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Let’s get experimental

Jessica Cabe
jcabe@postindependent.com
Debera Stewart uses real horse hair in her Southwest-inspired pieces.
Jessica Cabe / Post Independent |

If You go...

Who: Debera Stewart

What: Opening reception

When: 5-8 p.m. on Friday

Where: Gallery 809 in Glenwood Springs

How Much: Free

Peach Valley ceramic artist Debera Stewart is the epitome of a lifelong learner. She took her first ceramics class at Colorado Mountain College in 1980, and she’s either taken a class or attended workshops every year since.

“I’m just so intrigued by fire and what it does to pottery,” Stewart said. “I’m curious how things work, so I’m always experimenting.”

Stewart works in a variety of styles and creates both functional and decorative wares, many of which will be on display and for sale this month at Gallery 809, where she is the July guest artist. An opening reception for Stewart’s display will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the gallery.

Stewart was a member of the cooperative art gallery when it first opened, so she is excited to have her work back in that space. Her pieces are also represented at Art on 8th in Glenwood Springs, The Upstairs Gallery in Meeker and the Working Artists Gallery and Art Center in Grand Junction.

Stewart is intrigued by the idea of creating contemporary pieces that are inspired by primitive styles, especially those found in the Southwest.

“It’s always been intriguing to me to try a contemporary approach to primitive-style pottery,” she said.

In a nutshell, Stewart’s contemporary approach can be defined by her constant desire to experiment, especially with the glazing and firing processes. One set of her pieces at Gallery 809 is an example of what happens when she combines chemicals on her surfaces.

“Almost every one of those pieces are something I’ve been working on over the years,” she said. “They’ve been dipped in or sprayed with ferric chloride, then I’ve added everything from sugar or salt, to Miracle-Gro, to copper wire, bronze wire — just a little bit of everything. Some of that reacts differently with the ferric chloride in the clay. You might get some wild colors.”

Stewart said another favorite way to decorate her pots is to wrap them in newspaper so the ink transfers to the clay, creating unique colors and patterns on her surfaces.

What has become a long-term passion began as a doctor’s recommendation. Stewart took her first ceramics class in 1980 because her doctor told her it may help relieve stress. She fell in love with the art form and has since taken classes and workshops all along the valley, in Grand Junction and even in New Mexico.

She retired from Colorado Mountain College in 2006 after 30 years in various positions, and the summer after, she built her studio in Peach Valley. She hosts an open house there every year during the last weekend of October.

She may not have known in 1980 how important ceramics would become to her, but she knows now that she won’t stop making art any time soon.

“People always say, ‘Do what you love,’” she said. “Well, I love experimentation and throwing — I just like to make it, to sit at the wheel for hours.”


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