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Clay Center’s annual fundraiser to bring together potters, tacos and community

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Start with 30 Carbondale clay artists; add 300 one-of-a-kind handmade plates, four chefs, two organic farms, one distillery, one brewmaster, and countless volunteer hours — mix thoroughly.

All these ingredients are coming together for the Carbondale Clay Center’s largest fundraiser of the year, a themed event titled Tacos on Plates, which celebrates functional ceramics, community and food. The event takes place from 5–8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Carbondale Clay Center (CCC), 135 Main St.

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The plates are being hand-crafted by 30 invited artists, each of whom will make at least 10 plates. The participating restaurants are Field 2 Fork, Slow Groovin’ BBQ, Gerb’s Grub, and Señor Taco Show Presents AXKAWA.

Erin’s Acres and Sustainable Settings will donate vegetables and meat for the chefs to use “so everything is sourced locally,” according to CCC Executive Director Angela Bruno.

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“We told all of the chefs what we are looking for. They each are making enough food for about 300 tacos, and they have free reign to make whatever they want,” she added.

Tickets are $65 and include the plate, food as well as drinks from Marble Distilling and Roaring Fork Beer Company or nonalcoholic options. Entertainment for the evening will include a  Santa Fe Aspen Ballet Folklorico performance and a live deejay.

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Ticket-holders show up, pick from among the hundreds of plates, enjoy food served directly on that plate, then get to take the plate home for their own collection.

“One of the really special things about functional ceramic art is that we’re engaging with it, using it, and it’s part of a daily, sit-down ritual with family. I do love that,” Bruno said. “A lot of times, you come into a gallery and you buy something to look at. These events are a great way to get people to engage and interact with the artwork. You see its function and connect with it.”

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Participating artists will also be attending the event, so there’s even a chance a patron will get to meet the artist who crafted the plate. The oft-sighted “ArtStream” Airstream trailer — a mini art gallery on wheels — owned by CCC member Alleghany Meadows, will be on loan with works from each plate potter for sale.

“We’re also trying to do a little bit better job honoring and recognizing all of the artists that participate in this. We obviously could not pull this off without them. We ask them to donate their time and artistry every year, and every year they say yes,” Bruno said.

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The annual fundraiser had traditionally been called Cajun Clay Night with gumbo, a giant alligator cake and local artists crafting bowls. Three years ago, in recognition of the clay center’s 20th anniversary, the clay center staff and board of directors strayed from the Cajun theme to bring special attention to the nonprofit’s anniversary celebration. The fundraiser was called Settings, and artists were tasked for the first time with making plates.

“When we had that break with Settings, we thought maybe it would be kind of fun and different to mix up the theme so that we were offering different dishes instead of just bowls every year,” CCC Executive Director Angela Bruno said. “We’re just sticking with rotating the theme. We’ve decided this year to do small plates and tacos. Plates are a kind of tough thing to make but they’re coming together really well.”

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In early September, the Clay Center was abuzz with artists preparing for the fundraiser. The center’s marketing coordinator, Savanna LaBauve, was pressing clay into 1/4-inch slabs so she could begin the process of shaping her 14 or so plates. (She was planning to make more than 10, accounting for some that might not fire right.)

Gallery/Studio Manager Matthew Eames was loading a kiln with plates. Volunteer and ceramics student Michael Kaiser was glazing plates.

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“This is fun. I got a little obsessed,” Kaiser, an Aspen Glen resident, said about his 15-plus plates.

A retired graphic designer from Los Angeles, Kaiser moved to Carbondale in 2014 and renewed his interest in ceramics shortly afterward. Three years ago, he enrolled in a studio class led by Carbondale artist Frank McGuirk, and has been taking classes ever since.

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“I got back into making pots 50 years later,” Kaiser said of his early years of working with clay. “They asked me to make some plates, and I said yes. It’s a fun thing to do that will help the Clay Center.”

Bruno says the Clay Center is for people like Kaiser — youths, beginners and professionals. No matter your experience or interest, the Center is for everyone.

“We are a community art center,” she said. “We try to make this a special place for everyone who comes in, not just talented professional artists. We want everyone that comes in here to feel like they have a space to create, a space they can make their own, feel welcomed and encouraged and to be creative. It’s a chance to take a break in routine, make something special and either use it or gift it, but to come in, be happy and leave her smiling.”

Proceeds from Tacos on Plates go toward the nonprofit’s programming in ceramic arts, including adult and children’s studio classes, special workshops, community outreach to schools and other nonprofits, an Artist in Residency Program, exhibitions with work from area and national potters, and First Fridays gallery receptions.

TACOS ON PLATES

Carbondale Clay Center

Tacos on Plates

annual fundraiser

Date: Sept. 21

Time: 5–8 p.m.

Members’ preview from 4–5 p.m.

Location: 135 Main St.

Tickets: $65, via phone at (970) 963-2529; online at www.carbondaleclay.org;
or at the door.

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