In recent decades, Portland, Maine – and the Old Port in particular – has elevated its profile as a location for fine dining, fine shopping, and fine arts. Maine has always been a welcoming place for artist – the wild, natural beauty of the state lends itself to artistic inspiration – and the individualistic attitude of Maine’s people creates an atmosphere of acceptance of the eccentricities of others (not that I’m suggesting that artists are an eccentric bunch…). Not only is the Old Port an ideal location to maximize sales during the busy tourist season, but also, as the city’s reputation for promoting the arts has grown, it’s become a location with great local resources for many types of artists.
Maine Potters Market, which first opened in the Old Port in 1979, was an important part of Portland’s artistic evolution. Today, the Maine Potters Market offers a special experience for a ceramic arts’ enthusiast. I had been in a time or two before this visit, but without a full understanding of the way the store operates. Now, knowing more, my appreciation has grown. Maine Potters Market operates as a cooperative of ceramic artists (potters), each with their own unique style, which in turn ensures they have something for everyone. As a non-profit cooperative, they have pooled their resources into this Old Port location, where each day of the week, one of the potters is running the store. This allows the opportunity for a customer to learn from and meet the people whose work they are purchasing. When I ventured in a little over a week ago, David Orser was running the shop. David and his wife, Laurel McDuffie, market their pottery under the name Cedar Mountain Potters.
The inception of this group occurred during the winter of 1977, when a group of potters envisioned a cooperative marketplace to sell their wares. In the spring of 1978, they first opened in Boothbay Harbor, where their modest success led them to open their year-round Old Port location in 1979. Although their location has moved and things have changed over time, the core of the Maine Potters Market has remained the same – their store is home to plentiful and varied pottery, and most days, you will still find a potter working in the store.
Today, they have 15 artists and have just begun a search to add a new member. Their space is bright and airy, with nothing to distract from the pottery itself. At the back of the store, they do sell a number of books, aprons, and other goodies. I could go on at length about the styles of the potters, my personal preferences, and the friendly, welcoming feel of the space – but frankly, I recommend you just go visit them yourself! I am sure you’ll find something to love.