A series of posters of previous Kenai Peninsula Clay Exhibitions that date back to the 1980s are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A series of posters of previous Kenai Peninsula Clay Exhibitions that date back to the 1980s are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Art Center celebrates 50 years of Kenai Potters Guild

Since 1973, in a studio space adjacent to the Kenai Art Center, members of the Kenai Potters Guild have gathered to throw clay, to fire their work in the kiln, and to share ideas and learning.

They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, their annual Clay on Display exhibition is titled “Cheers to 50 Years,” and this month fills the center’s gallery. It shows off the work of local artists, but also recognizes a half century spent making pottery on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Carol Padgett, President of the Kenai Potters Guild Board, said Thursday that the exhibit is a showcase of artists with different visions, with different talents and with different ideas.

“These people, throughout the community, they’re getting together and they’re creating,” she said.

As suggested by the title, and in celebration of those 50 years since the guild was founded, the theme of the show is “adult drinking vessels,” Padgett said. Around the gallery space are dozens of bottles, goblets, mugs and other such liquid containers — but also an eclectic assortment of other ceramic creations. There are sculptures of fish and birds, wall hangings and bowls.

Padgett said pottery is special because it’s tactile — many of the pieces in the show are for sale and will go on to see practical use. She said that viewers find reasons to connect with the work, while the artists allow the pieces to take on personality and become “unexpected.”

The creativity on display left Padgett herself wondering at the works of her peers. Thursday, she pointed to different pieces that had made a connection with her, “Who would think to do this?”

On one wall are promotional posters that date back to the very first shows put on by the guild in the 1980s, as well as samples of work by its founding members and other historical information.

The guild was founded in 1973 by a small group of potters who “had that vision,” Padgett said. It’s that vision that continues to thrive in a dedicated community of creatives half a century later.

The local group is unique, even compared to larger organizations in bigger cities, Padgett said, because of the “gathering place” they are able to maintain and share at the center. It features six pottery wheels, a stock of clay and glaze, and three kilns.

Padgett said unlike most potters who do their creating in their own spaces, the opportunity to create in a communal area strengthens the community and the community’s work.

In the studio, information is shared, she said. That’s the purpose of the guild, “to learn, share and pass it on.” A new potter can ask questions or observe a more experienced potter — that more experienced potter, similarly, can learn from the fresh ideas of the new potter. At peak times, as many as six potters can be working independently in the guild’s studio.

The local guild has a bright future, Padgett said, with those experienced and innovative potters invested in the program. Talented new potters are coming in bringing their “great ideas.”

“It’s amazing that they’ve kept this going for 50 years,” she said. “It is still so active. You can see there’s another 50 year future in this place.”

“Cheers to 50 Years” can be viewed during Kenai Art Center open hours, Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., until the end of the month.

Information provided by the guild says that the easiest way to get involved is by joining classes — which Padgett said they’re working to offer more regularly. For more information about the guild, search for “Kenai Potters Guild AK” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

“Monet in Clay,” by Bryan Olds, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Monet in Clay,” by Bryan Olds, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Clay pieces by Susan E. Baraniecki and Laura Faeo are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Clay pieces by Susan E. Baraniecki and Laura Faeo are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Birds of a Feather Drink Together,” by Carol Padgett, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Birds of a Feather Drink Together,” by Carol Padgett, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A series of sculptures of birds by Laura Faeo are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A series of sculptures of birds by Laura Faeo are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Mary Lou Wilcox’s “6 Small Cups” hang from the wall, part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Mary Lou Wilcox’s “6 Small Cups” hang from the wall, part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Ghost Fish,” by Sandy Campbell, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Ghost Fish,” by Sandy Campbell, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Forever Bloom,” by Nora Ribbens, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

“Forever Bloom,” by Nora Ribbens, is seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Different pieces featuring the “Frosted Red Fish” by Susan E. Baraniecki are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Different pieces featuring the “Frosted Red Fish” by Susan E. Baraniecki are seen as part of Clay on Display at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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