By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

Carbondale is beginning to rub off on Clay Center Resident Artist Collette Spears.

In the year since her last solo show, her intricate, double walled carving style has given way to more experimentation and less perfectionism — a mirror, perhaps, of a new philosophy.

“Art, for me, has always been in some way a reflection of the life I’m living,” she said. “Growing up, everyone always asked about my career and how I was going to fund my life. Here, people don’t care what you do as long as you’re happy. People have very balanced lives here, which is the influence I think I needed.”

Spears hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She had a passion for art from an early age and fell in love with ceramics in high school. She got her B.F.A. in ceramics from Ball State University in 2014 and started her Carbondale Clay Center residency in autumn 2015.

“It’s very tactile, and people find it to be very therapeutic to make something they can use in the process of expression,” she explained. “As the years went by, I guess what really struck a chord with me was patterning and making things balanced.”

She began to couple clay with tatting, which not only shared similar designs, but also the painstaking precision of her pottery.

“It does make me feel connected to several women in my family,” she said of the intricate lacemaking art.

As time went on, however, the process became more labor and time intensive until it became difficult to fill a gallery over the course of a year.

“I’ve known for a few years now that it was not going to be sustainable,” she admitted. “It’s just gotten more intense and stressful and tedious. I don’t go easier, I go the other way.”

So, rather abruptly, she opted to go with the flow and try something new. As a result, she’s having a lot more fun with her art, and also in other aspects of her life.

“I can let myself try new things for what feels like the first time ever,” she observed. “I had most of my self worth in this one basket, and now I have a chance to develop other passions and put my self worth into many different things.”So far, that means snowboarding and a lot of hiking — particularly mountain climbing, with hopes for more backpacking in the future. Next, she’s thinking of taking a Spanish class.

She’s coming to enjoy being known as much for her day job at Peppino’s as for her art.

“It’s made me feel really connected. I feel like I know most of this town on a first name basis,” she said. “I never in a million years thought that I would be someone who would be happy working at a pizza place, but I love it.”

None of this is to say that her art has diminished. Indeed, she thinks that folks’ unconditional support for local artists might actually lead to more interesting forms of expression.

“Carbondale might have some things growing out of it that other places might not because there’s no fear of rejection, she said.

As for Spears’ own work, some pieces in her old style will be included in her solo exhibition “Points of Cadence,” which opens First Friday, but after that it’s up for grabs.

“I’m winging it right now,” she said.  “I’m trying out a life of having less of a plan. I think it will be good.”

Next Steps

“Points of Cadence” opening reception

6 to 8 p.m. First Friday, July 7

Carbondale Clay Center, 134 Main St.