Stepping on to the property of The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is like stepping on hallowed ground for a ceramic artist. The sprawling compound is a former brick factory and the dream of Archie Bray to “make available for all who are seriously interested in the ceramic arts, a fine place to work.” Located just three miles outside Helena, Archie inherited the brick factory from his father, Charles, when he passed away and in 1951 he joined together with Peter Meloy and Branson Stevenson to build the Pottery. Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos both talented ceramicists in their own right were brought in to manage the pottery and quickly established the foundation as a significant center for the creation and study of ceramics.
Since its humble beginnings 65 years ago, The Bray has hosted over 675 resident artists from all over the world from as far as Taiwan, China, Serbia, and Israel to name a few. Ceramic masters like Akio Takamori, Sarah Jaeger and Steven Young Lee (The Bray’s current director) have all attended The Archie Bray making it a world class facility.
True to Archie’s vision, the Bray encourages and celebrates the work of the artists by hosting gallery space and providing studio space to the resident artists as well as a shop for the makers to sell their pieces. The result is that the artists are given the freedom to study, test, and create work at their own pace as well as learn from each other.
Architect’s Wife had the opportunity to visit the Archie Bray Foundation last Spring and wander its grounds. One of the things that stood out for AW during her visit is the accessibility the public has to this space. Everyone is free to experience the facility by visiting the gallery and touring the studio space to see the artists in action. There is even an artist’s shrine which ceramicists have been contributing to over the years. This place is special and well worth the drive to soak in the wonder of watching people study their craft and view their original works in clay.
AW couldn’t let a trip to the gallery pass without making a few acquisitions for the shop, so if you don’t have time to visit Helena (although we HIGHLY recommend the trip), stop by our furniture shop to gaze at the works of some of the current resident artists.