KINGSTON, R.I. — For nearly half a century, the South County Art Association’s annual Pottery and Art Sale has provided a place for shoppers to add some handcrafted mugs, bowls, teapots, sculptures, paintings, jewelry, ornaments and other goods to their holiday shopping list while supporting local artists and artisans.
Now in its 49th year, the sale is going as strong as ever, bringing in over $50,000 annually in sales, 70 percent of which goes directly to each of the 80 SCAA member artists who put their pieces on the market.
“They work all year creating beautiful things and this is the opportunity we give them as a non-profit,” SCAA Executive Director Kathleen Carland said. “Basically we’re here for the artists to be able to promote their artwork.”
With both the quality and range of products, Carland believes the sale is unlike any other in Rhode Island.
“This is a sale like no other because we have the most beautiful pottery anywhere I think,” Carland said. “The variety and the beauty of it is pretty much not comparable to anyone else in this state. We have a variety of mediums, so if you look at the whole sale, I think of it as something that’s from the most practical things, to gifts that are so beautiful that you have to buy it, it’s just amazing.”
Products range from everyday household items such as bowls, mugs, teapots and platters to more creative sculptures, jewelry, wood carvings and other art pieces, and according to Carland, the large and ever-changing quantity makes every shopping experience at the sale unique.
“Every day literally you can look at a different sale because things sell and new stock is introduced, so people are coming in on any given day and they’re seeing different work from the day before,” Carland said.
Now in her third year working on the sale, Carland says the planning and preparation for it is a year-long process, with a 12-member committee beginning to organize the event as early as January. All of the artists who participate do so voluntarily, taking on such tasks as decorating and setting up the sale to selling their own pieces.
“It’s very much a group effort and all focused on the same thing: to help people give a gift of beauty and joy to themselves and to others and it’s terrific,” Carland said.
For artist and committee chair Lynn Moulton, the sale first brought her into the SCAA when she came to the area four years ago and quickly fell in love with the community she found.
“I joined the South County Art Association to participate in the sale because I was new to being an artist who sells and a friend of mine said this is a really good opportunity, it’s sort of low pressure but it’s a great community of supportive artists, so I joined the association, which was kind of a win-win for me because I joined this association of great artists and learned a lot from them,” Moulton said.
She called her first sale a good commercial experience and one that inspired her to take on a bigger role within the organization.
“I didn’t sell much, but I did learn a lot about what sells and I tailored what I made for the sale the next year and then I joined the committee to help run it and now I’m chair of the committee to help run it,” Moulton said.
A woodworker, Moulton mainly makes large and elaborate wooden wall art, which is what she sold her first year, but soon found more success with making smaller, more holiday-themed pieces.
“I started making money when I started making ornaments,” Moulton said with a laugh. “I make wood ornaments now and that’s been very successful, I think that’s what people come to the holiday art sale to look for.”
As a 2D artist, Moulton says she always reminds customers to look at the walls and ceiling and check out all of the 2D pieces that cover the studio.
“When I walk in there, I’m just overwhelmed by a room packed full of unique objects made by creative people,” Moulton said.
“Well I can say personally, and I think I echo the feelings of many of the artists, that the South County Art Association Holiday Sale is something we look forward to every year,” fellow SCAA member and artist Paula Guida said. “It provides us not only with an opportunity to sell our own art, but to admire the beauty and creativity of the art of other SCAA members.”
As an artist, Guida describes the sale as “a feast for the senses” and says the ability to interact up close and personal with prospective buyers and fellow artists is one of the best parts of it.
“When I am working the sales floor I have an opportunity to hear the comments made about my pieces and often am able to interact with the shoppers,” Guida said. “They often have questions about my work which gives me the chance to discuss my process with them and I am also able to talk to them about the work of the other artists since I know so many of them.”
All artists involved said the sale has already been a success since opening last Friday, with sales even bigger than expected and looking to continue that way through its final day on Dec. 21, and with next year being the sale’s 50th anniversary, the planning is already on the minds of members.
“It’s going to be a big year next year,” Moulton said. “We’ve had a record-breaking first weekend, we have three more weeks to go so we have very high hopes for this sale, but we’re already thinking about next year,” adding there’s “lots and lots” of planning put in year round.
“I didn’t necessarily know what went into all year long planning for it, executing it, staffing it for three weeks, everything that goes into making this commercial opportunity happen for the artists and now I know in great detail what was involved and I love it,” Moulton said. “I love being able to participate in giving back to a community that has given me a lot since I moved here.”
The Holiday Sale runs Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Dec. 21. The hours are extended to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, with the SCAA holding special Sip and Shop hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
“We’ll have malt cider, we’ll have win, snacks, holiday music to get in the spirit and (it’s) a great time to shop for couples or anyone,” Carland said.
In addition, customers who shop during Sip and Shop hours will also receive a discount coupon to dine at TRIO in Narragansett.
The 49th Annual Holiday Pottery & Art Sale can be found during business hours at the SCAA’s studio location at 2587 Kingstown Road in Kingston. For further information on the event and organization, call the SCAA at 401-783-2195 or email them at email@example.com.