Nestled on the beautiful Verde River in Clarkdale (the Cottonwood/Jerome/Sedona area of Arizona,) the Reitz Ranch Ceramics Arts Center is dedicated to art in all its forms, but in particular, the techniques pioneered by Don Reitz, the late founder of the center and world-renowned artist and educator.
It was Don’s dream to have a program for ceramic artists at his ranch. It has a studio for both wheel work and handbuilding (the “bunkhouse”), and a kiln shed that has 4 wood fired kilns and a salt kiln. One of the kilns, known as the “Reitzagama” was designed and built as a modified anagama that would accommodate his large pieces – you can actually walk into it. If you’re familiar with the size of his work, it will make complete sense to you.
There are a number of other kilns on site; wood fired, electric and raku/saggar. Bisque kilns are both electric and gas.
And if that’s not enough, we even have our own swimming hole in the Verde River, should things get too hot!
Community is the bottom line for everything we want to do. All of this is for naught without the people, the sharing, and synergy that ceramic artists working together create. And the results are beautiful, touching, tactile and thoughtful. Those are rare gifts that we can bring to this world and we are committed to being part of it.
We’ve already received an enormous amount of interest in the use of the facility from artists and universities across the country and will be working with all to figure out the best approach to restarting firings, workshops, and other operations. We feel privileged to help ensure Don’s legacy, and this centuries-old art form and techniques, not only continue but to thrive.
My name is Sheryl Leigh-Davault. I’m married to Ted Davault, and although we did not have children, we have more than made up for it with our herd of dogs, cats, and horses.
Art is a thread that runs throughout my life; disappearing in some spots but always resurfacing. My ASU degree was design based (Landscape Architecture) and I considered myself a 2-D artist for many years (graphite, oil, and watercolor). I entered ceramics via a pottery studio at the end of my road, immersing myself in wheel and sculpture classes.
Two of the artists I met at that studio – Dexter Woods and Amy Sams – and I collaborated to form You+Me=We, an open studio in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. In the spring of 2017, my husband found Reitz Ranch for sale. Dexter educated us on the legacy of the ranch with the help of members of the Phoenix ceramic community – Peter Held, Farraday Newsome and Jeff Reich from the Phoenix area, and Novie Trump and Dennis Ott from Clarkdale and Sedona, respectively – and Ted and I decided that it was too amazing of an opportunity to pass up.
“Amazing opportunity” is an overused phrase in our lives today, but it fits. Don Rietz had a heart that might only have been surpassed in size by his creativity and talent. Reitz Ranch is a nexus formed by a larger-than-life artist and the web of artists and friends that love it and him. It isn’t often that a community survives the loss of its leader to carry it forward even years afterward, but you see it in the yearning of the folks I have met to reconnect and fire again. It’s more than a bunch of mud, bricks, and heat, it truly is a family.