Carbondale Clay Center Holiday Invitational kicks off |

Carbondale Clay Center Holiday Invitational kicks off

Jessica Cabe
Jessi Maddocks, former Carbondale resident and SAW (Studio for Art and Works) artist, will have some of her work for sale at the Carbondale Clay Center's Holiday Invitational. Maddocks is now doing a residency at the Armory in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Jessica Cabe / Post Independent |

If You Go...

Who: Carbondale Clay Center

What: Holiday Invitational Exhibition and Sale opening reception

When: 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday (Holiday Invitational runs through Dec. 23)

Where: Carbondale Clay Center, 135 Main Street

While some might argue it’s too soon to start thinking about the holidays, the Carbondale Clay Center is offering the opportunity to purchase beautiful, handcrafted gifts starting today with its annual Holiday Invitational Exhibition and Sale opening reception.

“We follow Carbondale First Friday, so our choices for opening for our Christmas sale are November or December,” said Jill Oberman, executive director of the Clay Center. “December just seems too late, so we open our Christmas sale in November. It’s a little early on the calendar and in my mind, but we get into the spirit on Friday. We’ll have the Christmas lights going.”

The sale features work from about 40 artists, 30 of whom live and work in the valley. Each artist submitted between five and 27 pieces, making this sale vibrant and varied in the hopes of offering art that appeals to everyone. Pieces include functional pottery, sculptures and ceramic jewelry. Oberman said when buying gifts, there’s nothing quite like original art.

“When people fall in love with an original piece of art, it touches them in a way unlike anything else,” she said. “It engages their mind, it engages their hand, it changes their life, and it changes the way the food tastes, as far as I’m concerned.”

Oberman is beginning her third year as executive director at the Clay Center. A potter herself, she took the job because of a deep love for ceramics and an appreciation for the sense of community the Clay Center builds.

Although from the outside it looks like nothing more than a red house on Main Street, the Clay Center is home to a gallery that holds a new exhibition each month, four artists in residence, workshops, classes and events that draw potters together all throughout the valley. Oberman said the ceramics community is a small one, but Carbondale is rich with great artists who flock to the Clay Center to find each other.

“I think that the valley has a really rich history,” Oberman said. “There are a ton of great artists working here right now, most of whom have work in our sale. It’s a great place to be an artist, I think. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I’m originally from Chicago. This is a really great community, a great place to work. There’s a lot of support.”

The Clay Center was founded in 1997 by Diane Kenney, a local Carbondale potter who is still actively involved in the center. Oberman said at the time, there were clay artists in the valley who were asked to teach classes out of their homes. Eventually, they got together and decided there was a need for a building dedicated to the ceramic arts, and the Clay Center was born.

Since then, the center has grown through the addition of its residency program, and the gallery became physically larger. For the third year, the Holiday Invitational will be enhanced by the presence of the Artstream Nomadic Gallery, an old silver trailer owned by Carbondale potter Alleghany Meadows. In 2001, Meadows remodeled this 30-foot 1967 Airstream Sovereign trailer into an exhibition space that has taken art to Los Angeles, New York City and numerous places in between.

The trailer appears at the Aspen Saturday Market through October, but after that it sits vacant until March. Oberman said Meadows offered the trailer to the Clay Center in 2012, and it’s been a fixture of the Holiday Invitational ever since.

“It increases the footprint of our gallery almost double, so we can show much more locals’ work,” Oberman said. “Plus, it’s this big, shiny, eye-catching toy out in the front of our yard that people are intrigued by.”

One of the artists whose work will appear in the holiday sale is Jessi Maddocks, a former Carbondale resident and SAW (Studio for Arts and Works) artist who is currently in a residency program at the Armory in West Palm Beach, Florida. Maddocks said the Carbondale community played a big role in her decision to become a potter.

“I didn’t have any plans to be a potter,” Maddocks said. “But I lived in Carbondale for the past two years, and I got to work at the Clay Center a lot. The clay community is really small, so a lot of the artists that come through there are all friends.”

This sense of community is what has kept Mary Parker Ballou, another potter with work in the sale, living in the valley for the past 42 years. She lives in Basalt and works out of Colorado Mountain College in Aspen, and she is celebrating her 50th anniversary as a potter this year.

“When I was 14, I went to a class and saw someone throwing on the wheel, and I said to my parents, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “There’s an incredible community of potters up and down the valley. The Clay Center just adds an opportunity. Any opportunity to make art is an asset to the community.”

Rain Harris, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the handful of artists who are not local. She sold her jewelry at last year’s Holiday Invitational and has submitted work for other Clay Center events, and she’s met Oberman at various conventions over the years. Harris said handmade ceramics make great gifts because they are completely original, and nobody else in the world has the same piece.

“It just has a different feel than your grandma’s china or the dishes you use that are mass produced,” she said.

Oberman said in addition to purchasing something completely original, the Holiday Invitational offers residents of the valley the opportunity to buy local.

“I think a lot of these utilitarian pots are really nice to have in the home,” Oberman said. “And I think it’s really nice to support local — not just handmade, but handmade and local. It keeps the money in this valley and allows all our artists to continue to follow their passion and to contribute to this community.”

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