The heat is on

Local potter combines her love of art and gardening

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One out of three of Deb Babcock's teapots crack if they do not dry evenly after being fired at 2,130 degrees Fahrenheit.

"You hear ping, ping, ping, and a few minutes later, it falls apart," Babcock said. "Teapots are very complicated, and there are so many parts. You have to be extra careful with them."

Despite the risk, teapots are Babcock's favorite type of pottery to create because they are so whimsical and animated. "People come in and immediately go up to them," she said.

Babcock began making pottery five years ago and now owns a pottery store, Blue Sky Pottery. She got interested in the craft during docent training for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and took classes at Colorado Mountain College.

Owning a store that also serves as her workshop gives customers an opportunity to see how the pottery is made. "While the wife is shopping, the husband comes over and watches me make a piece," Babcock said.

It is an intensive process, but over the years, Babcock has acquired equipment to save her arms and feet. She uses a slab roller instead of a rolling pin to roll out her clay and uses an electric wheel instead of a kick wheel to throw her pottery. "I'm not coordinated enough to kick and throw at the same time," Babcock said.

Much of her inspiration comes from her other passion of gardening. Babcock has gone through a local master gardening program. "I look at how a flower unfurls while growing, and that becomes a vase or a lid on a pot," Babcock said.

She likes to use things from her garden, such as seeds or leaves, to make an impression into a piece, she said. Sometimes, she rolls pieces of lettuce onto her pottery for texture or models things after pieces that she finds in thrift stores.

Babcock helped form the Steamboat Clay Artisans in 2003 with 40 other potters and sculptors. "We formed a guild so we could get together and do some projects," Babcock said. Every year, they organize the Soup Bowl Supper benefit. "We've raised over $20,000 for nonprofits."

Babcock is the only potter in the guild that has a studio, and she shares it with the other members, nine of which have work displayed in her store.

Babcock likes to experiment with techniques, and she mixes chemicals to make glazes so she has control over colors. "I use porcelain only now because I like how white it is. But a potter's pot is often brown."

Making pottery is Babcock's way of combining her passions ---- art and her garden. "I like to hand make things," she said.

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