Thursday, June 16, 2022

Diversity on display

 Snapshots of the show

The Blue Sage Center for the Arts did a beautiful job of hanging/displaying the extreme diversity of my work, several styles spanning over 30 years of working/playing with clay. Following are snapshots of the various displays, posted here especially for those who couldn't attend. The show ends on Saturday, June 18; I will be in the gallery on Friday afternoon from 2-5pm for conversation. The Blue Sage has a concert beginning at 5:00pm, so locals are invited to stop by before the concert.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Retrospective biography

 I wrote a two page summary of my pottery life to tape to the wall at the art show at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts. Here it is:

Tara Miller ~ Artist Biography

Introduction to Clay

My first memory of working with clay was about 3rd grade in Hermiston, Oregon, a clay duck for Mother's Day. I took my first real pottery class in 1972 at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Oregon, while teaching high school English, just to “play in the mud,” and the clay captured my imagination. That teacher advised beginners to keep a piece of our earliest work, to “keep yourself humble.” (I have that piece, but it is not in this show.) After a couple years of teaching, having saved enough money to “take a year off,” I found places to do pottery. I even fired in a burning barrel with the pots buried in smoldering sawdust. I only returned to teaching English much later with a few offerings in the Paonia Vision homeschool program.

Portland, Oregon 1974-1976

Eventually I landed a job as lab assistant at Portland Community College. There I managed glaze inventory and studio organization, and fired the kilns. This gave me not only a place to work and studio management experience, but access to workshops and lectures with master potters such as Betty Woodman, Tom Coleman, and P. K. Hoffman. Woodman's stretched platters directly inspired my work that resulted in the Triptych Vessels and hanging oval platters that you see in this show. 

Pyromaniac Potters

I attended a couple of crazy two-week summer workshops near Hood River, Oregon, hosted by P. K. Hoffman. We built the kickwheels, made pottery, gathered firewood, and stacked the raw pots on kiln shelves. Then we actually built the kiln AROUND the stacked pots, and fired for three days with wood and salt to a very high temperature. All the while we camped in the cherry orchard and bathed by secular sweat lodge (“Hot Rocks!”) with a cold plunge in the creek. 

Mentor, Paul Soldner

P. K's primary mentor was Paul Soldner, so when I was getting ready to build my own kiln and learned of a kiln-building workshop with this master, I jumped at the chance and spent two weeks in Seattle at the base of the Space Needle at the new location for Pottery Northwest. We built 8 kilns in 2 weeks. Soldner became my primary mentor, with his flamboyance and willingness to experiment. Over the years our friendship and his influence continued after I moved to the Aspen area. When asked the difference between art and craft, Paul would reply, “It's art if you are continually making decisions; craft when you already know what you are doing.”

Wood firing, unrealistic marketing

After that workshop, I built my own kiln at a rented home outside Portland, Oregon, dug my own clay and fired with free firewood. My main products were red-clay flower pots with beautiful ash effects, but dime-store planters were my competition. In retrospect, I should have taken the inspiration from Soldner and made more flamboyant sculpture.

Guatemala, 1975

So I went travelling and ended up living with a family of indigenous potters near Totonicapan, Guatemala. They actually prepared their clay, dug from a pit in the back yard, on a metate con mano. It was the only task I couldn't help with, as I got blisters within a brief stint at the grinder. Miguel asked me to marry him, saying that working together without being family was “child's play,” but I declined. Anyway he was already married. I made small flutes myself and sold a few in the market at absurdly low prices. Mainly I learned the techniques of Miguel's family's practical and beautiful tamale steamers. We fired with wood, my Spanish language skills improved greatly, and the memories of that experience greatly enrich my life. 

Aspen and Snowmass 1976-1990

Shortly after returning to the states I moved to Aspen and worked as a picture framer for my sister's photography business, Hill Photography. I learned a lot about art and art marketing as well as photography and framing. During that time, I took classes at Colorado Mountain College, Aspen campus, and eventually quit my framing job and worked again as studio manager. Finally in 1982, I turned my pottery hobby into a full-time profession.

