Finished ceramics at the Colorado Potters Guild

(Photo: CPR/Stephanie Wolf)
The Colorado Potters Guild (CPG) in Denver, the state’s oldest pottery co-op celebrates 50 years of making and teaching ceramics in Denver this month.

The CPR Arts Bureau took a trip to CPG to tour the facilities, meet some of the co-op members and watch a firing.

Listen and view our audio-slideshow to get a virtual tour.

CPR visited the state's oldest pottery co-op on April 21, 2014.

Located in a repurposed old creamery on South Pearl Street, the Guild has grown from 17 original members to 40, ranging in ages from 25 to 94.

The group of passionate potters evolved out of an evening ceramics class taught by Mark Zamantakis, a highly respected potter, at Denver’s Jewish Community Center in 1963, according to founding member Jo Sanders.

“There were four of us all loving pottery,” Sanders says. “That started us talking about ‘wouldn’t it be fun if we had a studio and could form a guild?’”

The initial group was compiled of social workers, teachers and housewives  “people who were not going to have ceramics as their primary revenue stream,” Sanders says. Amateurism is still one of the prerequisites for membership to the co-op.

Sanders says the group took some time to organize. The founders adopted the bylaws of the Ann Arbor Michigan Potters Guild, which was launched 15 years prior to CPG. They also actively sought out space, equipment and additional members. The founding members expressed their interest in creating a legitimate co-op and soon set up shop in an old garage on Louisiana Street near Broadway.

The Denver Fire and Clay Company helped to get CPG up and running, loaning the collective 10 electric pottery wheels and selling them a gas kiln at a discount.

In late spring of 1964, CPG became established as a cooperative non-profit organization in Denver.

“Starting something new is not easy,” Sanders says. “We never dreamed we would be able to accomplish all of this, so we were pinching ourselves at the time.”

CPG moved into its current space at 1541 South Pearl St. in 1967 and purchased the building in 1984.

Sanders says CPG has found no shortage of interested potters. The membership has now reached its maximum capacity of 40 people.

Trudy Fowler, also known as Ortrud to her fellow artisans, has played a number of roles within the organization, from the marketing chair, to the president and other assorted jobs along the way. She attributes the guild’s longevity to its members.

“We all pitch in and do our part,” Fowler says. “That’s what makes the co-op work for over 50 years.”

The Colorado Potters Guild spring show and sale runs May 1-3 at the First Plymouth Congressional Church in Englewood. For more information about the event or the partnership with South High School, visit ColoradoPotters.org.