Wesleyan Potters, Inc. is the oldest craft school in Connecticut. It got its start in 1948 when several women affiliated with Wesleyan University were interested in learning pottery. They arranged a class with Sybil Garvin at a local high school. This was followed in 1950 by further classes with an art professor at Wesleyan in space provided by the University. In 1953, Mary Kring Risley, a pottery graduate of Cranbrook Academy and a new faculty wife, took over teaching the group.
The class grew in size until it outgrew the space and moved to larger quarters, first at Knowles Avenue (1959-1964), then at Pease Avenue (1965-1970). These larger spaces enabled an expansion of classes as well as members. At Pease Avenue, the first jewelry and children’s classes were offered as well as classes in other crafts such as batik, silk screening and rya, traditional Scandinavian rug making.
In 1965, now completely separate from Wesleyan University, the group incorporated as Wesleyan Potters, Inc. In 1970, it moved to its present location. This even larger space enabled further expansion, including the start of the weaving studio and the addition of a gallery shop. Membership increased to its present day size of about 100 active members who are potters, jewelers and weavers. Today talented teachers conduct regular classes in pottery, jewelry, weaving and children’s art. Nationally and internationally recognized crafts people are brought in to augment and enrich the educational program with workshops and other events.
The History of the Annual Exhibit and Sale
While still housed in the Wesleyan University space, the group decided to set up an exhibit of their work, which they did in the Sculpture Porch of the Davidson Art Center. Much to the group’s surprise, people wanted to buy their pots. This was the first of what has become the annual exhibit and sale at the Pottery, offering a wide selection of high quality crafts to holiday shoppers.