Going to Pot – Fredericksburg Art Tour

Posted on May 10, 2016 in Travel Blog

Leonardo da Vinci I am not. You won’t find my name listed alongside that of Georgia O’Keefe or John Singer Sargent among great American artists. I can paint a room, sort of, but certainly have no real artistic ability. So it was with some trepidation that I first walked into Fredericksburg’s Pots and Palettes. It’s one of those “paint your own pot” places, and friends of mine who had been there came back raving. So, I thought, what the heck. I need to check it out for my groups and if I can be helped to create something not offensive to the eye, anyone can do it.

   The staff there is great. Wonderful folks who quickly made me feel at home and at ease. They’ve seen cases like mine before and knew that with a little guidance I might surprise myself. Molly was my spirit guide/artist on this day. She’s really got an eye for color, balance and all the other things needed to create something pretty. And she’s a good teacher with a fine sense of humor – something quite necessary when guiding me through the process.

   I was given a brush and a palette of colors along with a small clay vessel in raw form. You could call it a cup, just the right size to hold potpourri or perhaps mixed nuts. My task was to use my imagination in painting this cup in a decorative way. Once done the staff would “fire” my creation overnight in a kiln and the next morning it would be ready for me to take home.

   “What colors do you like?” asked Molly. She suggested that I think first of what I might use the cup for and in what room of my house. Think of the colors in that room, she said, and select ones here that might go well with your décor. That sounded reasonable, so off I went. I swirled my brush in a kind of mauve color, or a dusky purple, and layered on a coat along the outside. Near the rim I decided on an amber color, muted, and I mixed some yellow and brown together and threw in, for reasons I did not know, a small bit of grey. The result looked like bad baby food. I knew that wasn’t going on my pot, so I remixed with just yellow and brown. More pleased with that result, I painted a stripe along the outer rim and over the top of it.

   I stared into the inside of the cup as if it were a deep, dark well. So much mystery there. It would be cool to have the higher portion a lighter color becoming darker toward the bottom, like one might see in nature. So here I went with yellow again, and I diluted it a bit so it would not be too bright. Molly liked what I was doing and suggested I go ahead and paint the whole inside of the cup that color first. Then I added just a drop of blue to the diluted yellow and painted the bottom half with it, instinctively blending it with the yellow already in the bowl. At the bottom I introduced some purple and gave it a little brush upwards to blend with the rest.

   It still needed something and Molly suggested trying to paint a small flower at the bottom. She didn’t know she was talking to someone whose artistic range included stick-figure people and odd geometric doodles made while daydreaming during my school days. But I could not let Molly down. She was so sure I could do this. I went to a small, dry brush and whisked it through some dusky colors, flicked the brush tip a couple of times along the inside bottom of the cup and … what was it? A crushed mosquito, perhaps? Uncle Chester’s cigar ash? It certainly did not look like a flower. Molly took a look and asked me to withhold judgment until after my piece had been fired. She’s the expert, but I had my doubts.Liberty Town Arts

   I cleaned up my hands, removed my smock and thanked Molly and the other artists for their patience. If nothing else, I was leaving Pots and Palettes with a happy memory of a fun time and some new friends. With some time remaining before going home I strolled to Liberty Town Arts where some 50 local artists have small studios. One gentleman was working on a canvas, painting what would be a lush landscape with a view of the Rappahannock River as it runs through Fredericksburg. Nearby a lady had a number of pieces of colored glass laid out on a table. She was almost finished with a stained glass work placed inside an window frame salvaged from an old house. It was lovely and so was she. Then I passed a booth with pottery. Here was a gifted artist. Her pots, plates and other functional pieces evidenced a good eye and talented hand. My little cup would look like the runt of the litter compared to all this.

   I dropped into a few other galleries along Caroline Street selling prints and original paintings. Indeed, art seems to be everywhere in this historic town. I didn’t care how my piece turned out. I love Fredericksburg.

   The next morning I returned to Pots and Palettes to pick up my cup. Molly was there and as she greeted me I noticed a twinkle in her eye. “Ready for a surprise?” she chirped. Reaching behind her she held out to me a small cup I could scarcely recognize. After glazing and firing the colors had joined hands, so to speak, and while not by any means to be mistaken for a museum piece my little cup looked perfectly presentable. Peering inside it I saw that my effort at painting a flower had resulted in an appealing decoration. It still didn’t look like a flower but rather an artistic touch to draw the eye down into the colors. I was pleased. No, I was giddy. This was going in my house and when friends came over it would be out on the table for all to see. It’s one of the favorite things in my house now.

   How much fun this would be for my groups! I could imagine the good-natured banter that would accompany a gathering around the table. “Bill, what in the world is that?” “Joyce, you’ve got more paint on your hands than on your pot!” But I could also imagine the delight the next day as my guests saw their finished pieces. Those will end up on display, I know it, just like mine has.

A trip to Pots and Palettes is part of Heart of Virginia Tours popular package The Finer Things of Fredericksburg which showcases the arts scene, visual and performing, in the wonderful town of Fredericksburg. Contact us to find out how to give your groups an experience here they will always remember.