Art in Appalachia has a strongly rooted history that has been passed from generation to generation.
Due in large part to the isolation and mountainous terrain of the region, many practical crafts have been carefully preserved for centuries. From woodworking and broom making to music and instruments, there is no shortage of talent being churned out of the Mountain State, and the State Fair of West Virginia has been a major proponent of keeping the arts alive.
One such artist, Maryanne Tuck Grimmett, has been throwing her art into the world for over a decade – literally, since her craft is pottery that is thrown on the wheel.
As a West Virginia potter with a studio in Union, WV, Grimmett has started her own traditions at the fair and is now going on her sixth year as an artisan vendor at the annual event.
The craft was love at first sight for Grimmett, who went on to train herself for several years and to later create her business, Pottery by Maryanne.
“Pottery is such a personal craft,” she explained, “every single item I produce is handcrafted and requires multiple steps to take it from start to completion. It’s so empowering to know that these pieces of art would not exist if it were not for me.”
Her pottery pieces are functional household items that her customers can incorporate into their daily lives. She crafts bowls, butter dishes, spoon rests, crocks, platters, and plates, but she has a proclivity for mugs.
“I have customers who come year after year to add to their collection, who incorporate my pieces into their gift giving, who make my pottery part of their daily rhythms and routines. I am truly honored by that,” she stated.
Some of her favorite products that she crafts include Rotten Tomato Mugs, which are intentionally misshapen and colored with wild whimsy so that no two pieces are ever exactly alike.
Grimmett tries to incorporate this same whimsical element into her setups, and her booth at the fair will be no exception.
Fairgoers won’t be able to miss her pottery display under the grandstand because her setup will include an eye-catching, seafoam green Shasta Airflyte camper named Bernadette Irene, which will be surrounded by bright pink flamingoes.
“My pottery business brings me so much joy,” she remarked, “so I am always seeking opportunities to infuse it with personality and whimsy. Bernadette is a big part of that, and I’m thrilled to debut her at the fair this year.”
As one of many artisan vendors to set up at the annual event, she noted, “West Virginians are imaginative, innovative, and resourceful- and that shows in the art we produce and promote. It is important that this heritage of creativity be given space to grow.”
With grandstand booths, art demonstrations, the newly constructed artisan barn, and a plethora of sites across the fairgrounds, West Virginia artists have ample space to continue to showcase their talents and crafts to thousands of fairgoers each year.
Grimmett expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to showcase her art at the fair and to show her pottery to the visitors that stop by her booth.
“Because I put so much of myself into what I create, it’s a pleasure to see whose hands and hearts these pieces end up in,” she added, “I love being able to look my customers in the eye and thank them for giving my pottery space in their homes and lives.”
With no end of imagination in sight, Grimmett’s creative efforts help to keep the arts alive at the State Fair of West Virginia and will continue to do so for years to come.