by Caroline Turney
Historic Gruene is expected to see thousands of guests this weekend as the 14th Annual Texas Clay Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The event will take place on the grounds of Buck Pottery located at 1296 Gruene Road.
Since 1992, the primary objective of the festival has been to educate the public in the ceramic arts. The event is free to the public and will consist of several demonstrations on four stages throughout both days. Children will have the opportunity to participate in a booth where they can form and keep clay pieces.
Phil May of Water’s Edge Pottery in Canyon Lake said, “The Texas Clay Festival is a wonderful place to bring family and let the kids get dirty. We are trying to build more potters. We don’t want this to die.” May further explained the passion he and the other 49 participating clay workers have for the thousands-year-old art. “There is a saying that the soul gets out in a fingerprint or flaw in hand-made pottery,” he said.
Each year thousands of spectators reflect a similar passion for clay work by coming from all over the country. “We have people come from as far away as California and Minnesota,” May said. “Texas is the hot spot for clay.” He said that central Texas, in particular, is recognized as an important region for clay work. “Most articles that are written for a national audience will generally include some mention of an artist from within a 100 mile radius of Gruene,” May said.
Although people from all over the United States will come to see and learn, the exhibitors are all Texan. The show was filled by invitation only based upon following criteria: A willingness to teach and share knowledge, the quality of work, and the level of friendliness. “It’s not your normal art show,” May said.
Clay artists and potters will line the grounds of Buck Pottery in tents. The weather will not be a factor based on past experience. Two years ago, the show went on in spite of local roads being closed due to heavy rains. According to May, spectators and demonstrators are so committed to this event that one of the founders, Terry Buck, believes that people would “...slog through pond scum” to participate. This year, as always, the event will take place rain or shine.
According to Terry Buck, “Gruene is the perfect location because of the dance hall, and wonderful shops and restaurants.” She said that the weather does not interfere much with the event because people simply shop, dine or dance if they need to wait for rain bursts to pass.
Terry Buck and her husband, Dee Buck founded Texas Clay Festival with a group of friends about 13 years ago. Among them were Blanco residents Jon and Jan Brieger; Jim Dale from Salado; Billy Ray and Beverly Mangham of San Marcus; Michael and Gaye Lynn Hodgson from Wimberley, and Frank Campbell, formerly of Gruene.
“Potters are generous people who are usually willing to share what they know,” said Terry Buck. “This event has an educational and exchange of information aspect to it that is so unlike any other show.”
Students and graduates from several universities attend the festival to glean knowledge and observe the demonstrations.
Some clay scholars, like recent Texas State University graduate Cecy Holcomb, volunteer to help keep the demonstration area running smoothly. For the past three years, Holcomb has assisted the professional potters in their work at the Texas Clay Festival. She said the experience is well worth her time. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know artists and see them work,” she said. “They all have so much experience and a willingness to share ideas and techniques.”
In addition to students and hobbyists, several fans come to see the displays year after year. Tom and Cathy Talcott of New Braunfels have been attending the festival since their college-age daughter was a child.
Cathy Talcott said, “Terry and Dee Buck provide a wonderful opportunity not only for Texas clay artists to display their talents, but also a rare treat for the public to both view and purchase their art.”
She also said the event can be an all-day activity, or a five-minute walk through, depending on the individual’s schedule. She concluded by saying, “The art represents both functional and fun pieces ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime.”
To find Gruene from Canyon Lake, take FM 306 toward 1-35. Turn right on Hunter Road and follow the signs to Gruene Historical District. For more information about the festival, visit www.texasclayfestival.com.