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Spouting Off

Bill Sanders understands that making teapots may not be considered a manly thing to do. But when he heard that the theme for the upcoming Steamboat Clay Artisans’ show was “Spouting Off!” he let it stretch his imagination.

“By making a funny design and a series of four of them together, they became an art piece,” Sanders said.

He created his teapots with a mold he made from butternut squashes. He then coated the teapots with glazes he mixed from chemicals his son – a geologist – gave him.



Sanders is one of 10 members of the Steamboat Clay Artisans who will exhibit their teapot work at Studio Gallery 27. Each clay artist interpreted the theme in different ways.

“The artists were invited to create one new piece for this show depicting the theme literally, figuratively or attitudinally,” said Deb Babcock, the show’s organizer. “It’s fascinating to see the many ways artists interpret the theme with a wonderful variety of teapots and pouring vessels, as well as some sculptural pieces depicting the theme in very creative ways.”



Patti Retz translated the theme in a non-functional and very expressive form. She created a set of three figures that are three dimensional wall pieces. They are titled “The Kiln Gods Rejoice,” and their arms are raised upward as they shout joyfully.

“For me, those pieces are indicative of when you first look into the kiln and see if anything survived the firing process,” Retz said. “They are overseeing the kiln and rejoicing with the potter that we had a successful firing.”

Jody Elston said making the first teapot was a learning experience. She always works in series of three or four pots and makes the first one loose and expressive.

“I purposefully make mistakes to push the envelope a little bit,” she said. “I decide what works, and then I tighten up the process.”

Teapots are one of the most difficult pieces for a clay artist to create.

“A teapot to a ceramic artist is like saying they’ve arrived in the ceramic world,” Elston said. “The Chinese invented the teapot, and it is one of the oldest forms of clay art. Teapots are an art unto themselves.”

Elston made her teapot with dolly textures and slip. The slip process entails using clay that is blended to a creamy, pasty texture and stamped into little pieces onto the pots. Each piece of the teapot has to be added strategically and needs to dry slowly.

“There’s a lot of hurry up and wait time,” Elston said.

Each of 10 ten potters participating in the show will attend an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. to answer questions and explain their techniques. The other seven are Julie Anderson, Sue Binsfeld, Barb Gregoire, Lisa Koch, Eve Partridge, Jan Willman and Deb Babcock.

“This is the collective show we are doing as a group,” Retz said. “I’m always surprised at how many potters there are in Steamboat and am amazed at the talent in this town.”


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