Anderson Ranch

All the time I was in Aspen, I participated with the Anderson Ranch Art Center. One winter, I rented studio space in their drafty barn. In the summer during their teaching season, I was privileged to attend potlucks and Tuesday night free lectures in all media, which fed my soul and knowledge of art and ceramics. I took workshops from such notable masters as John Glick, Victor Babu, Chris Gustin and Jenny Lind. I also participated in several clay symposia, including California Clay in the Rockies, with memorable lectures and demonstrations from such giants in the field as Daniel Rhodes, Peter Voulkos, Ruth Duckworth, Don Reitz, Toshiko Takaezu, Patti Warashina, Michael Frimkess, Bob Sperry and, of course, Paul Soldner. I also learned much from fellow students and managers at The Ranch, most notably, Doug Casebeer and David Strong.

Marriage and Partnership 

In 1984 I married Sam Brown and our partnership allowed us to make more clay work and to travel and sell together at art fairs. The full time commitment made us a living and allowed the freedom to travel. In particular, we have made a relationship with an indigenous community on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru, which we have visited regularly since 1986. We introduced solar energy and continue to help with this technology. The people there are textile artists, and we find a commonality in shared craftsmanship, even if in different media. Though I have played with clay found on the island and taught with children, I have never been able to fire successfully there. Fuel is too scarce. 


We moved to Paonia in 1990 and continued production, selling in both galleries and juried art fairs. I created a line of slip-decorated mugs with wildlife and sports themed images; Sam focussed on handbuilding, in particular open-structured fruit baskets. My studio has at least 15 glazes that can be combined for many colors. I've made full dinnerware sets and all manner of functional stoneware. In 2005, I organized the art show in conjunction with the first production of the Vagina Monologues in Paonia, and created several pieces for that show, celebrating the woman's body. I once had a one-woman show called Poem Pottery wherein the pottery was inspired by my poetry, some with poems written on the pots. 


We retired from full-time production pottery in 2019 (just in time for the pandemic) and Sam no longer works with the clay. I continue to express myself in clay and my most current interest is in planters and plants. My mentor, Paul Soldner, was also a bonsai artist, and I have taken inspiration from his work to propogate plants and find ways to harmonize the living plants in their ceramic homes. 

Thank you for attending this show, which includes so many pieces from this history.

Tara Miller

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Retrospective Show

Opening May 27, 5-7pm at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts

228 Grand Avenue, Paonia, Colorado and continuing through June 16 

I dove into boxes buried in the basement, drawn from works hanging in my own home, and am excited to bring some very special pieces out into the public. Work which has been in private collection all these years, from the 1990's to the present . Most of the pieces have be in special gallery showings or even art fairs over the years. 

This post will be published now, with more pictures added in the future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Side-Saddle Planters

 Retired? Sort of.

I feel deep gratitude for you, our loyal pottery patrons and friends, for all of these years. Thank you for enjoying our production work, the mugs and fruit baskets, bowls and platters.

We feel very lucky to be retired this year when the art fairs are all cancelled. We also feel great compassion for those friends who depend on art fairs for their livelihoods, as well as so many in this time of great economic challenges.

Sam has retired completely from the pottery business. He used to claim that he was only a "potter by marriage," with humility toward the amazingly creative work that he made. But he will make no more stoneware fruit baskets. We have some inventory remaining. I continue to create special pieces. However, without a second person to produce, I am very slow to fill our kiln.

Right now I am most interested in planters and bonsai succulents. I've been raising these plants for many years, selling them locally in my handmade planters. It's not a great marketing strategy, but I enjoy working with the living plants and creating unique planters. In particular, I've designed a planter with a built-in saucer. They are usually handbuilt (without the potter's wheel) and highly textured.

I haven't fired all year and have several items all glazed and ready to fire, but I need to fill a bisque firing before proceeding. Here are photos of work in progress:

Most of these mugs will be sold through Sundance Gallery in Buena Vista, Colo.

unglazed planters in process

Overfill in watering will pitcher down into the "saucer."

Firing schedule is undetermined at this point.


In the meantime, we progress with marketing the textiles, fairly traded mostly for solar gear, which we bring home from Peru We have initiated an Etsy site. Do check it out

Yes, and for more stories about what this Peru relationship is all about:

Thanks for listening!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Solar Project with Heart

By Tamie Meck, Published in the Delta County Independent, Wednesday, November 28, 2018, the Back Page. This article followed a delightful interview with Tamie in our home, and we are grateful for her kind and thoughtful story. I have made a slight factual corrections, in particular about the history of solar in Southern Peru. Much of this article is about our Peruvian project, but it does show a bit of our history as potters as well. We are currently in Peru, Jan-April, 2019, but you can use  This link:  Table of Contents   to help you find specific items of our work on previous posts.

