There is a small, hardcore group of British potters that each year make long journeys to Ceramic Markets across Europe. That band is getting smaller, the streets are not paved with Euros and the costs keep going up. Traditionally these markets in France, Germany and Holland are set in town centres, sponsored and supported by civic groups. People flock to them in their thousands, crowds of up to forty thousand visitors help boost the local economy.
In England we prefer to hide the events away in the grounds of monuments and stately homes, drive there and ask folks to pay to get in, we don't always feed them well either. You get four thousand visitors if you are lucky.
The mainstay of these European markets are stacks of well made earthenware, stoneware and salt glazed, plates, cups and bowls. Slowly that is being replaced with more and more studio pottery, figurative, sculptural or highly decorative pieces with big ticket prices, not out of place in smart, city centre galleries. Sadly the galleries are disappearing too. Why buy at gallery prices, with added tax and commission, when you can meet the artist and negotiate a good price?
In Holland some of the events are organised by local potters groups, they are inexpensive, include potters' meals, competitions with prizes and lots of trade stalls where one can stock up with all manner of materials. In Germany the big markets have prestigious money prizes, opportunities for exhibitions and sponsored residencies for the winners.
But that is not why we do it. It's the sense of adventure, meeting fellow potters, understanding new approaches to working with clay. It's a chance to go to new places, often really beautiful and interesting, places you would never think of going to otherwise, meet and make new friends, see some great work and if the weather is good, even better. You may be lucky and sell enough work to pay for the trip and have a little holiday on the way back.
Brexit? Who knows, even the politicians who wanted it and sold it, can't agree what it was they really wanted, even less how they hoped to deliver whatever that was. Yet it looms large over us.
I rather like the idea that I can pack some pots into the van, drive anywhere in Europe without any hassle. Sell a few pots and have a good time. It's great that our European friends can come to England too, share their skill, knowledge and ideas with us also, for pretty much the same reasons.
We hope to go back again this year and long may we do so.