BENNINGTON — Jonathan Woodward has spun pottery for more than four decades in Clinton, N.Y., and he has showcased at the Southern Vermont Craft Festival for years. He started at 16 and has only evolved his product style, production team and passion for handmade pottery.
This is the fourth year the craft festival has been held at Camelot Village in Bennington after previously being held in Manchester for 32 years. Roughly 125 exhibitors set up shop from Friday to Sunday and collaborated with downtown organizers on Bennington Arts Weekend. Food, live music and much more was experienced by all ages.
Woodward got into the pottery business after participating in an apprenticeship in the United Kingdom for four years and later he generated his own glaze and clay formula. He works with a manufacturing company in Pennsylvania, but all other production is done in his home with his family, which takes part in presenting their own pottery collections.
Typically Woodward gives away hundreds of tiny pots to children — about the size of a thumb — during the festival, but this year he did a different demonstration. He learned about Raku ware from a companion in Newfane; it's a Japanese pottery technique done by using low fire temperatures, lead glazes and removing the piece from the kiln while it's still glowing hot, Woodward explained. The shock of open air temperature is what gives the piece its unique design — also known as oxidation reduction. The technique was most commonly used to create tea bowls. Woodward has performed Raku for about 15 years.
"I've streamlined," he said. "I find ways to make things more efficient and take less time and effort. We're serious about it."
Clinton Pottery has a showroom in the town, a gallery online and sells at a handful of shows in the Northeast every year. An additional line produced by team member Nancy Webber involves real leaves from the Hamilton College campus and around Clinton which are imprinted onto plates and bowls. Woodward said they commemorate the trees in the area, especially if they're torn down. The potters produce for holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions, such as a graduation mug for Hamilton College each year. Woodward said most business is done at the craft shows, however.
"The alphabet doesn't end at 'z.' You have to keep searching," he said regarding his career and craftsmanship. "Evolution is a fact of life."
Woodward is now 60 and declared that he's happy with his low maintenance life and business. He doesn't want employees or a big company, but rather a beer and a place to sleep.
Other products at the festival included glow-in-the-dark glass globes and structures, handmade jewelry, clothing and furniture and candles that can be used as moisturizer.
Christine and Ron Mann sold 100 percent soy candles that smelled like "Reindeer Poop" and "Monkey Farts," but consumers didn't mind. Christine Mann claimed "Reindeer Poop" to be the most popular during the winter holidays.
Wick-It Cool Candles is a father-daughter home operation based out of Hollis, N.H., with more than 15 types of candle scents. The candles have an all-cotton wick and once the wax starts burning, it can be used as a massage lotion. Unscented candles are also sold.
"Me and dad have been doing it for 10 years," Christine Mann said. "It's our first time here. I'm a full-time medical assistant so [Wick-It Cool Candles] something to keep me busy."
The candles burn more than 80 hours, Christine Mann said. The duo usually markets at the Boston Flower and Garden Show, Rhode Island Flower Show, Boston Christmas Show, New Hampshire for The Holidays Expo and the Deerfield Fair.
Other exhibitors traveled from all over greater New England, New York and other East Coast states.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.