By Don Nelson
From its modest debut this week, Matt Armbrust has big aspirations for the Methow Valley Clay Art Fest that begins Thursday (Aug. 8) at TwispWorks.
Armbrust, a local ceramicist whose TwispWorks studio will be the focal point of the event, organized and financed the fest because, he said, “I want it to be a display for local artists, but also bring in high-profile artists who the community should get to know.”
Beyond that, Armbrust said, he hopes the fest will be a springboard for “creating a ceramics hub for the region.”
In addition to his own work, the fest – free to all comers, with donations accepted – features the artistry of the valley’s own Don Ashford, an accomplished ceramicist and owner of KTRT the Root, 97.5 FM; world renowned potter Deborah Schwartzkopf of Seattle; and Seth Charles, who like Armbrust is in a three-year Master of Fine Arts program at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
All of them will be doing demonstrations during the fest so that visitors can see what goes into the creative process. One of the rooms in Armbrust’s studio will be set up as a gallery with items for sale by the artists.
“It’s mesmerizing to watch someone at the [potter’s] wheel,” Armbrust said. “It’s a chance to watch and learn about an American craft tradition.”
The fest begins Thursday with a potluck dinner from 6-8 p.m. at TwispWorks.
On Friday, Charles and Ashford will offer demonstrations throughout the day, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. On Saturday, Schwartzkopf will offer demonstrations from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Things will conclude Sunday with a “Bloody Mary Goodbye” at the Antlers Saloon and Café in Twisp from 10-11 a.m.
Ashford, an active artist for more than 40 years, has not been as involved in his pottery and sculpture since buying the radio station. On Friday, in his first public demonstration in several years, Ashford will be working on a black porcelain mask adorned with locally collected natural materials.
Ashford said he will “recreate my studio” by having live music and a slide show going on while he works, so he can “get in a zone with the clay.”
“It will be a performance,” Ashford promised.
Armbrust “recruited” Ashford for the fest. “I love the idea,” Ashford said. “This could bring people from the outside in.”
Word of such events travels fast in the “clay world,” Ashford added.
Armbrust said Charles is a “classic potter” whose work is inspired by traditional Korean art.
Schwartzkopf’s work is made from porcelain and is fired in an electric kiln, which will be of interest to a lot of local potters, Armbrust said.
Schwartzkopf has taught as a visiting professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, and the University of Washington. She has exhibited and taught numerous workshops nationally and internationally.