A solar project with heart

When Paonia potters Sam Brown and Tara Miller married in the mid-1980s, they imagined selling their handmade pottery and living a simple life. She was educated in literature, he had a background in zoology, natural resources and recreation, and they shared a desire to visit the world's great mountain regions. "We live in Colorado," said Sam. "We love mountains."

In 1986 they took their first trip, to Peru and the Andes Mountains. The trip changed the course of their lives, and in turn, changed the lives of others.
Solar panels provides power for homes on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru. Paonia potters Sam Brown and Tara Miller first visited more than 30 years ago, and over the years have helped bring solar power to the remote island while helping to market the beautiful textiles.

In the 1970s, Tara enrolled in an evening pottery class while teaching high school English in Coos Bay, Ore. Soon after, she took a year off and focused on her pottery skills. In the early 1980s she moved to Aspen to make picture frames for her photographer sister, and in 1982, began working solely in the pottery studio, studying under some of the biggest names in the field.

Her specialty was heavy ceramic mugs decorated with aspen leaves applied through a resist technique. They sold quite well in the local shops. In 1983, Tara met Sam, a National Parks Service back-country ranger stationed at Rocky Mountain National Park. Shortly after, he took off on a year-long assignment to Alaska, returned to Aspen, and joined Tara in the clay studio.

Sam added Rocky Mountain themes like elk, native birds, aspen trees, fishermen and skiers to Tara's motifs. Themes they continue to use today. "Our pottery sells well as long as we stay within the Rocky Mountain theme," said Sam.

Their trip to Peru took them to Lake Titicaca, located at almost 12,500 feet at the base of the Andes Mountains. A two-hour boat ride from the city of Puno took them to Taquile Island.

A terraced island of just over two square miles, Taquile's economy is based on agriculture and tourism. It has largely avoided outside influences for centuries. As a result, said Sam, there are no cars, bicycles, dogs or guns on the island. As they have been for centuries, major decisions are made collectively. Recently the residents thwarted efforts to commercialize and build hotels.

"It's a real peaceful society," said Sam. "You walk everywhere."

Taquile is known worldwide for its fine textiles, made using centuries-old knitting and weaving techniques, and from which their colorful and traditional clothing is made. In 2005, Taquile's textile arts were proclaimed "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.

Most tourists stay a couple of hours, take photos and buy textiles before heading back to Puno. Sam and Tara planned to stay two nights and were assigned a host family.

One modern technology only beginning to be introduced in the region was solar power, but it was unknown on Taquile Island. What little power they had came from lead-acid batteries. Charging them meant a three-day round trip to Puno. Tara and Sam knew about solar power both through association with the Rocky Mountain Institute and through a new renewable energy program at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen, which in 1991 would morph into Solar Energy International. The environmental risks of the lead-acid batteries were a big concern, they said.

Their host couple were weavers. They showed Sam and Tara their beautiful textiles and shared their dream of going to America to sell their goods and teach their craft.

"Being craftspeople ourselves, we bought into the dream," said Tara. Their two-night stay turned into a week. In 1988, they returned, smuggling in a 9-watt solar panel. They wired the panel to a radio and played music. To the residents, "It was like magic," said Sam.

Everyone wanted a panel, they said. They traded the panel for textiles, which they sold back home at local craft fairs, and re-invested the money in more solar panels to take with them on their next trip.

Taquile's inhabitants gained more than solar power, they gained a family. On Taquile, says Tara, "We're 'Madrina and Padrino,'" Godmother and Godfather.

Tara and Sam moved to Paonia in the early 1990s and set up their clay studio. It hasn't made them rich, but that was never the plan, they said. Tara began ceramic mugs, platters, bowls, planters, and other objects, and Sam made clay coil stoneware fruit/bread baskets. They were busy with family life, and in winters sold Christmas trees in California for Sam's family's business.

In the mid-1990s they returned to their Taquile family, and have returned almost every year, always packing solar equipment for trade. Back home, they sold textiles alongside their pottery. "We figure that was their currency because it's good stuff," said Sam. Since they only need to make enough to buy more solar equipment, the markup is small. Items sell well, and people who know weaving recognize the fine detail of the weaving and understand the skills required to make it.

