Potomac Clay Weekend: get out and explore your rivers!


The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers are waiting for you.  The C&O Canal and Appalachian Trail are in wildflower bloom.  Get out and explore!  By connecting with our own waterways, our watershed, we find a contentment and richness in or lives…it’s worth it.

***Potomac Clay Weekend Map***

Kirke Martin and M4 Studios, Bill Van Gilder Pottery, Lisa Kovatch Pottery, Pam and Ren Parziale and Sycamore Pottery, and Joy Bridy Pottery are all in their studios this weekend, looking forward to hearing about your adventures along the rivers and trails, and showing you their newest works.  See Pam’s traditional brushwork of birds, Lisa’s stylized carvings of nature’s vines and birds, Bill’s huts inspired by his time in Africa, Kirke’s wood fired aesthetics paired with spring’s branches, and Joy’s kinetic sculptures in action (workshop Sunday at noon).

And while you’re out and about, it’s also the second annual South Mountain Festival, the 7th annual Panhandle Earth Day Celebration at Morgans Grove Park, Stony Field Farm’s kickoff farm day, Harpers Ferry Bolivar Art Walk, and the Jefferson and Berkeley County House and Garden Tour, for starts.  Something for everyone on this gorgeous April weekend….see you out there!


Profile: Joy Bridy Pottery

Artist potter by trade, community member at heart, Joy Bridy Pottery sits among the rocks and trees of a few small acres, keeping the connections between art and nature thriving and growing in her own studio and in the hearts of those around her.

Joy Bridy Pottery

Her passions are in the exploratory moments of making, whether in the repetitive variations of getting to know a form over time, or in the impromptu making explosion of taking clay to young people.  The wood fired kiln that she designed and built lends a complexity to the surface of her work that draws directly from nature, and allows the collaboration between fire and clay to be evident on the surface of the pots, for those looking closely.

Joy Bridy Pottery: bottle

On April 26, as part of Potomac Clay Weekend, Joy is offering a ‘kinetic sculpture’ workshop….bring your nature finds from your hikes and explorations, and use clay as the balance to make a mobile, either suspended from above, or balanced on a point.  ($25 per mobile, groups or solo, all ages welcome)

Just a few miles from both the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, she is an avid walker of the C&O Canal, partly because her pooch insists on regular visits, and partly because the repetition of walking the same piece of nature draws her attention to the details and subtle changes of the seasons.  Stop in to see Joy and (and Buddy the studio pooch) during Potomac Clay Weekend, April 25 & 26, and catch a glimpse into her blend of nature and function, making and being.

dutchmans britches


Profile: Sycamore Pottery

Moving to a new place is always a little scarey, but as soon as I met Pam and Ren Parziale, I knew that I’d be just fine in my new home community.  Fast-forward seven years, and the Sycamore Potters have become not only phenomenal community and mentors, but also good friends.  We share a love for truly functional pots, delicious regional homemade food, and swapping stories over a glass of wine.

Pam and Ren are the duo behind Sycamore Pottery.  They are the living bridge between the historical potters who roamed these hills in the previous centuries, and the future young makers coming aboard.  With their foundational understanding of the importance of handmade functional pottery, and their deep aesthetic drive for a beautiful life well lived, they bring passion and flavor to our contemporary times.

Pam Parziale: Sycamore Pottery


Their location, tucked in a woody hillside outside of Leetown, is a piece of art that they created together, from planting the trees that now tower over their open spaces, to building the structures and kilns that make up their work and lives.  Natural harmony is the thread through all that they do….take a walk around their place and you see their pots and brushwork details all around them.

Ren w porcelain bowl IMG_2701

While Pam and Ren are the furthest away (of the Potomac Clay Weekend studios) from the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, they are just a short jaunt from the Opequon Creek, which is a direct tributary into the Potomac River.  So take a detour during Potomac Clay Weekend to see one of the Potomac Watershed tributaries, and stop in to meet two amazing potters and devoted community members.  You won’t be sorry you did.  And, yes, they do laugh most of the time. (wink)


Profile: Bill van Gilder Pottery

Bill van Gilder Pottery makes his pots in an old restored barn right along the Appalachian Trail, at Gathland State Park, atop South Mountain.  His barn and historic gatehouse home set the aesthetic tone for his work and life.

