When June was leaving on her trip to have a two month residency in Basin, Montana my memories flooded back to the days when I would drive from Helena to Basin to have lunch or to go to Boulder to the Hot Springs for a weekend retreat. My favorite spot to nurture the creative was the Archie Bray Foundation, east of Helena. Here at the grounds of the Bray ceramic studio, I made some of my best costume sketches while I sat in the gazebo after walking around the studios and viewing the works of the current group of residents.
This amazing place of creativity was begun in 1951. Archie Bray, a brick maker from England, founded the studio adjacent to his brick yard. Bray began the foundation after encouragement and support from Peter Meloy a local attorney, judge and part time ceramist, his brother Hank Meloy, an instructor of painting at Columbia University in New York, and Branson Stevenson, a potter from Great Falls. The first summer students from Montana State University in Bozeman, Rudy Autio, Peter Voulkos and Kelly Wong were residents, worked at the brickyard to earn dollars, and the first building of this now 56 year old foundation was erected.
Rudy Autio went on to start the ceramics department at the University of Montana in Missoula. His vessels often had linear drawings that are reminiscent of a Matisse drawing. T-shirts with replications of his art are still favorites in Montana.
Peter Voulkos began his career after earning his MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts. He produced a line of functional dinnerware and began earning national recognition for his ceramic sculptures. He is known for his abstract expressionist ceramic sculptures which crossed over the line between art and craft and he is renowned for his larger than life ceramic sculptures. Voulkos worked with a number of potters and has a visiting artist residency in his name. John Mason, who did the piece below, was one of Voulkos’ students.
The resident program provides a summer season of lectures and slide shows at the Holter Museum in Helena and the art shows at the Bray or in galleries in the area are fodders for design inspiration for all creative folk. It was my good fortune to have ten seasons of inspiration from the Bray and its resident potters. It is worth a bit of time to explore this place if you ever travel through Helena Montana.
Some places to read about the history are:
To read about David Shaner former resident director of the Bray:
To see a retrospective on the influence of the Bray on ceramics:
Often I find that to visit other media in museums, galleries schools and places like the Bray moves my creative to new vistas. I am always delighted to view works in fiber, my media of choice, but when I whet the vision with works of other materials my own designs become more individual, more inventive, and more exploratory. It is my hope that you will take a look at what is offered at the Bray and then, perhaps, look for places near to you where you can find stirring sticks for your creative in 2008.