Through the years Sam and Tara have also brought Taquile residents to America. One year the Smithsonian Institution hosted a group of Taquile residents. The Smithsonian paid their expenses, but when offered money, "They wanted solar panels," said Sam. "The Smithsonian had to run around and buy solar panels to pay them."

SEI moved from Carbondale to Paonia in 2002. When they offered a class on solar energy in the developing world, Tara and Sam gave a lecture on Taquile. Most lectures were filled with technical speak, they said. They spoke about smuggling solar panels into Peru, trading panels for textiles, and how much they loved the people. "We were the project with heart," said Tara.
Sam shares a happy moment with three young sisters on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru, where he and wife Tara are known as ‘Madrina and Padrino,’ Godmother and Godfather.

Tara and Sam are still living simply and making pottery in the home studio. At the height of their career, they did as many as 12 craft shows a year. They could have had more lucrative careers, but instead made a conscious choice to maintain control of their lives. They wanted the flexibility that allows them to hike or travel and work in their studio. "We knew we were choosing the lower money route, but we were choosing a quality of life, other than a 9-to-5 job," said Sam.

After more than 30 years, they're cutting back on craft fairs and slowing production. They plan to create more local venues and set up shop online. The demand is still there, said Tara. She recently enlisted the help of an assistant to work in the studio.

They also plan to continue visiting their Taquile family. They recently established a program to provide school supplies to the local children. Two years ago, Brad Burritt and Danielle Carre with Empowered Energy Systems in Hotchkiss traveled to Taquile to install two small solar systems. Through a YouCaring campaign, they raised money and returned last year with son Asa, a solar installer who speaks Spanish, to teach a solar installation class. Four Taquile residents earned their diplomas and now have textbooks to refer to.
Paonia Artists Sam Brown and Tara Miller wear traditional clothing for the annual Carnival celebration on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed Taquile Island’s centuries-old tradition of textile weaving and knitting as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

Their positive influence on the island continues. Recently their godson was re-elected to town council. When a diesel fired water-pumping project was proposed, which would belch diesel smoke and not bode well with the tourists, he lobbied for solar, and won. Thanks to the resulting project, the island now has three water pumping systems, virtually eliminating the need to haul water.

Hauling water, said Sam, is considered one of the biggest jobs in the developing world. On one trip to Taquile they had to haul water, and almost cried when they got home and turned on the faucet. "It's so amazing that we have running water, both temperatures, and it's clean," said Tara.

On their most recent trip, they brought home dozens of textiles -- hats, gloves, scarves, belts and purses. Some pieces are tagged with the artist's name, type of wool used, and a short story. As they have for many years, this Friday and Saturday they will have a booth at the annual Holiday Art Fair at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts in Paonia.

Their years of work and visits to Taquile Island are documented in words and photographs at

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Delta County Independent Story

Check out our Amigos de Taquile post about a story in the Delta County Independent, written by Tamie Meck, about both our Pottery and our relationship with Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru. My blog post with the article is at

The newspaper story can be read at:
Note the house in the background has a panel as well. This belongs to Delia and Jesus.
We continue to do holiday markets as we can find them, but focussing on our large textile collection for sale more than our pottery. You can search this site with This link:  Table of Contents    to help you find specific items of our work on previous posts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Planters and Plants

My newest, and fun challenging project is to make planters--some of which have the value-added inclusion of houseplants! I have been propagating jade and other houseplants for some time, with stunning results, and offer them as a complete unit. Here is one with a blooming Amaryllis from last spring: 
Note: This link:  Table of Contents    will help you find specific items of our work on previous posts.
The other aspect of my planters is a result of what I like to call "the problem of the saucer." I have solved the problem by constructing the saucer on the side as part of the planter, a "side saucer." These planters are constructed with various techniques, allowing rich textures and fun finishing details.
This pair just came out of the kiln this morning and don't have their plants yet:

Some of my planters are still the traditional under-the-pot saucer:

And, just for fun, the following is a picture of the kiln this morning, in the process of unstacking. Note the various planters, including one in blue on the third shelf down:

The 47th Annual Carbondale Mountain Fair is July 27, 28, and 29, 2018 — This Weekend!
We will be showing our pottery (though not many plants) and you can find us on the map in booth #55, along Weant Street in the NE corner of the park.
The show opens at 12 Noon on Friday, July 29,
 10am on Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31.
Selling closes around dusk on Friday and Saturday; 5pm on Sunday.
For more information about the fun fair schedule, check out:

See you at the fair!