Market, CLAY Rodeo conclude weeklong festival

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After a week of workshops, presentations, exhibitions and more, the eighth annual Silver City CLAY Festival ended this weekend with some exciting events Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s just been fabulous,” said festival organizer Lee Gruber, as she sat at her booth on Market Street. “There’s lots of participation from our community.”

Saturday began with some exciting events, including the annual mud pie contest that took place at the Farmers’ Market.

A Makers Market on Market Street carried on throughout the day, as the street was lined with 20 vendors and demonstration areas, along with The Duckstop food truck and The Mint Chip ice cream truck. The event was favored with great weather, and drew a diverse group of community members immersing themselves in the world of clay.

Though it wasn’t the only successful event in the weeklong festival, Lee said that she was impressed by the amount of community participation that the Makers Market received Saturday.

“As you approach the weekend, it gets really busy on our streets, so people come in from all over,” she said. “I was amazed this morning just to see the number of people who were here. At some point, there were five to six hundred people here on Market.”

Rosa Gonzalez was working at a booth toward the end of the street, instructing attendees on how to use a potter’s wheel, right in front of where music was being performed by Brandon Perrault.

“I’m from Douglas, Arizona,” she said. “So I just came to help — I’ve been helping with the kids.”

The booth was run by various clay workers, most of them from Arizona, and some of them also helped teach attendees how to work with clay on a potter’s wheel, or “throw.”

“I enjoyed it a lot, it was a great experience,” Gonzalez said. “I hope to come back again.”

As attendees worked on the two potter’s wheels set up at the booth, Patty Countryman, who was also helping at the booth, commented on the significance of the festival.

“It’s grown a lot,” Countryman said. “There are more artists, the community is more involved and promotion has been really great. It’s bringing people from everywhere. The CLAY Festival is for people to be able to be immersed, themselves, into clay, which you don’t get to do normally without taking a class.”

Brent Hall and his niece, Talitha Lawton, attended the Makers Market on Market Street and worked with clay on the potter’s wheels — a new experience for both of them.

“You have to develop a feel for it,” Hall said. “It’s kind of like riding a bike.”

Hall said he came to the event because of his niece.

“We came down here because she’s real artistic,” he said.

This event, of course, was the meeting place for several vendors offering a wide selection of ceramic art.

“We always come to the CLAY Festival,” said Diego Valles, who was running a booth that displayed several artists’ pottery from Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua, Mexico. “Mata Ortiz is a pottery community — everybody works with clay.”

“We’ve been to the last two festivals, this is our third year,” said Nancy Phillips, who had a booth at the event with her husband, Bob. “It turned out really nice. It was a good location; having all of the booths close together made it easier for customers to walk around and look and see all of it.”

The heavily attended Empty Bowls workshop was also held Saturday, where around 100 drop-in participants created clay bowls by hand.

Sunday, clay makers who volunteered, helped coordinate, hosted events and taught during the week celebrated with two special events — the CLAY Rodeo and the CLAY Brunch at Bear Mountain Lodge.

At the CLAY Rodeo, several clay makers showed off their stuff in a series of competitive tasks that challenged participants’ throwing skills.

“Today was a blast — starts off with serious stuff, we get that out of the way,” said Tilley Rippon, who’s competed at the event in previous years and helped coordinate this year. Then, “this is the event where we get to just relax and have fun.”

Bridgette Johns, project coordinator for this year’s CLAY Festival, was also at the CLAY Rodeo. She reflected on the week as the clay makers packed up their wheels and their clay, noting that many people around the community donated their time, space, and materials to make this event possible.

“The most exciting piece was to see how this community gathers together in collaboration,” she said.

—DAVID MARQUEZ

(Press Staff Photo by David Marquez)  Rosa Gonzalez instructs Talitha Lawton, 11, during the Makers on Market event Saturday. All attendees were able to visit this booth at the end of Market Street and receive a lesson in using a clay wheel for free.

(Press Staff Photo by David Marquez)
Rosa Gonzalez instructs Talitha Lawton, 11, during the Makers on Market event Saturday. All attendees were able to visit this booth at the end of Market Street and receive a lesson in using a clay wheel for free.

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