Artist Neely Hachtel experiments with mixed materials
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Neely Hachtel’s first foray into ceramics was in high school; since then, she has turned a hobby into a passion.
Originally from Springfield, Missouri, she attended College of the Ozarks where she worked in the ceramics lab to help pay for school. She started selling her work to raise money for the studio, and after graduating with a bachelor’s degree, she continued her schooling to receive an MFA in ceramic sculpture.
While in graduate school, she created large scale works that were fired in wood kilns.
“I liked the look far better than things that were glazed,” she explained. “I tried to show an aged surface. I liked old antique items at the time and liked how they showed age.”
She threw pieces in sections and then put them together, describing them as large pots which were enclosed and turned on their sides.
As she developed her own style, her work evolved over the course of the next decade. Now she not only creates clay sculptures and pots but also felt and wool. Combining her ceramics with needle felting has provided a unique style; her current inspiration is mushrooms, lichen and fungus.
“I have been felting plant forms in small pots that I’ve made out of clay,” Hachtel explained. “I am also working on more sculptural clay forms with felted pieces that are more sculptural in nature as well.”
Another current technique is to add sculptural elements to functional pieces, for example, by creating sculptural knobs to attach to pots and jars.
Everything, she notes, starts at the wheel, which is still her favorite tool. She enjoys making lidded pots and sculptures that start on the wheel, and then she continues working on them by hand.
“I like to push them from the inside like the clay has been stretched,” she said of her technique. “I like adding texture to anything.”
She also enjoys working with wool, she said, because of its similarity to clay.
“I love the colors; I can be more bold with wool because of them,” she said.
Hachtel moved to Steamboat with her partner four years ago after they discovered the town while hiking on the Continental Divide Trail. She began working out of local potter Julie Anderson’s studio and quickly made several connections in the Yampa Valley art world through teaching gigs at Colorado Northwestern Community College and Yampa Valley Fiberworks. In addition to displays at Julie Anderson’s gallery and the Depot Art Center, she has sold pieces at local Christmas markets.
Her main goal for the future, though, is to find a place to display and sell her current work.
And while COVID-19 has momentarily put this goal on hold, she hopes to have a booth at the Steamboat Farmer’s Market a few times over the summer.
“COVID has really stopped me from venturing out with my work,” she said. “But I hope to get make into the studio this summer and start making things again.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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Steamboat Springs artist Greg Effinger will be a familiar name around Steamboat this October, with multiple works in exhibitions and galleries across town.