Meet Your Maker On the Maine Pottery Tour

The annual tour fosters connections between the people who make pottery and the people who buy it.

Portland’s Guenola Lefeuvre carves unique textures into her porcelain work, hence her studio name, Textured Porcelain.
By Adrienne Perron
From our May 2023 issue

These days, a man makes you something and you never see his face,” Don Henley sang, back in the ’80s. That line, from a solo track by the Eagles drummer, has always resonated with Lori Keenan Watts, a ceramicist who owns Fine Mess Pottery, in Augusta. Machines make most of the objects in people’s homes, which doesn’t sit well with Watts. “There are potters in every Maine community,” she says. “And people can have a deeper appreciation of handmade work if they see who made it and where they made it.”

That’s why Watts organizes the Maine Pottery Tour, a weekend-long, self-guided driving tour of studios across Maine. For 11 years, on the first weekend in May, ceramicists have welcomed the public into their studios for demonstrations and workshops. Watts even invites visitors to help her unload soda-fired stoneware pottery from the kiln.

Clockwise from top left: Jeffrey Lipton’s finished pottery often features images of fantasy or farm animals, drawn with glaze; in Swanville, Jody Johnstone’s 24-foot-long anagama tunnel kiln holds up to 800 pots; Portsmouth’s Stephen Zoldak demonstrates slip-trail decorating by applying patterns on clay using a bottle; York potter Amy Clark puts a copper finish on her Ocean Fire Pottery pieces using a wood-fired kiln; Joshua David Rysted makes slab-built and wheel-thrown pottery in the Bethel studio he shares with his wife, potter Martha Grover.

The tour started back in 2011, when she and six other ceramicists decided to coordinate open houses on the same weekend. Word spread, and more fellow ceramicists have signed on each year — this year finds the circuit populated with 65 makers of both functional pieces and fine art. Their studios speckle the map as far north as Phillips, east as East Machias, and south as Kittery; Watts posts four regional maps on the website to help with planning road trips. 

During last year’s tour, nearly 5,000 visitors stopped by the studios — and Watts hopes they left with a little deeper relationship to their ceramic belongings. “When you wrap your hands around a handmade mug or bowl and it keeps you warm,” she says, “you know the person who made it for you had the idea of nourishing you.”

The 2023 Maine Pottery Tour will be May 6, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and May 7, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.