Featherstone fills pottery bowls full of fresh soup at annual Potters Bowl

Bowls of many shapes and styles were available for purchase at the Potters Bowl. —David Welch

The parking lot was filled and more cars kept arriving. A line of people quietly awaited the clock striking 4 pm, the official opening of Featherstone’s 2017 Potters Bowl. While we waited, we tried to see what was on the four long tables covered with paper to hide the bowls from our view. The papers lifted in the afternoon breeze, then fell again onto the tabletops. It was deliciously anticipatory.

I had never been to one of these events before. My cousins Hannah Beecher and Xiaoshi Hull were with me, Hannah an old hand and Xiaoshi a newbie like me. Sarah Mayhew was behind us, one of the contributing potters, who explained how it would all work.

It was a surprisingly orderly process. I had expected a table or two covered with random bowls made by various potters. What I found instead were bowls grouped together by artist, maybe a dozen by each one, labeled with the artist’s name. Every little lift of the breeze afforded a peek, so we all tried to find where our favorite potter’s offerings were laid out.

Finally the staff picked up the remaining covers and the first 10 people were admitted. And that was the basic format. We went in, looked around, chose our one bowl or several, paid $35 per bowl on the way out, then went to get our soup.

This was the first occasion I attended in Featherstone’s new barn and the layout functioned perfectly. Ann Smith ladled our choice of soup into our bowls on the outside entry porch. Two long tables were laid out in the front hallway: silent auction items on one, drinks and rolls, napkins and soup spoons on the other. A room on the left held the most enticing display of desserts as we walked through to the long side porch where tables and chairs were set out. The evening was pleasant with enough of a breeze to keep everyone comfortable. Sitting at these tables you could see everyone pass by, talk to your neighbors, compare bowls, and catch up on the news.

Featherstone director Ann Smith was ladling soup at the Potters Bowl. —David Welch

After the meal was finished, Hannah, Xiaoshi, and I walked through “The Big Show,” the inaugural exhibition in the best art space on the Island. Artists had been asked to bring one piece, especially something too large to hang in a traditional gallery. Most of the work would easily fit in your living room, and they ranged in size from the truly huge Wendy Weldon’s mixed media painting “Privacy,” 54 x 78 inches to Ruth Kirchmeier’s newest woodcut “High Summer,” 20 x 13.5 inches, with lots of work in sizes in between, and in different media. It is a beautiful show and I urge everyone to go and see it.

But back to the Potters Bowl. What a great idea for an event. You buy your bowl, get your soup, drink, and dessert, and enjoy dinner in a pretty spot. The pottery was all interesting, a mix of traditional shapes and glazes and some more fantastic — as in fantasy — with applied decorations or unexpected colors or less traditional shapes.

There will be a ceramics show opening at Featherstone next Sunday that I am sure will feature many of the same potters. I can hardly wait. And for next year’s Potters Bowl, I expect to get there even earlier for a place nearer the front of the line.