The nature-inspired sculptures from the Ann Arbor Potters Guild are now on display at UM’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens

A Garden of Earthy Delights, an installation of ceramic sculptures inspired by the habitats of the Great Lakes and the plants growing in them, is now on view at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

The multi-part stacked sculptures were created in collaboration with Matthaei and the Ann Arbor Potters Guild to mark the guild’s 70th anniversary. Thirty-three artists worked together in eight teams to create 10 sculpture towers that will be on view through October 3rd.

The exhibition takes place in the Great Lakes Gardens in Matthaei and recreates the special habitats of the region and the plants that are found here and nowhere else in the world. Environments represented in Great Lakes Gardens include dunes, limestone plains, wetlands, and prairies. Visitors can see and experience plants and ecosystems up close that they rarely encounter in the wild.

“A Garden of Earthy Delights is another example of what makes the Arb and Gardens unique at the University and in southeast Michigan,” said Tony Kolenic, director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. “Over the years we’ve done a lot of exhibitions, performances, and research – the kinds of interdisciplinary collaborations that really create a sense of place and also overlap with so many avenues of learning and enjoyment.”

To visualize and create the sculptures, the guild’s teams looked at the unique plants, animals, and landscapes of each habitat. The sculptures, which vary from figurative to abstract, use the entire range of ceramic tools and techniques.

“For example, visitors to the Great Lakes Gardens prairie area will see a variety of plant colors, textures, and shapes,” said guild member Mary Avrakatos. “The pieces of the sculpture relate to the shapes of plants and the creatures living in them that can be found in open fields, on flowers and in grasses in the ecosystems of the prairie of Michigan.”

The Ann Arbor Potters Guild was founded in 1949 by nine potters who rented space in an alley near UM. The guild was founded the following year and in 1968 the building at 201 Hill St. – where it is now housed – was purchased. Today the guild is home to around 45 artists, whose work ranges from sculpture to production ceramics. It is considered to be the oldest cooperative for ceramic artists in the country.

Matthaei Botanical Garden is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road and is currently open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations, which must be made online, are free but required.

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