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A passion for pottery

Vigoda likes the idea of the coupon and the trail attracting new people to see her pieces. At her studio downtown, she had a "big group of loyal followers," but she didn't often see new faces at her open house.

"That's one of the reasons we joined," she said.

Jim Sankowski, who owns Ballston Lake Pottery and like Niefield has been part of the trail since it began, thinks newcomers will be surprised at the quality and quantity available in the area.

"Everyone is talking about buying locally," he said. "This is a way to get people to come out and see what's in their area."

He said the trail highlights the "personal connection" that the local potters offer, as opposed to shopping at nationwide chains.

"We're trying to bring back the joy of shopping," he said. "People get to see right where the work is being done."

Sankowski, who has entertained visitors from as far away as North Carolina and Boston in years past, has been making pottery for more than 30 years. He went to art school and did studio work in clay, which turned into a lifelong passion.

He's grateful for the chance to share that passion with the other potters on the trail and said they're not a competitive bunch. They figure that sharing exposure and visitors is only going to pay off for everyone in the end, he said.

Niefield and Vigoda embrace that community spirit, too. Vigoda teaches classes at her studio in Delmar, including classes geared to kids. Niefield teaches at Union College, where she enjoys offering students the kind of respite she felt when she was in school and got to spend time working on pottery instead of writing papers.

"I find it very relaxing," she said.

The funny thing is, Niefield balked when told she had to take a pottery class in college, noting that she'd already taken one in high school. But soon she was a regular in the pottery studio.

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