'I'll Drink To That': Mugs - like art - come in all shapes and sizes

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NORTH ADAMS — Tall mugs. Short mugs. Mugs with or without handles. Mugs with astronaut cats on them.

"I'll Drink To That," a show of drinking vessels made by 25 local and national artists at the Eclipse Mill Gallery, has them all.

And the best part, according to co-curator Phil Sellers, is that all the mugs and cups can be purchased and taken home immediately.

"You don't have to put the little red dot next to it and come back a month later to pick up your piece. It's cash and carry," he said, noting that at least half of the artists have sold pieces. "It's been very successful so far. We keep hearing that people love it and hope that it becomes an annual event."

It all started with an idea and a "wish list" populated with names of potters — some local, some national, said Gail Sellers, who with her husband, Phil, owns River Hill Pottery at the Eclipse Mill.

"We were brainstorming and [MCLA Gallery 51 manager] Art De Bow came up with concept of 'I'll Drink to That'," she said.

The concept seemed easy enough to bring to fruition.

"Every potter makes mugs," Phil said. "No matter what type of ceramics you make, you make mugs. They are also easy to ship and reasonable when it comes to the purchase price. We asked each artist for a minimum of four and a maximum of 12."

Together the trio compiled a list of potters who they would love to work with.

"Art is from Portland where he was the exhibitions director at Oregon College of Art and Craft. He has many wonderful contacts on the west coast," he said. They also enlisted the help of Astrid Hiemer, another mill resident, who provided many contacts in the Boston area.

Invitations were sent across the country to artists in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Virginia and Florida. Other were sent to closer locales in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts. A total of 60 potters were invited.

"We had 25 responses from artists who sent us work," he said. "We had many potters, who couldn't participate, respond positively, saying they were in the middle of their busy season and to keep them in mind for next year."

Among those participating is John Baymore, an internationally known tea bowl artist and adjunct faculty member of the New Hampshire Institute of art.

"His work is known in Japan," Phil said of the artist who sent two mugs with overglaze enamel and luster firings, as well as Chawan and Yunomi tea bowls.

Local artists in the show include Dan Bellows, Stephanie Boyd, Amrita Lash, Jackie Sedlack, Chris Warren and the Sellers. Other artists include Seth Barendse, of Florida; Dawn Banker, Janet Buskirk, Shiloh Gastello, Jim Koudelka and Kim Murton of Oregon; Hayne Bayless of Conneticut; Dan Finnegan of Virginia; Steven Branfman, Molly Cantor, Ellen Schon and Kathi Tighe of Massachusetts; Todd Wahlstrom of Vermont; Sam and Kelly MacKenzie of Washington; and Paul McMullin of New Hampshire.

"It was really fun unwrapping each and every piece that came in," Phil said. "I became inspired. I've changed the way I make my own mugs. I used to make them very straight, now I'm experimenting with fat-bellies and texture. It's been a lot of fun."


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