First Friday Featured Artist: Sarah Jaeger

By MATT ANGLEN

Art is big in Missoula. If you don’t believe me just head downtown on the First Friday of every month and you’ll see sidewalks overflowing with people eager to catch the latest exhibition. This First Friday (AKA tomorrow) is no exception. With over 30 galleries, coffee shops, and other venues opening their walls to artists and their doors to the public, it can be hard to narrow down just which show to see.

The Missoula Cultural Council has rounded up all the information in one convenient Gallery Guide to help you navigate the art walk, however I personally recommend heading to the Clay Studio of Missoula to see the fascinating work of Helena based artist Sarah Jaeger.

Sarah draws her inspiration from ancient Chinese and Persian ceramics, textile patterns, and her garden. She builds durable, inviting, and useful pieces out of porcelain; taking the traditional forms as her guide before applying bright, almost jewel like glazes in designs that carry a warm, personal touch.

jaeger throwing

And these works are meant to be inviting. Sarah explicitly makes functional art – a distinction unique to the world of ceramics. It is her intention for the art she creates to “become part of someone’s everyday life.” Through the constant daily use and existence in our domestic spaces, Sarah explains that these ceramic pieces, “…can insinuate themselves into our consciousness by many different avenues even when we are not paying attention, and over time the pots we use can accrue layers of meaning and association. Through the quiet roles they play they can bring the experience of beauty or unexpected pleasure to everyday life.”

Not to mention there is a certain amount of luxury you feel when eating your cereal out of a work of fine art. Sarah’s work is currently included in a number of public and private collections as well as in many kitchens throughout the country. Her career and more importantly her body of work are very impressive, however this artist came to ceramics somewhat unexpectedly.

jaeger glazing

Having graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature, Sarah took ceramics classes to try out something different and was quickly hooked. She obtained her own potter’s wheel thinking it would be just a hobby. However by her late 20’s Sarah had abandoned her previous pursuit of a “real job” and had begun supporting herself solely on her art.

Eager to learn, the young artist attended as many workshops and lectures as she could to improve her craft, but as the hobby became a career, she decided to pursue an education. Receiving a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, Sarah went on to gain a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation, was awarded a fellowship from the Montana Arts Council and has the distinction of being the only ceramic artist awarded a Target Fellowship from United States Artists in the year she applied.

Sarah found her home – and her voice as an artist – in Montana. With the Red Lodge Clay Center, the Archie Bray Clay Foundation, and the Clay Studio of Missoula – Montana is big into ceramic art. What Sarah found here was a community full of energy and diversity, and one tighter knit than those she has encountered elsewhere.

 

The distance from big cities helped her to avoid simply following trends, and allowed her to create a style all her own. And we are lucky that she did. Her pieces are truly unique and looking at them, it’s not difficult to see why she’s seen so much success.

clay studio-w800-h800

Given her introduction to ceramics, it’s appropriate her most recent work will be displayed at the Clay Studio of Missoula, a vital part of our community providing introductory to advanced ceramic workshops – including one hosted by Sarah Jaeger herself this Saturday, August 2nd (you can register here).

“Pots for the Summer Kitchen” by Sarah Jaeger will be on display at the Clay Studio of Missoula in Missoula’s historic Westside Neighborhood (1106 A Hawthorne) from August 1st through the 29th.

To learn more about the Clay Studio of Missoula and its role in our community, check out the Missoula Cultural Council’s blog.
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Matt Anglen HeadshotMatt Anglen is a prodigal Missoulian who has returned to the valley after a brief stint as a starving artist in the Windy City. He is currently the Program Director for the Missoula Cultural Council and lives with his wife and son at the base of MountJumbo.