Colorado Springs ceramicist Casey Hankin |

Colorado Springs ceramicist Casey Hankin

Colorado Springs ceramicist Casey Hankin.
Miles F. Porter IV / Special to the Daily |

Like many of you, ceramicist Casey Hankin is a regular summertime Breckenridge visitor.

This time he’s marking a decade of selling his artworks at the Breckenridge Gathering at the Great Divide Art Festival over Labor Day, this being the 40th annual edition.

The art festival opened Saturday with two more days, Sunday, Sept. 6 and Monday, Sept. 7, located in the North Main Street at Wellington parking lot, with free admission and free parking.

The 40th annual Gathering at the Great Divide Art Festival is nationally ranked in the top 200 of fine art shows in the United States. The tradition continues featuring more than 100 artists with a wide range of mediums including photography, painting, wood, glass, jewelry, pottery and more.

And like many other artists, Hankin had another career before taking that leap of faith to follow his passion of producing creative pieces of fired clay. He came here from California to be a school counselor, putting that master’s degree to good use.

“Originally from San Diego, I have lived in Colorado for over 20 years now,” he said. “My wife Kerri and I moved here after graduate school when we fell in love with Manitou Springs. I was hired as a school counselor before I quit everything to become an artist. I knew nothing about the business, had two kids and a mortgage, but I was compelled. It was difficult at first, but with hard work, we are making it happen.”

He attended Chico State University in northern California, where he met his wife and they moved to the Bay Area to attend graduate school at Cal State-Hayward, earning his master’s in counseling, the 48-year-old thrower of clay says.

“I do about 15 shows per year and they are the highest percentage of my income. I also work with some galleries (mostly in the winter months) for the rest of my sales. My galleries are primarily in New Mexico and Arizona,” Hankin said.

“I have been doing Breckenridge shows for over 10 years and must have attended 20 or more of them,” he said. “I love the enthusiasm for art here and the shows are high quality, providing a good experience for artists and attendees.”

Hankin’s decorative pieces are eye-catching and colorful, grabbing the attention of art festival-goers.

“My work is wheel thrown and sculpted clay, all original and no molds or shortcuts are used,” he said. “I then fire my vases and works using the Raku process.”

Raku is a 400-year-old technique from Japan, where the piece is pulled from the glaze firing at its hottest point — 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit.

Various post-firing techniques are used to achieve the final product, including horsehair application, where the hair is actually melted/burned into the piece to achieve a beautiful and earthy pattern; and reduction, which eliminates oxygen to develop metallic colors and variations on the surface of the vase as well as crackle patterns and other effects.

“This application allows for a more personal connection to each piece throughout the artistic process,” he said. “It also helps me to control the desired aesthetic more from an artistic point of view.”

Often accompanying the artist and wife are their kids: Jess, 18, Elsa, 17 and Brady, 12. Kerri Hankin owns the private foster care agency Courage Community Foster Care.

You can find Hankin on Facebook at Casey Hankin Ceramics.

The artists on display at the Gathering of the Great Divide include fiber artist Barbara Holloway of New Mexico; Breckenridge photographer Doug Tomlinson; Colorado jeweler Betsy Bracken; Colorado Springs ceramicist Casey Hankin; Florida painter Jan Whitney, who summers at Copper Mountain; Summit High School graduate and metal artist Ben Stielow; sculptor and painter Guilloume from New Mexico; multi-talented Daniel and Barbara Marcus-McKenna of Lyons; mixed media artists Brian Billow and Michele Scrivner of Denver; and painter Blair Hamill.

“We are very excited with this line-up of artists, every one of them are professionals,” said Tina Cunningham, co-director of the show with her father, Dick, himself an acclaimed photographer, and the founder of the event when he lived in Breckenridge back in the ’70s.

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