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Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail kicks off another year of showcasing all things clay

  • Sam Taylor of Dogbar Pottery in Westhampton will be joining Tom White Pottery of Northfield for the Asparagus Trail pottery tour. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of Molly Cantor’s pottery on display at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Molly Cantor carves patterns into glazed vessels at Molly Cantor Pottery at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Molly Cantor pulls clay into a shape at Molly Cantor Pottery at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Molly Cantor Pottery on display at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lucy Fagella pottery on display in her Greenfield studio. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lucy Fagella of Lucy Fagella Pottery, one of the stops on the trail, takes pieces out of her kiln. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of Lucy Fagella’s pottery on display in her Greenfield studio. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lucy Fagella of Lucy Fagella Pottery poses in her Greenfield Studio. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lucy Fagella of Lucy Fagella Pottery pours glaze into a partially fired piece of ceramics. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Tom White of Northfield says pottery is both artistic and functional. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some potter on display at Lucy Fagella Pottery in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Tom White, the northernmost potter on the trail, of Northfield shows off one of his teapots. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Tom White of Northfield, one of the potters exhibiting work during this year’s event, pours glaze onto one of his bowls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of Tom White’s pieces waiting to be fired a second time. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Tom White of Northfield with one of his salmon themed casserole dishes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Molly Cantor pulls clay into a shape at Molly Cantor Pottery at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Some of Molly Cantor’s pottery on display at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Molly Cantor carves patterns into glazed vessels at Molly Cantor Pottery at 20 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Friday, April 28, 2017

Inside restored barns, factory buildings and small-town storefronts up and down the Pioneer Valley, visitors on this year’s Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail will find local potters holding demonstrations and selling their functional artwork.

Now in its 13th year, the Pottery Trail is expected to draw hundreds of people to western Massachusetts this weekend, where they can visit nine studios between Florence and Northfield on a free, self-guided driving tour. Thirteen guest potters from throughout New England, and as far away as Virginia, will join the hosts in their studios.

“It’s getting pretty known, pretty big,” said Tom White, the northernmost potter on the trail. “Besides a nice thing for us, it’s a nice regional thing. It brings a lot of business to the (Pioneer) Valley.”

On a recent morning, White and Sam Taylor of Westhampton — one of White’s two guests potters — loaded ceramics into two kilns on White’s property in Northfield. Since Jan. 8, White has made 1,400 pounds of pottery for the trail. Between himself, Taylor and Dan Finnegan — White’s other guest potter, from Virginia — there will be hundreds of new pieces for sale.

“On the trail, the majority of people come because they want to see where we work and how we work,” White said. “There’s a connection to the process as well as the final product.”

Several of the studios will offer demonstrations during the weekend, while others, like White, will explain the pottery-making process to visitors — from mud to the finished product. The tour will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and welcomes families and visitors of all ages.

“Your best customer is an educated customer,” White said, adding people appreciate pottery more when they know how it was made.

This year’s tour has inspired two new additions — a barbecue and kiln opening Saturday night at Snow Farm in Williamsburg from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and “Pottery Trail Ale,” a special beer from Lefty’s Brewing Co. in Greenfield. White said all the potters on the tour have made beer glasses that will be fired at Snow Farm, a local craft school, on Saturday night. There will also be a pottery demonstration during the party.

Shelburne Falls-based potter Molly Cantor will also open her studio as a stop along the trail, as she has been doing since close to the tour’s beginning.

“I think it’s really important to build appreciation for handmade things, especially to let people into studios where things are made to see the process a little bit and that these are things that are handmade by people — human beings — and to understand the amount of time and skill that goes into things,” she said. “I think it’s important to keep craft alive, to keep people collecting handmade pottery rather than just things that are made in factories.”

Cantor added it’s also valuable for potters to connect with customers in-person, as a lot of artists work in isolation.

“I find it inspiring to meet people who are using the objects that I make and hearing about how it affects their lives in a positive way, that they get more enjoyment out of sharing meals with people or just getting a cup of tea,” she said.

Greenfield potter Lucy Fagella, who helped found the tour, said in addition to highlighting the importance of handmade objects, the trail also helps support the community. In just two days, she said the trail brings in more than $75,000.

“We bring in people from many different states and they stay at bed and breakfasts and hotels, they eat at all of our restaurants and shop in our shops,” she said. “We have no idea how far-reaching the monetary value is that comes into our community.”

Fagella said for her, the best part of the pottery trail is the joy it brings to visitors.

“People just are so happy to visit an artist’s studio and see how things are made,” she said. “People come in here and everybody’s happy. It’s just become this annual spring event.”

Visitors on the trail will be given “pottery passports,” and those who get them stamped at seven out of the nine studios will be entered into a drawing for pottery featured on the tour.

Stops along the tour are clustered in three areas: Northampton/Amherst; Greenfield and the northern Pioneer Valley; and the Mohawk Trail village of Shelburne Falls.

White said he often gets visitors who do the southern section of the tour one year, and the northern section the next — or vice versa. People travel to western Massachusetts from across New England, New York and New Jersey for the event.

Maps of the tour are available at each studio, and can be downloaded at asparagusvalleypotterytrail.com or at apotterytrail.com. Tickets for Saturday night’s party at Snow Farm are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Price includes food, non-alcoholic beverages and events. Beer sold separately. For ticket info, call Snow Farm at 268-3101.