The members of The Philadelphia Potters (TPP) joined together to promote the creativity, diversity, and excellence of functional pottery being made in Philadelphia, and within our extended community of peers. Our objective is to educate, inspire, and inform the Philadelphia audience and beyond.
The initial draw to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for many TPP members was in large part due to the community established by The Clay Studio. During my second year of graduate school at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, my classmate Rob Sutherland and I both applied for The Clay Studio’s Evelyn Shapiro Fellowship, which was to be awarded to a functional potter that year. Kari Radasch was the recipient, while Rob and I finished second and third. Despite the fact that we didn’t get the fellowship, The Clay Studio ended up drawing all three of us into the Philadelphia ceramics community, and though Radasch has moved to Maine, she’s still connected to TPP.
In the summer of 2004, Sutherland and I moved to Philadelphia. From the outset of our move, Sutherland had been eying a property in the Brewerytown area of the city. It was owned by a glass company and was three separate structures, a two-story and three-story row home and large warehouse space. It was a perfect setup for a live-work space. During our second year in the city, he acquired the spaces and I became his tenant. It was the perfect situation, with versatile options. During this time, Sutherland and I hosted several studio sales in the space. This was my first glimpse into the planning and potential for holding a studio sale and tour in Philadelphia.
A few years later (2006), Michael Connelly (a TPP host) moved into the neighborhood. He also purchased a few properties on the street behind Sutherland’s buildings, one of which was a great warehouse space that was ideal for establishing artist studio spaces. This is now one of the locations on The Philadelphia Potters’ Urban Studio Tour. Connelly has been an active part of the community, working with a few local businesses as well as the primary development group in our area.
For well over a decade the Neighborhood Potters (TPP hosts), Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson, have been flourishing in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. Pierantozzi and Patterson, who were former Clay Studio residents themselves, established their own space near the art museum area and across from the Eastern State Penitentiary, which is designated as a historical landmark. They have built up a loyal following over the years with an established sales gallery/studio as well an educational component. Many potters have looked to them for guidance on establishing their own studio practices in Philadelphia. Both Pierantozzi and Patterson would always hint at how great it would be if we could all work together to start up a studio tour in the city once we all had established studios.
Schedule of Events: TPP Studio Tour, April 2017
The Philadelphia Potters’ Urban Studio Tour takes place April 26–30. On Wednesday, April 26, the Clay Studio will be hosting an opening reception and artist talks from 6–9pm. The tour hours are Friday 3–9pm, Saturday 10–6pm, and Sunday 11–5pm. There are three host studios with several invited artists at each one.
• Neighborhood Potters
(http://sandiandneil.com), 2034 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Hosts: Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson. Invited artists also showing at this location: Lisa Naples, Brenda Quinn, Kari Radasch, and Royce Yoder.
•Bailey Street Art Corridor
(http://connellypottery.com), 1525 N. Bailey St., Philadelphia, PA 19121. Host: Michael Connelly, with fellow TPP member Rebecca Chappell. Invited artists also showing at this location: Birdie Boone, Brad Johnson, Jeff Kleckner, and Stacy Snyder.
• Greenheck Ceramics Showroom/Studio
(www.ryanjgreenheck.com), 2019 N 33rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19121. Host: Ryan J. Greenheck, with fellow TPP member Hiroe Hanazono. Invited artists showing at this location: Bryan Hopkins, Kristen Kieffer, Doug Peltzman, and Meredith Host.
• The Clay Studio
(www.theclaystudio.org), 137–139 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. Reception, artists talks, and sales gallery exhibition featuring the tour’s 18 participating artists, organized by TPP and The Clay Studio’s Curator of Artistic Programs, Jennifer Zwilling.
Establishing a Space
After about seven years at Sutherland’s place, that opportunity would present itself. I was able to purchase a three-story row home of my own in the summer of 2011. The 1900s-era house, located across the street from a portion of Fairmount Park, had been divided into two units and made perfect sense. I converted the first floor into a studio space and showroom, and the top two floors would serve as my office area/apartment. The time spent at Sutherland’s studio (which is still intact though he’s on hiatus from working in clay and currently works as a general contractor), along with the insight I received from Pierantozzi and Patterson’s studio, created a clear vision of what I always wanted for my live/work space.
I decided to become a permanent fixture in the Philadelphia clay community the year before, due in large part to my show, “Maker, Make, Made,” at The Clay Studio, which covered all facets of my work and process. It was set up as a fully functioning studio space, where people could see a freshly glazed teapot next to a finished, fired teapot, and from there it transitioned into a gallery show. The premise was to invite people into the mind/working space of a practicing studio potter. I demonstrated several times each week and had great interactions with the public. This informed the general public about the process of making handmade, wheel-thrown, functional pottery and the intrinsic sensibilities they possess to enrich one’s life. This is one of TPP’s goals.
Another transformative event took place in 2012. It was always my intent to host other potters in my space. That year, due to hurricane Sandy, The Art School at Old Church Pottery Show and Sale in Demarest, New Jersey, was cancelled. This allowed me the opportunity to realize the full potential of my space. Because of the show’s cancellation, my two good friends/mentors Matthew Metz and Mark Shapiro had agreed to bring the work they made for that show to my studio. Metz and Shapiro had participated in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show in years past and had a following in the Philadelphia area. Also, by this time I had compiled a significant mailing list. This was the first opportunity to see the potential for my showroom and how to facilitate my own sale with guest artists.
In 2016, I held my fifth annual Holiday Pottery Sale Invitational, which also played a key role in the development of The Philadelphia Potters’ tour. For the past three years, Connelly and I worked together, coordinating and combining our sales on the second weekend in December (so we didn’t conflict with the Demarest sale). This last year, we nearly doubled the number of participating artists and also worked on cross promoting our event with the Neighborhood Potters. This was a key component in developing as a group as well as ultimately laying the foundation for the TPP’s urban studio tour.
Urban Pottery Tour
Over the years, we have discussed the potential for an urban pottery tour and group spring sales in Philadelphia. It made sense with The Clay Studio and all its alumni, including TPP core members Rebecca Chappell and Hiroe Hanazono, in the community, as well as the amazing number of functional potters who live in the area. It goes without saying that working hand in hand with an incredible institution like The Clay Studio made perfect sense. It has meant so much to me in my decision to settle in Philadelphia, as well as to many of our members.
All of us have participated in pottery shows, pottery tours, and other events throughout the country that have given us great insight into what we are hoping to accomplish with our tour. We all look forward to sharing the stories behind the fortitude and persistence it took to establish our studios.
Planning for the Future
With the involvement of an internationally known institution such as The Clay Studio, we are looking forward to drawing more people to the city. We are exploring ways to expand this reach, including the possibility of working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the future. Our long-term vision is creating a national and international draw to Philadelphia for collectors and for artists who want to participate in the event or become future members of The Philadelphia Potters.
the author Ryan J. Greenheck is coordinator for TPP, a full-time studio potter, and adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.ryanjgreenheck.com.
Subscriber Extra Images and Video
Watch a clip from Sandi Pierantozzi’s video, What If? Explorations with Texture and Soft Slabs.
Watch a clip from Neil Patterson’s video, Clay Projects and Fundamentals.