Skip to main content

The City Journals

Clay art with a practical touch at holiday sale

Nov 27, 2019 12:45PM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

By Jenniffer Wardell | [email protected]

Art can be beautiful and practical at the same time. 

Proof of this can be found at the 20th annual Clay Arts Utah Holiday Sale, set for Nov. 29 and 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sugar House Park Garden Center (1602 E. 2100 South). The event features more than two dozen clay artists who will be on hand showing their work, ranging from sculptures to bowls and mugs. 

“It’s a good way to get your Christmas shopping all done in one place,” said Alyssa Bray, acting president of the organization. 

Clay Arts Utah includes a variety of clay-based artists, many of whom will show their work at the event. The organization limits membership only by the medium, not the type of work that’s produced.

“When you take a substance, and create something new out of it, that is art,” Bray said. “Within the bounds of physics, you can make pretty much anything you want out of clay.” 

Some pieces straddle the balance between fancy and functional, such as the elephant mugs by Lara Carroll.

“She sculpts the legs, the handle is an elephant trunk, and you can put coffee in it,” Bray said.

Even more functional pieces, such as bowls and cups, can have an artistic touch. 

“Their pots are unique, and the way they use their glazes are unique,” she said. 

Community is the focus behind Clay Arts Utah, which is a nonprofit collective dedicated to the education and advancement of clay arts. In practice, it’s a source for clay artists across the state to learn from each other and work together on larger projects. 

“A group of potters established it as a way to build community before social media really took off,” Bray said. 

During her time as president, she’s worked to expand that community even further. 

“My goal has always been to build the community more statewide,” she said. “Salt Lake is a big hub, USU has a prestigious ceramics program, Moab and St. George have some well-known artists, but there are all these potters in these little towns in between.” 

They also work to give back to the wider community. Clay Arts Utah has long been involved with Empty Bowls, a summer fundraiser that provides meals for the homeless. Artists make handmade bowls, then sell them at the event. All proceeds go to local organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul Parish, which runs a dining hall open to anyone in need of a hot meal. 

In order to make sure they have plenty of bowls to sell, Clay Arts Utah will sometimes hold events they refer to as Bowl-A-Thons. 

“We’ll get a studio that donates some time, and we’ll have artists who come in and just make a ton of bowls,” Bray said. “We had an artist who made 100 bowls last year, and it all went to charity.” 

They also offer educational opportunities for anyone interested in expanding their artistic horizons. They will sometimes bring in national clay artists to hold special workshops that help share their skills with local artists. 

“We’re trying to support skills and education by bringing in artists that might not be here without our support,” Bray said.

They also hold free two-hour workshops that focus on individual techniques. Though the workshops have finished for a year, new schedules will be posted online at www.clayartsutah.com.

“That was something new that we tried this year, and we’ve already made plans to do it next year,” she said. 

For now, the holiday sale is a way to both support local artists and get a sample of everything clay arts can do. 

“Give a gift to someone you love, made by someone who loves what they do,” she said. “Hopefully everyone knows that, when you buy local, you’re better supporting the community.”