Boating Adventures | "All Kinds of Community" by Vicki Totten

Community: "A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals."

Caption Right: Randy Brodnax getting ready for a firing. All Photos Courtesy of Texas Clay Festival

How do you define yourself? Most of us, if we think about it, define ourselves based on our communities. I used to define myself as being part of the "therapeutic community" and then the "academic community" before becoming part of the "retirement community" and "boating community." But some of the communities I am part of are ones I married into - like the clay community.

I managed to marry into the clay community because my husband Stan is a clay artist. And, after 29 years of up close contact with this community, I cannot imagine a nicer group of people to have married into. There is something about an artist's choice of clay as their medium that sets them apart from other artists. The clay artists I know are such down to earth people - which I suppose makes sense if you think about the medium they are dealing with - right?

The reason I have been thinking about this particular community instead of my boating community (and the boating adventures I have not been having) is because the Texas Clayfest is coming up this weekend. So, instead of spending time on the boat, Stan has been in the studio getting ready for this once a year juried show. The Texas Clayfest in Gruene Texas is the place where you will find some of the best clay artists in Texas. And it's the place where my gratitude and admiration for this group of folks really blossomed.

Stan Irvin doing a demonstration

If you have ever attended Clayfest, you know what a fun and festive event it is. You have more than 60 clay artists spread out in tents under the oak trees in the middle of Gruene, Texas. There are pottery demonstrations going on all day, music being spontaneously played in the booths, children running around, and lots and lots of smiles and laughter everywhere. But unless you are one of the artists or helpers or family members - you may not know about Clay Church.

Clay Church is the place where I really came to appreciate the clay community and the special bond they have with one another. How to describe it? On Sunday morning, a few hours before the show begins, you'll see the artists and workers arriving, walking through the grass armed with homemade breakfast casseroles, fruit salads, fresh biscuits and sausages, donuts, and pound cakes along with other goodies to share.

Clay church happens while everyone is enjoying a pot luck brunch sitting together under the trees and inside a large tent. You know the program is starting when you hear The Star Spangled Banner - played by Max Butler on a saw. Sometimes someone will have written a song specifically for Clayfest, or other times it might be music just to get people moving and awake. There is usually some prepared remarks by some of the founders of the show, along with lots of accolades for various folks there, welcoming newcomers to the show, and acknowledging changes among long time clay artists in attendance.

Max Butler - making art when not making music.

I always get teary during these remarks because they are typically addressing a sense of gratitude for being there and being part of this community. Sometimes the remarks will talk about overcoming adversity or responding to change, other times the remarks might be based upon some inspirational reading the speaker has been doing and finding a way to connect that reading to the work of the artist and to the community. What I find so moving about all of this is the obvious sense of connection the artists have with one another - and the supportive atmosphere present. Isn't that why we form communities? So that we can feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves?

So since we've needed to be in Austin so Stan could be in the studio getting ready for this weekend, I don't have any boating adventures to share. Instead, I thought I would tell you about Texas Clayfest - and encourage folks to come check it out for yourself. And, based on the forecast, be sure to bring your umbrella - and be sure to come by Stan Irvin's, Jim Bob Salazar's (his wife Candice also writes for the WWN), or any of the other clay artists booths to say hi and view some beautiful clay art.

A Sampling of Stan Irvin's New Clay Work

Texas Clayfest Community of Artists


Vicki Totten and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat and are still working up the nerve to venture further out into the Gulf.

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