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Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild celebrates 50 years of clay

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In Haslett, tucked inside thick brush along a dirt road off Old M-78, is a tiny office building. Inside there aren’t desks, water coolers or computers. This is the Greater Lansing’s Potter Guild, where local artists have congregated for 50 years to escape daily life through clay.

The group of unapologetic potters return with their semi-annual sale at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Lansing complete with handmade dinnerware, mugs, plant pots and an assortment of ceramic décor. All dinnerware is food safe and dishwasher safe.

The guild’s fall mega sale started shortly after forming in 1969. Founding member and president Barbara Hyman said the group formed after Lou Raynor, who chaired Michigan State University’s ceramics program at the time, continued receiving requests from former students and Lansing residents to use the university’s facilities.

“He indicated that we should start a guild,” said Hyman, who was one of the clay students who never left after graduating. “Two women, both faculty wives, put out a call and a whole bunch of us went to the East Lansing Public Library in the fall of 1969 and agreed that we would start this guild.”

The “call” was an ad in the now defunct East Lansing Towne Courier, which caught the attention of East Lansing newcomer Kay Fitzgerald.

“I was very interested in getting a guild going because I had been a student at the Ann Arbor Guild and I found it extremely exciting experience. I couldn’t think about anything bust clay,” Fitzgerald said in the guild’s short film, “50 years of Clay.”

Members put in $50 each and with the help from their families and friends they plowed the land and installed a poll barn, kiln and bathroom by hand.

In 1975, an overheated furnace burst into flames wiping out Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild headquarters. When the firetrucks arrived and started making plans to extinguish the red-hot kiln, Hyman said the president at the time acted swiftly to save the pots.

“She said if you are going to do it, please let me get in my car and get out of here because it’s going to be very dangerous, and they decided to not put the fire out,” said Hyman, who was joined in laughter by several members working in the studio, many of who m can recall the fire and requisite reconstruction.

Today, the group comprises of about 30 hardcore ceramicists who maintain the studio religiously. Like any idyllic civilization, there are incentives for taking care of the space and serving the community, to one of the newest members, Barbara Hranilovich said.

“You work various jobs and we help each other with everything and it’s really like a family, but when you do that work you get points and each point is worth a cubic inch of firing of your pot,” Hranilovich said.

But what’s more impressive than their weekly chore lists and regular sales is how they’ve continued their camaraderie for the past 50 years.

“I’ve worked in a studio my whole life, but the camaraderie here is unusual. You can chit chat or enter your zone and be left alone,” Hranilovich said. “We are all curious, which I can say ‘we’ now and it feels great, but it’s a really a curious and experimental bunch.”

Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild fall sale

Thursday, Nov. 21 to Saturday, Nov. 23

All Saint Episcopal Church

800 Abbott Road, East Lansing

(517) 351-7160

Allsaints-el.org

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