Crowds will go potty for ceramics at Scone Palace
From humble beginnings in a Perth cattle market, Potfest Scotland has truly made its mark on the Scottish Arts Festival calendar. By Nan Spowart
THEY’VE not yet visited Scotland’s most important ceramic event but organiser Matt Cox likes to joke that it is only a matter of time before Jennifer Anniston, Brad Pitt or Leonardo di Caprio makes an appearance.
“Ceramics seem to be a bit of a craze in Hollywood at the moment with Brad Pitt, Seth Rogan and Leonardo di Caprio all taking it up during lockdown,” he said. Aniston, meanwhile, showed interest in a video recorded recently at a Potfest event south of the Border which had 4.5m views.
The Hollywood stars are part of a growing number of people interested in ceramics and who have helped make Scotland’s annual Potfest the second biggest event of its type in the UK, with up to 1500 people attending each day of the three day festival in the beautiful grounds of Scone Palace.
This year it is even bigger, with close to 100 exhibitors, including a fairly large contingent from the south and north of Ireland. The number of visitors is also growing every year, drawn by the quality of the work on show as well as the glorious setting.
“It’s very much a boom time for ceramics at the moment,” said Matt. “Post pandemic all of the shows in the last couple of years have absolutely exploded. I don’t know if that is partly to do with people becoming a little bit more craft focused over the pandemic or whether the Great Pottery Throwdown on TV has had an influence.”
During the pandemic, Potfest was one of the few arts festivals that managed to keep going as they were classed as outdoor events because all the sides of the marquees are kept open.
“The idea is that we hold the shows in beautiful places so it would seem an absolute waste to hold a show with such fantastic vistas but then put it inside a tent so you can’t see any of the surroundings,” said Matt. “We always open the sides of the tents up, which meant that during the pandemic they were judged to be outdoor events and we were able to run all the way through.”
The Scone Palace venue is particularly beautiful and many people make a day of it, picnicking on the palace lawns and viewing the gardens as well as the pottery on show.
To keep the festival fresh, Matt tries to give a platform to new exhibitors every year and this time there are around a dozen who have never exhibited at Potfest before.
In addition, there are some welcome returnees such as Tony Laverick from Staffordshire and Chiu-i Wu from York whose unique ceramics usually sell out.
There will also be demonstrations by the Scottish Pottery Association and Rob Whitfield who will demonstrate raku firing.
Exhibitors have, as usual, been asked to take part in the popular annual competition which has the theme this year of nursery rhymes. “The idea is that it gives people an opportunity to think outside the box a little and make some work that is different from what they normally do,” said Matt.
“That often sparks the creative process and people’s work ends up developing a bit. The public vote for their favourite piece each day and it is one of those things that really seems to click with visitors.”
For those who do not want to take a picnic there are plenty of refreshments available.
“Scone is a beautiful venue and people enjoy wandering round the show, the grounds and the gardens. They speak to the exhibitors, watch a demo and it’s great to see them interacting with the competition entries, debating with their friends and picking their favourite piece” said Matt.
His parents, Chris and Geoff, were potters and began Potfest Scotland at Perth agricultural mart over 25 years ago after successfully holding a similar event in Cumbria. Inspired by pottery markets on the continent, the Cumbrian market was the first of its kind in the UK and sprang from their frustration at the lack of opportunities for ceramic artists to show off their work.
Visitors can preview the work of those taking part in Potfest Scotland or any of the other Potfest events by visiting the Potfest website where tickets can be purchased in advance. Some tickets will also be held back for sale at the gate, each day.
Potfest takes place from June 9-11 at Scone Palace. See www.potfest.co.uk