Malley Weber works on a piece of pottery. The public can view many items of pottery throughout the state on May 1 and 2 during the Maine Pottery Tour. Courtesy photo

Nine years ago, Lori Watts of Fine Mess Pottery, and some of her friends and fellow potters in the Augusta area, decided to ban together and hold a spring open house on the same weekend as a jump start for the summer season.

“It went pretty well, and I got inquiries from potters outside the immediate area, so the following year I expanded the tour,” Watts said, and thus the Maine Pottery Tour was born.

Watts likens the May 1 and 2 event to Maine Maple Sunday — when sugarhouses across the state are open to the public — but for potters.

During the first weekend of May, pottery and ceramics studios in Maine open their doors to the public for the self-guided tour. “It’s a fun day and a chance to meet the artists, peek in the kilns, see demonstrations, and shop for pottery and other handmade goods,” according to the Maine Pottery Tour website.

Nearly 50 pottery studios around the state are organized into three regions of approximately 15 studios, allowing several studios to be visited in a single outing. “It’s a fun chance to meet the artists, peek in the kilns, see demonstrations, and shop for pottery and other handmade goods,” according to a tour press release. Interactive maps of each region are available at MainePotteryTour.org

The tour’s goal is to make people aware of the potters in the state and to cultivate an appreciation and affection for handmade pots, according to the release. “Because of the tour, eating, drinking, and serving from one-of-a-kind plates, mugs, bowls, pitchers, platters and casseroles has become standard practice for large numbers of people. … Pots are uniquely intimate. What other art form do you raise to your lips, cradle in your hands, and trust with your food?”

“Participating potters have cleaned up their work spaces and are welcoming visitors to their studios to see the work they do,” according to Elaine Fuller with the Red Door Pottery Studio in Kittery, one of the participating pottery studios. “All are happy to talk with you about making pots, how they work with clay and the different techniques they use to decorate and fire their work.

“Get an inside glimpse into the life of a potter, enjoy some refreshments, tour their studios, peek into kilns — maybe even get a chance to try the potter’s wheel,” Fuller said.

Because of COVID, “I had to cancel the tour last year,” Watts said. “I was so bummed! But lots of people lost far more than a fun event, so I kept it in perspective.”

She said she hopes this year will be a success for participating potters and that lots of people show up.

“Very glad to be back on track this year, though, and I am hoping with so many Mainers vaccinated, people will be eager to get out and do things,” Watts said.

She said she’s been doing pottery for many years and likes to make items people can use. “Took my first class in 1987. I make useful things! Mugs, bowls, plates, sugar jars. I want to make functional objects that are a joy to use, because if you improve the experience of the things you do every day — in this case cooking, serving, and enjoying food — you’ve made your life just a little bit better.”

Cathie Cantara, owner of Homeport Pottery in Kennebunkport, took her first pottery class in high school and “loved it” and got her first wheel for Christmas.

“I’ve taken pottery lessons off and on for most of my adult life but it wasn’t until my 40s that I got serious about clay and took a number of pottery classes. … In 2007 I opened the doors to Homeport Pottery.”

“Maine has such a rich and diverse pottery community and potters love to share their knowledge and process,” Cantara said. “The Pottery Tour is a wonderful way to learn about each potters different approach to clay, learn about the different firing methods and it is also a great opportunity to bring home a handmade object. I have been a part of the tour since it’s inception and it has become weekend that the studio reopens each spring.”

Another Kennebunkport potter, Wendy Grace Twitchell, 78, owner of Wendy Twitchell Porcelain is participating in this year’s tour.

“I began playing with clay as a child and 45 years later I continue this love affair,” she said.

“I begin a piece by rolling out a slab of clay,” Twitchell said, “then carve or stamp images of the natural world — animals, birds, plants, images inspired by fairy tales, lines from poetry — Whatever is fun at the moment! Each finished piece is one-of-a kind.”

She said she participates in the tour because “(it)  puts us on the map and provides potters with the opportunity to connect as members of our communities. … A chance for the public to explore and visit heretofore Unknown Artists.”

Ellen McCarthy of Peeper Pond Studio in Scarborough is also participating in this year’s pottery tour and has been doing so since 2016. She started creating pottery since retiring from a corporate career as a software project manager, and started taking classes with Watts in 2008.

“Throwing mud was the perfect antidote to a stressful job and we all joke that it’s cheaper than therapy,” McCarthy said. “It didn’t take long for me to get completely hooked and I’ve loved exploring all aspects of making, decorating and firing ceramics.”

“Potters can’t help themselves,” McCarthey said, “they have to make pots. But a pot isn’t finished until it’s in use and the tour helps us get our pots into hands (of those) that will use and enjoy them.”

The Maine Pottery Tour will take place Saturday, May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 2, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit mainepotterytour.org

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