On Friday, Nov. 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Boulder Mountain Clayworks in Ketchum will celebrate the grand opening of its new art gallery featuring Australian sculptor Julie Harvey.
"It's been 10 years," said Clayworks director Susan Ward. "The gallery will be divorced from Clayworks itself but will show the work of the studio and the works of the community and the works of artists from across the country."
Since 1997 Clayworks has been offering classes in clay arts for both children and adults. Many clay artists have come to visit and teach at the studio throughout the years, providing skills and insights as well as encouragement to practicing clay artists who live in the area.
Ward is planning to have what she calls "real" gallery shows, which will be either quarterly or every other month featuring more local clay artists.
"I want people to get in the habit of giving gifts that are handmade, Ward said. "The sculptures are beautiful pieces of clay work that really is affordable art."
"The studio potters are getting good, and they need a place to show off. Everything looks good, and we don't have an opportunity to appreciate it all. Every piece will be framed so you can see the negative and positive space," Ward said.
Since mid-July, Harvey has been working at the Clayworks studio preparing a body of work, which will be on exhibit for the gallery opening. A native of Australia, Harvey has not spent a great deal of time in the mountains.
"There's no sea, and I can't surf, but it is a beautiful place," said Harvey. "I am an ocean dweller, and my girls are ocean creatures."
For the past 15 years, Harvey has been working in large, free form ceramics, which is not the most common discipline for clay art. "It comes natural, and it is a form of expression for me," Harvey said. "Nothing really inspired me. It just came out of nowhere."
Harvey left a career in the corporate world to become an artist and hardly misses the pressure of business.
"I was sick, and it left me in bed for years," she said. "I took up painting because it motivated me, and I went to art school. I have amalgamated it into a business, and my experience in business has become very practical for me."
Harvey works on private commissions in Australia and as an art dealer. That latter activity allows her to travel to various states frequently, but coming to Sun Valley has brought her joy beyond the regular exposure of her work.
"I work mostly by myself, and working in a studio at Clayworks is nurturing and supportive for me," she said. "I am at a point in my career where it's about shared knowledge and assisting others. I like to get out there and share it with people. Teaching and working at Clayworks has been good for me, and that is very exciting."
Harvey encourages clay artists to put their entire bodies into the clay and let themselves go because she believes clay has an innate sense of taking people somewhere they may not have been before.
She said it's addictive.
"Free form and working large just came naturally to me. My figures are round, very joyous and vibrant," she said. "They resonate a universal spirit, and it doesn't matter where you are in the world. People identify with them. It's fantastic and exciting for some of the students who can't believe what they are doing. It's unusual for me that I don't see what I do every- where I go in the world."
With Harvey's background in business, she found she was able to build a business she could afford. She has held exhibitions around the world as well as run schools to help young people come up through the ranks.
Harvey is already making plans to return to Clayworks because the experience was such an inspiration.
"It's the 10th year, and it is such a wonderful place and facility. Julie Singer, the manager, and Susan Ward—their dedication is an inspiration for people. They provide an open house, and it's like one big family."