Over three days in August, a group of area artists transformed clay into characters exuding plenty of personality.

Each character is about a foot tall and has a story developed by the artist as the clay gave way to show a face, arms and legs, clothes, a violin here, a basket there.

It was all part of the class "Sculpting Imaginary Characters" led by Texas ceramics artist Ruth Wilson and offered at Western Colorado Center for the Arts (The Art Center).

Here are those character's stories as well as a few details about their creators.

Character's name: Brunhilda Pavarotti

Artist's name: Ron Cloyd

Brunhilda's story: She is the youngest half sister of operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Their father was a baker, and he also was somewhat of a rake, Cloyd said.

On one of his trips to buy yeast in Düsseldorf, Germany, he met a young barmaid who became his girlfriend. It was during a tryst with her that Brunhilda was conceived.

Brunhilda didn't know about her family until her father told her when she was a young adult. It was then that she discovered she had a brother who was an opera singer.

"Brunhilder was found to have an aptitude more suited to motel maid or dishwasher. So although she aspired to be like her brother, she just didn't have it," Cloyd said.

But her family did take pity on her and would let her dig through the costume trunks backstage at the opera and wear the clothes and pretend to be an opera singer.

Artist details: Cloyd has been a clay artist for about 25 years both as a potter and sculptor. He currently is teaching the "Sculpting in Clay" class at The Art Center.

He is the president of the Junction Clay Arts Guild and sits on the Grand Junction Commission for Arts and Culture.

His work can be found at the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade and the Main Street Gallery and Grand Valley Books in downtown Grand Junction as well as at The Art Center.

Character's name: Sylvester

Artist's name: Mary Kleinsorge

Sylvester's story: "He started his life out in Sicily and as a young child started playing violin in rebellion against his father's family business, if you know what I mean," Kleinsorge said.

He always wanted to play in Paris but for some reason never got to go in that direction. Instead, he was sent to the United States on a classical violin tour and found himself in Paris, Texas, where he met Francine, a voluptuous, French call girl.

"Well, they fall head over heels for each other and he tries many times to tour away from Paris, but is always called back by (Francine's) shining eyes and ruby lips and voluptuous curves," Kleinsorge said. "He convinces her to stop being a call girl and become a madam and he ended up getting to play his music in Paris, Texas, for the remainder of his years."

Artist details: Kleinsorge has practiced as a chiropractor for 32 years in Delta County. The last workshop she took at The Art Center before this one was 23 years ago with Terry Shepherd, the artist in residence.

"I decided to take this workshop because my youngest daughter just went to college last week and I thought this would keep me busy," she said.

Character's name: Francine

Artist's name: Carole Langan

Francine's story: She is a madam from Texas, but since it is Paris, Texas, she considers herself Parisian. She has a nice little house there in south Paris, Langan said.

When Francine met Sylvester (another character from the class), she told him she was from Paris, but didn't admit to him that it was Paris, Texas, until after they were married. And then she had a few relatives she wanted him to meet.

"She is the hooker with the heart of gold," Langan said. "She's a sweetheart."

Francine reminds Langan of a French teacher she once had who was hunched over like Francine, but had a constant scowl. Francine refused to put on a scowl, so Langan had to go with little ruby lips.

Artist details: Langan has been sculpting in clay since taking a contemporary clay class two years ago. Her mother was an artist and her dad was an engineer, "but I'm colorblind," she said. "Three dimensional art without color was just a godsend."

While painting Francine, Langan had a lot of support from the class. "They helped me come up with flesh colors that weren't green," she said.

Character's name: ZripTrex

Artist's name: Nina Williams

ZripTrex's story: He is a reporter from the Vega star system and on Earth to investigate a peculiar event, an intergalactic anomaly that is manifesting as biological sentient beings, Williams said.

As it turns out, those beings are the other characters in this class, said Williams, who is interested in science fiction and created the only nonhuman character in the class.

Artist details: Williams has worked with ceramics for more than 30 years. She teaches a hand building ceramics classes at The Art Center.

Character's name: Mildred

Artist's name: Cindy Fenster

Mildred's story: Fenster wrote this description for Mildred: "Adorned with a cape and all the royal finery at hand, Mildred transforms into 'her Majesty' for a day. Beset by arthritis, family squabbles and overall poor health, she once again escapes into her alter ego and lives (in) a world of comfort, carefree of the everyday angst. At the tender age of 105, Mildred comes alive!"

Artist details: Fester is a mixed media artist and received a fine art degree from Mesa College.

She has done a little bit of clay work in the past 10 years, and "I do love it. It's fun. It's kind of like eating with your hands. Messy," she said.

Character's name: Ana

Artist's name: Kimberly Johnson

Ana's story: Ana is from a small town in Slovakia. She has just returned home from the market. She opens her kitchen door and, to her delight, finds her entire family there to surprise her for her 85th birthday, Johnson said.

Johnson plans to add a bottle of wine, some fish and carrots to Ana's basket, as well as a kitty peering into the basket to see what Ana has brought home.

Artist details: Johnson began taking ceramics classes at The Art Center a couple years ago after her youngest son went to college. First she took classes with Nina Williams, who after a year suggested Johnson try Ron Cloyd's classes. She saw a flyer for this class and was just fascinated, she said.

"I've enjoyed art for many, many years," she said, noting her time as part of the Art Heritage Program in District 51 schools.

Character's name: Willy Wimsenewski, the Electric Troubadour

Artist's name: Rich Edwards

Willy's story: Willy Wimsenewski was born in 1948 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Marcus and Masta, refugees who fled Latvia and Stalin in the 1930s, and changed their last name to Wimsey. Willy did well in school while growing up and went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study architecture and engineering. While there, he played guitar in a band with Mike and Dwayne.

Willy got involved in the anti-war movement during the 1960s and while in Washington, D.C., he heard about a music festival planned in New York. He decided to go and "it was like nothing he had ever experienced — the music, people, the crazy atmosphere, the LSD — it changed him forever," according to a biography Edwards wrote for Willy.

While Willy would have like staying around Bethel, New York, he moved to Montreal to avoid the draft. He did odd jobs and continued to play guitar. He became a Rastafarian for a while, playing with a reggae band in Quebec City.

Eventually, Willy returned to the Woodstock area "and is now a docent at the Woodstock Museum. He also plays regularly for tourists. The Jimi Hendrix version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner" is his tour de force," Edwards wrote.

Artist details: Edwards has taken classes at The Art Center for about 10 years or so and likes the various ideas and techniques he learns by taking classes with different instructors. While he has thrown clay on a wheel, it's not his forte, and clay sculpting classes have help him get a different perspective on clay, he said.

For him, art and sculpting is "more of a pleasure thing and takes you out of your normal state of mind," he said.

Character's name: No name, so far

Artist's name: Yan Kong

Character's story: "I'm not a storyteller I guess," Kong said. "I think she's dreaming or dancing."

The colors she used to paint her character to make her think of a flower, but no story has developed beyond that. Her daughter is more of a storyteller and will likely come up with a story for this character, she said.

Artist details: Kong is an art major with a concentration in ceramics at Colorado Mesa University.

She has taken classes and workshops at The Art Center for more than two years. She has done a lot of clay throwing, but this class was her first time creating a clay figure sculpture.

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