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Potter an Aspen Glen one-of-a-kind

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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When folks think of Aspen Glen, south of Carbondale, they usually think of big houses, a beautiful golf course, two miles of the Roaring Fork River running through it, and guarded gates that keep gawkers from meandering through on Sunday afternoon drives. Folks usually don’t think of Aspen Glen as being home to a professional potter who creates hundreds of pots, vases and other ceramic works-of-art in a studio attached to his home.

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“It’s a full on studio, with two electric kilns,” Frank McGuirk told The Sopris Sun. He said there are no Aspen Glen covenants or homeowners association rules to prevent a potter from operating a studio in his home. To make the workspace as inconspicuous as possible, however, McGuirk put it in a garage bay that he added after this house was built. “It (the house) looks the same … there’s no signage … I might have an open house maybe one day a year.”

Locals can learn more about McGuirk, his work and what it’s like to be Aspen Glen’s only at-home professional potter, when the Carbondale Clay Center opens “Food Drink Flower” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 6. He’ll be sharing the spotlight with internationally known potter Fumiko Nagai, who teaches at Anderson Ranch Art Center twice a year. She and her mentor, Japanese artist Takashi Nakazato, will also attend the opening. Nakazato comes from an unbroken line of family potters dating back to the late 1300s, according to a Carbondale Clay Center press release; his work is also included in the Powers Art Center collection. One of his pieces will be auctioned off on opening night for a Clay Center fundraiser.

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Full circle

McGuirk’s career as a potter has come full circle in the last 40 years or so. The Grand Junction native completed an undergraduate course load in ceramics at Colorado State University in the early 1970s, then started working on a Ph.D. in psychology from the same university.

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After earning his doctorate, McGuirk embarked as a consultant in the mental health field, and eventually started a firm called the TriWest Group. He built the firm to become a nationwide consulting operation, then sold it to his junior partners.

From TriWest, McGuirk looked to the nonprofit world for his next gig. The Mental Health Corporation of Denver, which is the delivery system of the city’s mental health system, hired him as chief operating officer. In that capacity, he worked with a staff of 500 employees.

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Through the years as a mental health professional, McGuirk was posted in several towns and cities. With every new town, he always brought along the Randall potter’s wheel that he bought when he was a student at CSU. “I wasn’t a (ceramics) professional, it was more like catch as catch can … But that wheel traveled with me for years.”

In 2008, McGuirk and his wife, Linda (whom he married in 1974), bought a building site in Aspen Glen. They completed their home about a year later. McGuirk started taking classes at the Carbondale Clay Center to “rebuild” his skills. Today, he teaches at the Clay Center and is also president of its board of directors.

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McGuirk said he’s looking forward to sharing a show with his friend Fumiko Nagai, who he met at Anderson Ranch.

“That’s a perk of living in the Roaring Fork Valley … it’s easy to be part of the Anderson Ranch” art scene.

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Next steps:

Who: Carbondale Clay Center

What: “Food Drink Flower” opening

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When: Jan. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: 135 Main St.

Info: 963-2529