Bill van Gilder Pottery

Deeply involved in the South Mountain creative community, Bill’s gallery and studio are open every weekend, and weekdays by appointment.  You can get a taste for local flavors by parking at the Gathland parking lot, hiking north or south on the AT, stopping in for a taste of a potter’s life, then driving down the road a bit to the Distillery Lane Ciderworks, Caprikorn Farms, or any of the other local delectables nearby.  This year, Potomac Clay Weekend falls on the same weekend as South Mountain Spring Festival, so there is double to do up on the mountain.

Bill van Gilder pots

Giving workshops and demonstrations from near to far, local to international, making his own line of tools…Bill takes the potter’s life to heart.  You can tell that he’s been potting since he was 15 years old, but ask him about his travels, and you’ll be charmed for sure.  His pots are truly functional, meant for use every day in your kitchen and home.  His teaching skills are all about making excellent functional pottery.  With upcoming workshops in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, grab an opportunity to learn from the real deal, where you can see his ease with the clay, learn a new move or two, and get out hiking somewhere new and exciting.

Bill van Gilder Pottery


Profile: Lisa Kovatch Pottery

Nestled on a side street of Harpers Ferry WV, Lisa Kovatch is at the heart of the Potomac Region, literally blocks from the Potomac River, the Shenandoah River, the C & O Canal, and the Appalachian Trail.

Lisa Kovatch Pottery

Her studio, a nifty little structure heated by a little potbelly wood stove, is tucked next to her home on a sloped piece of heaven.  Through her work, it’s obvious that she spends time paying attention to her surroundings, and particularly picks up on the region’s birds.  The layers of moss on a tree or fence, colors and textures of the surrounding summer flowers, and the critters that visit…nature informs her work in both content and color.  She’s a creative gardener, committed to adding a Monarch garden sanctuary this year.

Lisa’s work is primarily functional earthenware, both thrown on the wheel and handbuilt with forms.  I can attest that her mugs are fabulous and made for use, as one of her owl mugs has been in regular rotation in my kitchen for years, and her platters come in handy…in use more often than at rest.

Lisa Kovatch bird plate

While she spends part of her time managing Westwind Potters in the historic downtown section of Harpers Ferry, most of her time and creativity are spent on her own pottery.  Stop in to her studio during the Potomac Clay Weekend, or contact her to visit during other times.  You won’t be sorry, and you just may find a bit of nature’s cheer to take home with you.


Profile: Kirke Martin & M4 Studios

Swirling with kiddos running in blurrs, stopping just long enough to flash their raccoon tail pinned on their jacket, a stop at Kirke Martin’s M4 Studios and home is a feast for the senses. As a dad of three young boys, Kirke has kept his hands in clay, but has also kept his family outside, in the rivers and on the trails.

kirke martin and family

Nestled in the hills of Keedysville MD, Kirke fires two wood kilns, works on the wheel and handbuilds, and dapples in a bit of local clay usage.  His pots have subtle surfaces, whispering about the ash and flame, mimicking the woodlands and rivers, giving you a moment to rest your eyes before continuing on in your day.

M4 Studios

Kirke teaches handbuilding on Sundays at The Art League, in Alexandria VA (class listings here), and at the Frederick Clay Studio‘s tuesday night wheel class.

As a nod to his heritage and training, Kirke is part of the Apprenticelines exhibit in Providence RI this month, as part of NCECA, the National Conference for Education in Ceramic Arts.

As a founding member of Potomac Clay Weekend, Kirke represents a lively blend of a life focused in clay, and active in nature.  Kayaking, skiing, biking, running, hiking….he does it all, and with his family.  Not shy to steep Appalachian Trail hikes, or kayaking with 5, Kirke can answer your questions about ‘getting out there’ with your family, or good spots for short legs and arms to learn the ropes.

And when you come in off of the river, take a short detour to M4 Studios….you just may find a cup or plate that reflects the water’s surface today, or the chance to sign up for one of his classes to learn more.