Art Works Blog

Spotlight on Boulder Mountain Clayworks

From left to right: Artist Mary Ann Chubb, Raku artist Michael Conger, potter Martha Hollenhorst, and Clayworks founder Susan Ward.

Photo courtesy of Susan W. Ward and Boulder Mountain Clayworks

Skiing, hiking, and biking on the majestic Bald Mountain are just a few of the activities associated with the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. But did you know that Sun Valley---and nearby Ketchum---are also major creative and cultural centers?

Ketchum's Boulder Mountain Clayworks was founded in 1997 by a former ceramics student with a basic goal. Susan Ward simply wanted to “make pots and sculpture, and find other like-minded people who wanted to do the same.” Ward recounts how her ceramics studio came to life in an unlikely location: a “light industrial park with no cach

é, no street visibility, [and] a parking problem.” But Boulder Mountain Clayworks quickly proved there was no obstacle, big or small, they couldn’t overcome. The space was zoned for the proper studio equipment---a gas kiln and 11 electric wheels---so Ward and studio manager Lauren Street were in business.

Raku pillow box by Jane Belew. Photo courtesy of Susan W. Ward and Boulder Mountain Clayworks

Today, the small studio reaches a large audience by offering classes for all ages and skill levels, as well as by involving the local community. “Our mission is simple,” explains Ward. “To promote and encourage artistic growth and development within our community by offering clay classes for adults and children, by providing a space where local artists can create and grow in their craft, and by offering events that are free and open to the public and which educate on current issues and directions of the clay arts.” Not only does Clayworks offer workspace for local artists, but they attract clay artists from across the country to visit the studio as guest artists.

For example, Deborah Schwartzkopf and Jim Romberg are sharing their talent and creative energies with the Ketchum/Sun Valley community this summer by teaching weekend workshops at Boulder Mountain Clayworks. In June, Schwartzkopf, visiting from Seattle, demonstrated her passion for porcelain pots through her three-day series, “Character Traits.” New Mexico-based artist Jim Romberg will be in town this weekend, August 12-14, to lead classes about Raku ceramics, a 16th-century firing technique with roots in Korea and Japan.

Camper attending a summer pirate clay class. Photo courtesy of Susan W. Ward and Boulder Mountain Clayworks

Clayworks also works closely with local schools to offer ceramics classes that might not otherwise take place, because, as Ward admits, clay is expensive, messy, and the proper equipment can take up a ton of space. The challenges of accessing ceramics are precisely why the organization continues to work so hard to reach underserved audiences. The studio hosts Camp Rainbow Gold, a special opportunity for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings to experience the creativity and wonder of Boulder Mountain Clayworks. In January 2011, the studio also sponsored an “empty bowls” fundraiser with the local Blaine County Hunger Coalition. Volunteers created and decorated more than 200 bowls at Boulder Mountain Clayworks, while local restaurants donated food that is normally eaten in a bowl, like soup, salad, or ice-cream. At the event, held at a local church and open to the public, the decorated bowls were sold for $20 apiece and guests dined on the donated food from their handcrafted dishes. One hundred percent of the proceeds were used to purchase food for the Hunger Coalition.


Despite the studio's array of different activities and events, arts education is at the heart of the organization's mission. Ward explains, “We believe so strongly in the need for all children at all levels to have exposure to creative activities. Children who are comfortable with their own visions become confident as adults in their abilities to find new ways to solve old problems.”

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