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Festival involves visitors with pottery

September 14, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- With careful hands, James Smith formed the ball of porcelain clay on his potter's wheel. If he applied too much pressure, the silky clay would collapse; if too much water, his pot would crack but no matter what; if he changed his mind, he could start over.

Smith and the Nicodemus Center for Ceramic Studies at Penn State Mont Alto, where he works as executive director, spent three years molding and remolding the annual Pottery Festival at Renfrew Museum and Park, much like a piece of clay.

As people browsed the pieces sold by 20 local potters on Saturday, the this year's event felt right to Smith.

After years of competing with the busy event schedules in June and with the fickle summer weather to attract artists and crowds, Smith and Iseminger went back to the wheel to mold the event again. This time the Pottery Festival landed on a mild September day and with it came artists and crowds.

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"What makes this festival great is that it is a clay-only festival," Smith said. "It is a celebration of the arts that allows people to get involved with clay by making a pot and interact with local artists."

Smith brought 50 pounds of clay and a wheel for people to try their hands at pottery.

By 4 p.m., all but one small ball of clay had been made into an array of pots, plates and cups.

The festival is not just a place where people can learn about pottery, it is a marketplace for local artists to sell their work.

Some artists like Jackie Shaw of Smithburg, Md.-based Pine Grove Pottery attended for the first time while others like Michael McIntyre of FireRobin Farm Pottery in Hagerstown have honed their skills with the event.

Shaw said she rarely sells her pottery outside of her studio, but it was the chance to support Renfrew and mingle with her fellow artists that drew her to set up a booth.

"The only reason I came today was my appreciation of Renfrew and because of Smith's persistence to get me to do this show," she said.

McIntyre travels to many shows each season, and the Renfrew Pottery Festival is one of his favorites.

The marketplace of artists was the perfect place to find unique gifts, Jean Lengel of Waynesboro said.

Lengel said she tries to come every year to buy gifts at the festival.

"In the beginning, the pieces were more rough, but the quality is getting to be outstanding," she said.

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