Carbondale Clay Center’s ‘Pairings’ returns on First Friday |

Carbondale Clay Center’s ‘Pairings’ returns on First Friday

Jessica Cabe
Pairings is returning to the Carbondale Clay Center from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday at 201A Main St. Around 40 ceramic artists will have handmade cups for sale
Matthew Eames |

If You Go...

Who: Carbondale Clay Center

What: ‘Pairings’

When: 6-9 p.m. on Friday

Where: 201A Main St. in Carbondale

How Much: $5 admission (counts as drink ticket)

Two artforms will collide on Friday as the Carbondale Clay Center brings back its popular event, “Pairings,” where patrons are able to pair a handmade ceramic cup with a locally handcrafted beverage.

“It’s always been one of my favorite fundraisers,” said Jill Oberman, executive director of the Clay Center. “People come in the door, they shop, they buy a cup, and then we’re all just here having a nice, relaxed time. It’s like a party. People will just be enjoying each other’s company, tasting some beverages and being surrounded by some beautiful ceramic art.”

This year, attendees will pay $5 at the door and receive a drink ticket. That way, even if they don’t decide to purchase a cup, they’ll still be able to taste the beverages.

Around 40 artists from the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond will have work in “Pairings,” and local beverage representatives from Altitude Spirits, Big B’s Fabulous Juices and Hard Cider, Roaring Fork Beer Company, Suerte Tequila, Tonic Juicery and Woody Creek Distillers will be present to pour samples of their drinks.

“Pairings” was started in 2010 by then-co-director K Rhynus Cesark, who will have work in this year’s event.

“We were always trying to brainstorm different ideas, things to do,” Cesark said. “The Cup Auction was really popular at the Clay Center. At that time, there were so many breweries, distilleries and tea makers, so basically we started trying to feature Colorado handcrafted beverages. And we felt it was very important for people to have handcrafted objects in their lives.”


Oberman said all the drinks at “Pairings” are donated, but she wants the beverage companies to benefit from the event.

“We invite each beverage to have a representative so that they can talk about the drink,” Oberman said. “We want it to be a benefit for those beverage donors. We’re not just educating the public on this handmade cup, but also these smaller beverage businesses.”

There will be alcoholic and nonalcoholic options available, including two beers from the Roaring Fork Beer Company and some samples from Tonic Juicery, both of which are participating in “Pairings” for the first time.

“We were invited last year, but we were in the final stages of opening the doors to the brewery,” said Aly Sanguily, marketing director for Roaring Fork Beer Company. “We’re excited to jump no board because, just as a local, I knew that ‘Pairings’ was a cool event. It’s one of those events that brings artisans together.”

Tonic Juicery opened about six months ago and specializes in cold pressed juice, a method of juice-making that preserves nutrients. They also sell smoothies and tonic shots.

“We have a lot of customers that come from the Clay Center,” said co-owner Micah Mills. “It just brings people together, and it brings together two different types of businesses.”


The artists represented in “Pairings” would tell you, however, that they never create a cup without thinking about what kind of beverage it would be used for, so this event makes perfect sense.

“With what I do, I’m always thinking about what I would be drinking,” said Bryan Hopkins, a ceramic artist in Buffalo, New York, who will have cups inspired by mint juleps in “Pairings” this year. “I didn’t say, ‘These are for mint juleps and nothing else,’ but that’s the inspiration.”

Hopkins said “Pairings” is a great opportunity to draw new people into the world of ceramics because of the specificity of the cups.

“Often times I think when people go and look for barware, they’re looking for things specifically labeled,” Hopkins said. “And with ceramics, it’s never that way. But if you go into a gallery and there’s a row of wine cups, I think it leads the person down that road.”

Artists will have made cups for shots, martinis, wine, beer, whiskey, juice and almost any type of beverage imaginable. There will also be pieces that more generally “celebrate the beverage,” Oberman said. These could be tea pots, cream and sugar sets or any other item that has to do with the ritual of drinking without specifically being a cup.

In order to display these items and showcase the beverage representatives without feeling cramped, “Pairings” will take place in an empty space at 201A Main St. in Carbondale.


Oberman said the Clay Center is in an exciting but somewhat problematic place, where some of its exhibits and events are bigger than the space itself, but she’s not quite ready to consider expanding yet.

“We want our events to be a little bit more fun, a little more inclusive, a little bit cleaner, but we’re also not quite ready to talk about expansion,” Oberman said.

The solution for “Pairings” was to hold it at an empty space just down the street from the Clay Center. The setting will be more upscale, there will be more room, and the Clay Center’s studio space will not be a factor.

“The event will be more of a gallery special event setting because we won’t have the classroom to deal with,” said Matthew Eames, a studio technician at the Clay Center whose work will appear in “Pairings.” “When we did ‘Pairings’ before, we’d have to clear out the space as best we could, put the tables up against the wall, put the shelves up against the wall, so we could have this blank canvas for the pairings to bounce off of. Whereas this time, we don’t have to worry about the studio getting in the way.”

The new space will only augment what has always been great about “Pairings.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate not only ceramics, but these handcrafted beverages, too,” Cesark said. “You can see so many different cups from artists all over the country in one place in Carbondale.”

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