Creativity on display at Potters Guild Fine Arts Festival

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A collection of handcrafted bowls line a table. Glasswork shines under fluorescent lights. Colorful paintings are fully on display. Different forms of art are all shown off in one room.

The San Joaquin Potters Guild held their annual Fine Arts Festival on Nov. 22 at St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church. This is the 26th year the Guild has held its festival. 

The festival highlights local artistry, showing off a subculture Stockton is not necessarily well known for, despite other events like Stockton Art Week. Originally intended for just pottery, the event now also displays fabric, jewelry, glass work and paintings.

“There’s not a lot of places like this [in Stockton]. It’s always in other places,” said Potters Guild President Glenda Burns. 

Artists and the general public are given a chance to interact with each other at the event. Artists who work with different mediums all come together and coexist in a single setting.

Each artist is completely different from the next.

Burns has created her own technique with pottery, recreating family portraits through pottery. 

Kathy White, a member of the Potters Guild who has been working with porcelain for over 10 years, creates raku pieces, a form of Japense clay potterraditionally used for tea, with a pitfire. 

Even artists like Tara Heinzen and Potters Guild Vice President Laura Osbourne, who are both inspired by nature, have completely different art. 

Heinzen’s ceramics feature flowing lines reminiscent of the nearby San Joaquin River Delta, whereas Osbourne’s pottery likes to focus on the spiritual through use of religious imagery, including Buddhist influence blended with floral elements. 

“Some artists make art for themselves and some do it to sell, which it why it’s important to show their work like this. Also, some show it for personal esteem,” said artist Amanda Sedjwick-Maule, who specializes in creating sculptures and pottery. 

Despite these differences in medium and inspiration, all of these artists get the opportunity to display their work and interact with others. An otherwise solitary act becomes a communal one.

“It’s social in terms of meeting other artists… A lot of artists say the’re isolated in their studios,”  said Ann Hughes, an artist who has been making brightly colored paintings for over 20 years. 

Through events like these, artists get to display work they’ve been working on for months and talk to others about it. It’s not only a great way to see other artists in their community, but show the general public what Stockton citizens can really do. 

Individuals like J.C. Strote, secretary of the Potters Guild and an artist who works with fused glass and clay, love to discuss their work and how they create it. 

“I like to talk to people about my glass and how I make the glass,” said Strote. 

Artists do not only create work to please themselves, but to please the viewer as well. 

“I want to make things that make me feel good and to make other people feel good,” said Sedjwick-Maule.

The festival is also a way for artists to get exposure for their work. For some, art is their livelihood and it’s important for those artists to have a platform to demonstrate what they’re capable of. However, it is hard to get exposure in Stockton. The public isn’t aware of the rich vein of art in their own community, so events like these are neglected. As a result, people do not appreciate the work that is right in front of them —- and artists suffer as a result. 

“Stockton gets a bad rep. There’s not a lot of people who come to this, but it’s still important to get out and showcase the up and coming art scene,” said Heinzen. 

“Art is not cheap. The prices here are cheaper than the Bay Area — I can sell for twice as much in the Bay Area. Being an artist is hard.”

It also doesn’t help that many schools and universities are cutting art programs, pottery included. Many of the artists who attended the event had their interest sparked through attending classes. 

Osbourne found her own love of pottery through attending classes at Delta lead by ceramics professor Bruce Duke. 

“A lot of us are getting older, so it would be nice for younger people to come along and carry it on,” said Osbourne. 

Even if the art scene in Stockton is not as prolific as other cities, it is still thriving and will continue to do so through festivals like these. 

“There’s great art in the community and it’s growing every year. The public isn’t aware of the art, but we have it in the community,” said White.