there is the element in which we use pottery as a tool to create positive change and impact in our city. Using a nationally recognized tool that helps promote the fight against hunger we decided to introduce another Empty Bowls event to Louisville. Our Empty Bowls event at Play Louisville next door to Copper & Kings Distillery, focuses on our local potters in Louisville, New Albany, Jeffersonville, and surrounding counties. These potters donate handmade bowls in which proceeds go to benefiting A Recipe To End Hunger -- a non-profit organization working hard to prevent childhood suffering in Kentuckiana. Patrons come and purchase a handmade bowl, sample soups from local restaurants and chefs while enjoying local entertainment. 

 Attendees shopping for their Empty Bowl. Proceeds from this event support the fight against childhood hunger in Kentuckiana. March 3rd, 2018 | Play Dance Bar Photo: Christopher Fryer

Attendees shopping for their Empty Bowl. Proceeds from this event support the fight against childhood hunger in Kentuckiana.
March 3rd, 2018 | Play Dance Bar
Photo: Christopher Fryer

Our vision is to show the significance of the ceramic vessel. Pottery adorns our homes, they're reflections of our daily routines and rituals, and most importantly they are used to provide nourishment for ourselves, the ones we love, and those around us we may not yet know.

Join us March 1st and 2nd, 2019 for our second annual event. More to celebrate with the involvement of several other establishments like Carole's Kitchen and Kentucky Country Day, as well as more chefs and restaurants sharing our mission!

So why the name "Southern Crossings"? That sounds like material for our next blog!