This Saturday, July 15, visitors will descend on Waterbury for the town's annual Arts Fest and Mini Maker Faire. Alongside those festivities, another, brand-new party will take place: Local ceramicist Jeremy Ayers will host "Artist as Designer: Exhibition, Demonstrations & Sale." In his studio, 10 artists invited by Ayers and his wife, Georgia Ayers, will set up shop to hawk their wares and demonstrate their creative processes.
The event site is the courtyard of Ayers' family home in the heart of Waterbury. In the barn where he turns out his singular ceramics, his great-great-grandfather once made sleighs and carriages. That legacy of functional design will be in evidence on Saturday with the display of objects in a variety of mediums, from wood to leather to metal.
The participants include Matt Renna of Queen City Dry Goods, Matt Hastings of Riven custom woodwork, jewelers Jane Frank and Rebecca Haas, textile artist Marta Sulocka, porcelain artist Tabbatha Henry, wood turner Nick Rosato, and Megan Weaver of 200Lemons Design. In addition, Carolinne and Dylan Griffin will share images from their online publication, State 14, which documents people and happenings in Vermont.
"We wanted to find likeminded artists who make handmade functional art for home and lifestyle," Ayers explains. "Everyone kind of embraces slow design, conscious consumerism, and makes products for people who consider how [their] purchases impact their personal environment and the larger environment. Everyone involved is making pretty thoughtful objects."
Hastings says that about half of his work is custom furniture, so he doesn't typically participate in craft shows. "The thing that drew me the most to this event is Jeremy and Georgia," he notes. "They're wonderful people. Together they have eyes on the change that's been happening in Vermont craft and design."
Hastings continues, "I think there's this coming up of people who are working in a really modern context, with a more minimal and focused design aesthetic than has traditionally been associated with Vermont crafts."
He's not the only designer in this group who eschews craft shows. What distinguishes Saturday's event, Ayers says, is that "it's more of an interactive show."
The ceramicist says doing demonstrations at the Burlington City Arts Summer Artist Market, which he helps organize, inspired the format for this event. "I have sold my pottery at the [market] for more than 10 years, and I always demonstrate out there," he says. "It spurs so many conversations."
Jeremy and Georgia Ayers have also lined up food and drink vendors. "We're setting up a picnicking area with blankets and wicker chairs," Jeremy says. "We're billing it as a great event for people who are interested in art, with kids."
All of Saturday's festivities work toward the goal of building an arts scene in Waterbury. "There isn't much of one here except us and Axel's Gallery & Frame Shop," Ayers says. "We've got a unique space, and we're going to start doing more events. This is just our first stab."