For over 50 years, members of the Boulder Potters’ Guild have created various artful vessels and sculptures that add tremendous flair to interiors.
The group’s highly anticipated show — featuring everything from chunky mugs to delicate vases — returned to Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont on Thursday.
The nonprofit held a show over the summer that attracted many eager shoppers and with a number of additional artists showcasing new work, this week’s event is an even bigger draw.
“We have more members participating this fall, so we are excited to be in full swing and showcase ceramics by over 35 artists,” said Rita Vali, artist and president of Boulder Potters’ Guild. “Since people have spent more time at home during the pandemic, there’s a sort of pent-up demand not only to get out and go to events, but for people to enrich their daily rituals around food and to liven their homes.”
Organizers anticipate a large turnout for each day of the event that runs through Sunday.
“Since restarting our classes this fall, they have filled up fast as people also want in-person experiences and learning,” Vali said. “Pottery is so tactile and can be so therapeutic, creative and then functional too.”
In addition to heading up the guild, Vali spends much time creating work reflective of her time as a biochemist working in a biomedical research lab.
“My background is in botany and microbiology, so imagery from those sources is abundant in my artwork,” said Vali. “I am also inspired by graphic textiles and patterns in nature in general. I am always collecting images for inspiration for my designs — twisted wood, unusual pods and plants, vintage lamp shades.”
Attendees can expect to see Vali’s functional porcelain pottery with brightly colored interiors and her signature graphic patterns wrapped in a smooth, satin glaze.
While the show has welcomed back many returning members, it also has provided a platform for first-time show participants to shine.
“My interest in clay was sparked by spending my childhood in the desert of southern Utah, near Zion National Park,” said Lauren Sievers, who joined the guild a month ago and handles the group’s social media. “My favorite memories of my childhood are of me playing in the dirt and mud. I took my very first ceramics class in high school. I knew from the moment I touched clay and sat down at the potter’s wheel that I had just started the beginning of the rest of my life. Clay and the ceramics artist is what I’ve dedicated my life to.”
While much of Sievers’ previous work was rooted in gallery-ready sculpture, she has recently produced an assortment of intriguing coffee mugs, bowls and other dishware items that are sure to perk up any meal.
“Arch-like structures and motifs in my work reference and symbolize the desert I grew up in,” Sievers said. “Over the last year, I have been researching architecture and the built environment, which has evolved into me making checker patterns on my functional pieces. I enjoy checkered patterns for their structure, but also because it gives me a sense of control that I can then manipulate however I choose.”
Sievers is a recent graduate of University of Colorado Boulder and her senior year proved to provide its own challenges and rewards.
“My last year at CU was not what I thought it would be,” Sievers said. “I remember my last day on campus, right before everything shut down. Everyone in the studio was gathered for the spring mid-term critique when an email was sent out announcing that the campus would be shutting down due to COVID-19.”
Despite the pandemic and the unusual circumstances and restrictions it delivered, Sievers creatively pressed on.
“When the fall came, I made the decision to stay home, finishing my last year at CU remotely,” Sievers said. “Over the summer, I was able to set up a studio in my parents’ garage where I made all of my work for my BFA show. There were exceptions when I would go back to the studio on campus, mixing and making my clay and glazes and, of course, firing my work. It was emotionally difficult being there — seeing a place that was once so full of life halt to a still, eerie silence.”
She ended up presenting her BFA show, “Traces,” over Zoom.
“‘Traces’ is a collection of desert-inspired sculptures based on the memory of place,” Sievers said. “The collection features arches, altars and mud cracks.”
Inspired by the land formations, patterns and sentiment found in her desert home — her source of upbringing — the assortment is both reminiscent of things we can find in dry terrain, yet also carries a sense of spirited abstraction.
“I try to keep a balance between my functional and sculptural work in my practice,” Sievers said. “I enjoy the way they inform one another, pushing me to play.”
From charming figurines to diverse plant holders, a cross-section of wares by members are sure to appeal to a range of tastes.
“I’m very excited to be able to do this show in person again,” said Cris Conklin, a member of Boulder Potters’ Guild since 1995. “It is always wonderful to see my fellow guild members and connect with our customers in person.”
Conklin dabbled in various mediums, but after taking a ceramics course her senior year in college, she knew she had found her true passion.
“I have worked as a potter for most of my life,” Conklin said. “My work is inspired by my love of animals and plants, as well as my love of color and texture.”
Artwork from a diverse array of creators comes at a variety of price points.
“I have a selection of functional salt-fired pottery as well as some brand-new ornaments,” Conklin said. “I’m especially excited about a couple of new colors I have been working with recently.”
The inviting atmosphere of the show is one that fosters plenty of conversations between talented makers and inquisitive buyers.
“I can talk about all things clay all day,” Sievers said. “I hope that everyone who comes to the show feels the excitement that we potters feel when opening the kiln from a successful firing.”