In 1983, the Oregon Potters Association (OPA), which was called the Oregon Potters’ Co-op at that time, created the first-ever all-ceramics art show. Many artists in the Portland area doubted that the event would be successful; most art shows during that era featured multiple categories of artwork in order to “have something for everyone”, to attract more customers and improve sales. 

Those pioneering potters decided to buck the norm; they called their new celebration of pottery ‘Ceramic Showcase’ and held it two weeks before Mother’s Day. That year, 78 OPA members participated and the show exceeded all expectations. Little did OPA know it had started an annual tradition that would endure 40 years.

Historically, pottery traditions – making, glazing, firing – were handed down from master to apprentice; those techniques were unchanged for hundreds of years. Pottery in the 1980s continued to embrace those principles, consisting of functional wares that were made for practical purposes such as containers and dishes. Surface decoration consisted of layered, food-safe glazes, occasionally combined with brushwork that complimented the form without being visually overwhelming. At the time, most pottery was simply meant to serve a purpose. 

Ceramic art has evolved over the decades; today’s pottery is much more inclusive, allowing for experimental work which combines traditional techniques with innovative concepts. Contemporary ceramic artists may use their work to explore diverse themes such as politics, identity and social issues, using surface decoration to express their ideas. Although this shift in work has largely been led by a new generation of artists, some of Ceramic Showcase’s founders have also been reimagining their creativity.

Dennis Meiners is one of those founders whose work has progressed from traditional to conceptual. In recent years, he has decorated functional pieces using a combination of illustrative techniques – Mishima drawing overlaid with metal oxide washes. His complex imagery communicates his views on climate change and the impact of global industrialization. At this year’s 40th anniversary, his vase ‘Asking to Stay’ – which shows a variety of animals juxtaposed with a crop-dusting airplane and cityscape – will be featured in the 40th Founders Gallery alongside work from over 40 of the original members.

Just as ceramic art has transformed over the past 40 years, the show itself has been redefined with each generation. At one time, Ceramic Showcase featured over 300 OPA members, making it the largest ceramics show in the nation. Many of those potters have since retired, allowing the next generation of artists to make the show their own. This year’s event will present over 200 members, many of whom have recently joined the organization or are emerging artists new to the field. The evolution of ceramic art will be on full display when the works of new, veteran and founding members are seen side-by-side.

Several years ago, Ceramic Showcase evolved yet again when it partnered with the Gathering of the Guilds; their missions aligned making for a natural fit. Both shows educate the public about their crafts through professional demonstrations and hands-on activities for all ages. They provide information about their guilds for potential new members. Each also supports existing members by providing a 3-day event filled with opportunities for making sales and connections.

Ceramic Showcase and Gathering of the Guilds can be found in Hall A at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, on April 28-30, 2023. The combined shows will feature 350 Northwest artists from six guilds: Creative Metal Arts Guild, Pacific Northwest Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Portland Bead Society, Portland Handweavers Guild and the Oregon Potters Association. To learn more, visit







Show Comments