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Bowen hosts reception for Georgia Clay Council
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Dawson County resident Philip Taylor peruses the art display during the Georgia Clay Council’s opening reception Feb. 3. - photo by Jessica Taylor

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Artists from around north Georgia currently have their clay sculptures on display at the Bowen Center for the Arts until Feb. 23. - photo by Jessica Taylor

The Bowen Center for the Arts is featuring the Georgia Clay Council Exhibit for the month of February. 

Approximately 15 clay artists from all over Georgia including the communities in Ball Ground, Ellijay, Calhoun, Jasper, Blue Ridge and Waleska have their pieces showcased at the Bowen. Many of the sculptures are also for sale.

The Georgia Clay Council was founded in 2003 as a joint effort between a group of artists and the Cherokee Art Center in Canton. Over the past 15 years, the non-profit organization has grown to 43 members who share a common passion of working with clay. 

“We have everything from professionals who make their living with clay art to novices who just come in and enjoy getting their hands dirty and playing in the clay,” said Fred Ellis, president of the Georgia Clay Council.

The Clay Council only exhibits two or three times a year, making the exhibit at the Bowen very special. Ellis said that this exhibit is one of the few times the public will get to view pieces by some of the council’s professional artists who typically only retail their work in high-end galleries.

The artists share a common love for the clay medium, but they have wildly different techniques and preferences that make each artist unique.

Phoebe Maze from Waleska takes inspiration from architecture and broken glass to create colorful and abstract pieces, as opposed to Ann Wallin’s raku and horse hair pottery.

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Each artist has a unique style such as artist Phoebe Maze who created her piece “Adam” which draws inspiration from the first man as well as good luck charms from cultures all around the world. - photo by Jessica Taylor

“I have been using a lot of glass just to get unusual patterns that I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Maze, who has been working with clay since the late 1980s.

Part of Maze’s signature style is her use of good luck charms and infusing architecture into human forms.

“In a lot of my pieces I use the eye,” said Maze. “That fascinates me because almost all cultures have the eye as a symbol. I mean it’s the all-seeing eye and it’s watching you and it’s also a good luck charm for protection.”

Other artists like Sheryl Holstein from Ellijay are fairly new to working with clay.

“I started when I was 52 and I never had any art classes, you know, growing up,” said Holstein. “I took a class at the folk school up in Murphy and my husband took it with me. When we got home he bought me a wheel and a kiln.”

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Sheryl Holstein from Ellijay poses with some of her pieces on display. Holstein, who has arthritis in her hands, says she wonders how she is able to create clay pieces but absolutely loves it. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Holstein likes to work with clay that is part porcelain and part stoneware that she throws on the wheel. She loves making bowls, pots and vases and putting unique texture into her pottery.

Working with clay can be a challenge for Holstein, who has arthritis in her hands. Despite the pain, she continues to enjoy doing what she loves.

“I have no idea how I do it. I just love doing it and I deal with it and it seems to work. I do whatever it takes to make it work,” said Holstein. “It’s just the medium that I most resonate with. It feels good to do it.”

The Georgia Clay Council Exhibit will be on display until Feb. 23.

The Bowen Center for the Arts is located at 334 Hwy. 9 N and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. All exhibits are free and open to the public.