Potters Guild Celebrates 50 Years
Potters Guild Celebrates 50 Years with an Open House October 5
By Barb Hranilovich
The Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild celebrates 50 years with an open house on Saturday, October 5 from noon–4pm in Haslett. Surviving and thriving at 50 years is a major feat for a coop-based organization. Many coops have formed and failed. So, what works for the Potter’s Guild?
The founders set the tone at the very beginning. Much like the constitution, the primary tenets and expectations were laid out. Adjustments have been made over the years to accommodate the times, but the basics stay the same. Here lies the foundation:
- Everyone does his or her share. This is where many coops fail. At the Guild tasks are shared. Everyone does cleaning-shifts. Everyone works on committees. Everyone works on sales. Guild work is recorded and monitored. Points are garnered for every hour of work done. The principal is fairness.
- There is incentive to do the work. Work points are used in exchange for the right to fire pottery in the kiln. Every cubic inch of pottery costs one point to fire. Potters who created a lot of work or large work simply work more hours to cover their needs. Most members, though, have vastly more points than they’ll ever use. Helping is just part of the Guild way.
- Members are vetted. The guild teaches classes. Advanced students have the opportunity to apply for a Visiting Potter position for one year. This is an apprenticeship of sorts and the V.P.s learn the kilns, making clay and glazes, and they work on committees. They are mentored to ensure their work moves toward the high standards that the guild has for work sold in their spring and fall sales. V.P.s may then apply for a second year. For this they display their work, are interviewed, and must exhibit sufficient growth and potential as potters. At the end of the second year the work is again reviewed, and the V.P. may be invited to become a member. This may seem like a cumbersome process, but it works on several levels. The work meets guild standards. The V.P.s have had an opportunity to interact and perform all the tasks with other members, so prove that they will pull their weight and more when needed. A sense of camaraderie grows from the V.P. experience as current members teach and guide. V.P.s, having worked hard for it have a vested interest in the group.
- The Guild celebrates successes together with dinners after sales, lunches at the Guild on member-only days, and treats brought on days set aside for throwing bowls for the Empty Bowls Project.
- Community outreach and giving back help remind members of the Guild missions. Early members of the Guild were instrumental in starting the Empty Bowls Project, which has been adopted by organizations nationwide, raising awareness and funds for food banks. Over the years this October event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Greater Lansing Food Bank. Members also do wheel-throwing demonstrations at many area arts and cultural events, including the East Lansing Art Festival and the Fenner Arboretum Apple-butter Festival.
- Classes held at the Guild offer area residents a chance to learn wheel-throwing skills, but also remind members of where they started. Members offer feedback and are available to answer questions during Lab Hours that are included with classes. Seeing the enthusiasm of newcomers and being able to help keeps members involved and aware of maintaining their own skills or help them pushing their own boundaries.
- Learning is addictive and fun. Working with clay has many rewards. Unending variables of techniques, forms, glazes, and firing options provide constant learning curves with happy surprises when the work comes out of the kiln (or pots that may teach what NOT to do).
- The group is large enough to be able to weather variations in members’ ability to work. Shifts can always be covered regardless of emergencies and members don’t end up burning out from picking up slack. Members can share social media posts, giving exponential coverage of events. Members come from very diverse backgrounds, so collectively have expertise for everything from building a new kiln to managing the budget.
- The cost-benefit is balanced. Annual fees include a certain amount of clay and allow members to participate in workshops and to get a high percentage from works sold at sales.
- The board is a guiding body, making sure all the balances and finances are in order. Board members have done every task at the Guild, so they understand what needs to be done and what is realistic. They look ahead, so that the organization can continue to grow.
The Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild was founded in 1969. Founding members still participate, teach, mentor, and create pots. Most members stay once they are in. Such longevity leads to a sense of family that no bi-laws can dictate. Students and V.P. can feel the stability and genuine caring in the group and look forward to one day being members themselves.
For the October Open House community members can tour the studio, that is in Haslett. The airy and clean facility has 12 wheels and several kilns, including electric, gas-fired reduction, and soda, each allowing for distinctive, wide-ranging, and beautiful pottery results. Selected member ceramic works will be on display along with a large collection of works by notable workshop leaders.
Find much more about the Open House and the Guild at glpg.org.