Thursday, August 13, 2020
Boulder Mountain Clayworks Pulls Off a Socially Distanced Fundraiser
Diane Walker and Aricka Acquistapace auctioned off a lamb they had fired reflecting scenes from the Wood River Valley.
Friday, July 24, 2020


It was the first in-person fundraiser in the Wood River Valley since the coronavirus pandemic started in mid-March.

And it may be one of only three held this year, counting the Sawtooth Botanical Garden’s Garden Tour this coming Saturday and its Gimlets in the Garden on Sept. 2.

But Boulder Mountain Clayworks couldn’t not have its annual Tuscany on Tenth fundraiser, even though it did move it from its usual space at its Ketchum studio to the Sawtooth Botanical Garden to allow guests plenty of elbow room.

Katharine Sheldon shows off some of the complimentary wine and margarita cups that clay workers made for the event.

“This is our fundraising event for the year. If we did not have this we would not be,” said Diane Walker. “We discussed what to do over Zoom in April and our board president Jen Smith, who happens to be the director of the garden, offered the garden. So, we decided we had to try for it.”

The garden provided a beautiful backdrop for the clay auction items. They included a totem boasting birds called “On a Wing and a Prayer” and a lamp featuring sculpted scenes of the Big Wood River, the nearby Cold Springs Pegram Truss Railroad Bridge and a great blue heron.

Masked guests perused a seven-piece pasta dish set created by Lauren Street and other silent auction items displayed on socially distanced tables draped with black cloth. They walked paths lined with lavender and other flowers. And, when it came time to eat, most distanced themselves around tables set up more than six feet apart.

Tom and Jane Allen had barely been out in the past five months, except for short hikes and quick trips to the grocery store. But they decided supporting Boulder Mountain Clayworks given the safety measures in place was worth the risk.

Eleven artists created this totem, including a youngster who crafted a caterpillar for it.

“It’s great to see people we haven’t seen in six months,” said Jane, as she and Tom nibbled on wood-fired pizza from Ketchum Grill’s mobile oven while sipping margaritas and wine in complimentary cups fired in Clayworks’ kiln.

Katharine Sheldon came out in support because she had moved to the Wood River Valley as a ceramic artist 37 years ago and was revisiting ceramic work after years of painting wall and ceiling murals. She  noted that some have turned to clay work during the pandemic.

“There’s something very grounding about having your hands in mud,” she said.

Diane Walker and Aricka Acquistapace had started their auction item lamp featuring one of the bridges that celebrities came across in Sun Valley Resort’s early days before COVID spread through the Wood River Valley in mid-March.

Tom and Jane Allen munched on wood-fired pizza.

The fact that it sat and dried so long before they were able to return to it may have been the secret to its success, noted Walker as she pointed out different features such as eagle’s nest, mountains and even a pile of dog poop alongside the bike path “because we know it’s there.”

“With the glazed process, you cross your fingers and hold your breath. It came out perfect and we were literally jumping for joy,” she said of the lamp, which eventually went for $1,050. “We hope to create a series.”

Eleven Clayworks artists helped create the totem, which also was started before COVID but was finished the morning of Tuscany on Tenth fundraiser. It went for $950.

Lauren Street thanked the 80-plus people in attendance for coming out.

Pam Doucette examines a sculpture donated for the silent auction.

“Some of you this is your first outing. Thank you for braving to come out in this crazy, crazy time,” she said.

Street went on to say that the summer had been very interesting for Clayworks as it was difficult to do virtual ceramics. But, she added, the summer kids camps had been full with a waiting list, although the number of kids allowed into each camp have been pared because of COVID.

“Parents are sick of their kids and I don’t blame them,” she quipped. “I’ve had my 21-year-old home since March 14 and I’m ready to kick him out!”

Street went on to say that Boulder Mountain Clayworks hopes it will be able to partner with The Hunger Coalition on its Empty Bowls fundraiser in January, “fingers crossed.”

“We raised $8,000 for The Hunger Coalition- last year—the biggest one yet.”


The Sawtooth Botanical Garden is getting between 25 and 50 visitors a day from all over the United States, with even a few international visitors, said Director Jen Smith.

“A lot of road-tripping people who are really excited this is accessible and open to them,” she said, noting a slight uptick in visitors. “We’re also seeing more locals, which is super nice. Some tell us, ‘Ohmigosh, we’ haven’t been here in 20 years.’ ”

The garden has had a couple weddings, a renewal of vows in front of the Prayer Wheel and a memorial service, as well.

The 25th annual Garden Tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 25. Tickets—a commemorative 25th anniversary bandana, which can be used as a face mask—are $35 and $40 available at the garden. (see Eye on Sun Valley’s July 19 story, “Sawtooth Garden Tour Boasts Fabulous Art Among Spectacular Flowers” for a description of the gardens in Golden Eagle, Gimlet and Aspen Hollow).

Gimlets in the Garden Summer Gala—the garden’s 25th--will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2.


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