Friday’s ‘Pairings’ at Carbondale Clay Center runneth over with cups |

Friday’s ‘Pairings’ at Carbondale Clay Center runneth over with cups

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen correspondent
Glenwood Springs CO, Colorado
Courtesy Carbondale Clay CenterCups by Andy Shaw are featured in Pairings, an exhibition and event set for 6 p.m. Friday at the Carbondale Clay Center.

CARBONDALE – K Cesark wants people to think about the cups they use. When they drink their morning coffee, or their dinner-time beer, or their late-night slug of whiskey, she wants them to consider not only the beverage but also their vessel of choice.

“I want them to think about why they choose one cup over another,” Cesark said. “Whether it’s an aesthetic decision, or convenience – the way it feels, the size and the amount of liquid it holds. I want them to think about that split-second decision they make when they have their coffee or tea or beer.”

Cesark is helping to give people the opportunity to consider such issues with the Pairings event, Friday at the Carbondale Clay Center. The event features pairings not of drink and food, but of drink and cup. Cesark, the Clay Center’s artistic director, along with administrative director Sarah Moore, invited 25 local artists to create five to 10 cups made specifically for Pairings; each artist was also asked to invite a ceramic artist from outside the Roaring Fork Valley to participate by making a handful of drinking vessels. Topping off the event are a batch of Colorado beverage makers, who have donated their liquids to be sipped (or chugged, or downed) from the cups.

Attendees buy a cup, which range in price from $20 to $60. Each guest then gets five tastings, and can choose from wines (donated by the likes of Woody Creek Cellars and Delta County’s Jack Rabbit Hill), beer (Aspen Brewing Company, Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company), coffee (Back Alley Coffee), tea (Two Leaves and a Bud) or hard stuff (Peak Spirits, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey). Each purchase also comes with servings of chili (made with local McBride Beef, or vegetarian), appetizers (including sausages and meats from Sustainable Settings) and homemade dessert (including brownies baked by Cesark). Music will be played by the Tippets.

The catch is that participants need to contemplate their cup purchase. Once the cup is selected, out of some 50 options, that’s their drinking tool for the evening, and the one they’ll be taking home and finding a place for in the kitchen cabinet. “I think they need to think about what they want to drink,” said Cesark, adding that the event is designed to make people look at and consider the cups. Pairings, she said, is installed as an art exhibition, and participants will have time to view the cups before making their pick. The cups – made by Doug Casebeer, director of the ceramics program at Anderson Ranch Arts Center; Sam Harvey and Alleghany Meadows, owners of the Harvey/Meadows Gallery; Tammie Lane of Lane Fine Art; Cesark and Moore; and numerous others – were, in many cases, made for specific drinking purposes. There are coffee mugs, tea bowls, shot glasses, beer steins, mint julep cups and more.

“It’s so personal,” Cesark said of people’s cup choices. “One person, it might be completely aesthetic, how it looks. For another, it’s only functional – the size, how it feels. As potters, we have a responsibility to make something that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but that works – doesn’t dribble down the side, doesn’t get your hand too hot.”

While Cesark hopes to raise awareness of cups (and the beverages they hold), she doesn’t expect attendees at Pairings to think about drinking implements the way she does. She has been collecting cups for more than 20 years, and confesses she’s embarrassed to estimate the size of her collection. “They’re hidden all over the place. They’re all over the cabinet, double- and triple-stacked,” she said.

The cups Cesark has been making are octagonal-shaped, porcelain, and made using a slipcast technique that involves a plaster mold rather than a potter’s wheel. She fires decorations into them – images of houses, flowers, trees and birds. Her cups are thin, suited for drinking whiskey or rum. (Apart from her ceramic work, Cesark also makes paintings using encaustic and beeswax.)

Her favorite cup, however, isn’t one of her own. When Cesark reaches for a drink – half-caf coffee – she also reaches for a cup made more than a decade ago by Sam Chung, who was a resident at Anderson Ranch, and now teaches at Arizona State.

“It’s a tall cup, doesn’t have a handle. Kind of striped black with warm brown shino glaze,” she said. “It’s warm on my hands but doesn’t get too hot. It’s a pretty sensual cup.”

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