SPOONER– Since ancient times, humans have had a close association with clay. From use as a building material for the pyramids, as pottery for storing water, oil and wine to treating digestive ailments and a plethora of industrial uses, clay was, and is, a key ingredient in the material world we live in.
So we in the 21st century can appreciate clay and the potter's art, Wisconsin’s Northwest Heritage Passage, a Spooner-based non-profit organization that operates the Arts in Hand gallery, is staging “Clay Day – Potters in the Park," a community event on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Spooner.
Pottery artists will demo and teach
“Our goal for this event is to celebrate the art of pottery and promote pottery artists,” said Sandy Mackie, a member of the event planning committee.
She added, “Part of our organization's mission is to educate and connect the public to the creative economy in northwest Wisconsin.” The event consists of demonstrations, "make and take" activities, and a potter's contest to break a Guinness world record.
Booths will be set up in Centennial Park at the corner of Walnut and River streets in downtown Spooner. Area potters will demonstrate their work with clay by sculpting, decorating, throwing, and pinching pots. "Throwing" pots is the term used when potters create pieces from a lump of clay positioned on a flat round base with a pedestal called a "wheel" that rotates fast either by pressing a foot pedal or using electricity.
Several potters will take turns teaching on-site, including Patti Fox, Emy Current, Rosemay Hultman, Mike Rigg, and Mary Kay Latzka. Each one-hour session will start with a 15- to 20-minute presentation followed by 30 to 40 minutes during which the professional potter will work with visitors who are invited to create a pottery piece of their own to take home. There will be a special children’s area for youngsters to create a piece of pottery.
Meaux to challenge world record
The highlight of the day is the contest at 1:30 p.m. by local potter Richard Meaux, who will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most pots thrown in an hour. The current record of 193 pots is held by Jim Calhoun of Phoenix, Arizona, set in March 2018. Meaux is already practicing in his Spooner studio.
"What I figured is, I have to [throw] a pot every 15 seconds," he said.
Meaux teaches art at a Northwest Wisconsin high school. He and his artist wife, Mary Kay Latzka, like to share their art with people.
"We were thinking of a way to draw attention to a hand-craft. I was going to do [the world record challenge] on my own last year, but I decided it was a way bigger project than I realized," said Meaux, who has been throwing pots for 45 years.
Guinness requires strict guidelines
Taking on a world record with the Guinness organization is quite a process. Meaux explained, "They want you to make sure it’s done out in public, that it’s video recorded – it’s going to take a lot of people to be involved. When the Clay Day idea came up, I volunteered to pitch in and help. Then [the planning committee] wanted something as a culmination of Clay Day to make it more interesting, so I said, 'Why don’t we do the World Record?'"
Meaux will use an electric wheel. Each piece of clay he uses must weigh 21 ounces. Volunteers will prepare and stack the clay in advance, lining them up on boards next to Meaux's wheel. Judges will watch to ensure each pot is complete and meets Guinness size criteria.
Judging the Guinness contest are retired judge Gene Harrington, the Hon. J. Michael Bitney, Barron County Circuit Court, and Art Ganett, Purple Plum Pottery, Pepin.
"We are really excited to bring this event to our community," said Mackie. The program is funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Admission to Clay Day events is free and open to the public.
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