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Same Clayfolk pottery bonanza, new venue

Mugs, masks, bowls, sculptures and their creators will again be on annual display this weekend, albeit in a different location.

Local ceramics artists are gearing up for the 44th annual Clayfolk Pottery Show and Sale, which is held every year the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year, it will run from Friday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, Nov. 24, in the old Toys-R-Us building, 1300 Biddle Road, Medford, a different venue from years past when it has traditionally been held at the Medford National Guard Armory. Organizers only recently cited a venue-booking conflict for the last-minute switch.

The show is the signature event of the Southern Oregon Potters Association, and it features a variety of functional, sculptural and whimsical work by more than 70 artists from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

One of these local artists is Russell Richmond, who has been working in clay since he was a freshman in high school in 1987. Fast-forward, and he is now the ceramics teacher at South Medford High School, a position he’s held for the past 12 years.

“I love giving students the experience that I had when I was in high school. I teach 180 students per semester, so 360 (students) a year. It is so fun to see students experience clay and being creative. Ceramics is a great right-brained activity for anyone, even if you don’t plan on being a professional potter,” he said in an email interview.

Richmond has participated in the Clayfolk show for the past 10 years, and he said he looks forward to the annual showing.

“Clayfolk is awesome because the whole show is based around clay! You can find just about anything made of clay,” he said. “The artists are so willing to talk with customers. It is so fun to talk with people who are interested in clay.”

Richmond employs various techniques in creating his one-of-kind art, yet learns more about the Earth-based medium every time he works with it.

“Over the past 32 year of working in clay, I have found that I have still not mastered all that can be done in this amazing medium,” he said. “Working on the potter’s wheel is my favorite method of building in clay, but I also love trying my hand at slab, coil and sculpting as well. Glazing and firing are arts in themselves, and I am always learning more in those areas, as well. I love to bring art and craftsmanship together in utilitarian functional ware. I love that people will buy a mug for its beauty but use it daily because it feels “just right” in their hand. I am constantly humbled by the fact that people will spend their hard-earned money on something that I created. I teach ceramics because I love passing on the joy and creativity that clay has given me. To see young people interested in such an old art and to see what they create keeps me wanting to comeback every day year after year.”

Admission to the Clayfolk Show and Sale is free. Hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The show will open with live music and light refreshments Friday, with a kids clay area and artist demonstrations running Saturday and Sunday. For additional details and information, see clayfolk.org.

Artist and craftsman Russell Richmond creates a variety of stoneware using a technique that combines layers of colored glazes to achieve the rich hues on his pieces. Photo by Denise Baratta
Russell Richmond works clay into a pot in his Medford studio. Photo by Denise Baratta