Endless Summer: Judy Summer’s new art
May 15, 2009
The sage green barn off Old Ranch Road wasn’t more than a shell when Judy Summer moved in 15 years ago. To call it a fixer-upper would be an understatement. "It was a New England salt box off a dirt road with cracked cement and a basement that flooded," Summer said with a laugh Wednesday. She wore a green jacket, the same light shade as the façade of her house, and the wind lifting her hair in the late afternoon sun. A sage in sage.
A jeweler and sculptor, Summer wanted a reprieve from the bustle of Old Town, a place where she could do her work in peace. The first winters were rough, but not without reward. "I bought a horse before I had built a barn or a fence," she said.
Today, civilization has come to her. A crop of houses sits three miles away and, on the other side of the hill, the Redstone development offers a dose of comfort and convenience.
Things have changed inside Summer’s studio as well. Besides a small glass case containing rings, broaches and necklaces, each dressed with moonstones, jasper poppy and agate, there’s little jewelry. Four years ago, after nearly three decades of making jewelry, a car accident left her vision impaired and rendered her unable to practice her craft.
She decided to transition to polymer clay.
"The real transition took me a year and a half to emotionally concede that I wasn’t going to be able to make jewelry anymore," she said. "I did it fighting tooth and nail."
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Known as the chameleon clay for its pliability, the synthetic material comes in a rainbow of colors and can be shaped into almost anything. Summer designs the rectangular frames that encircle light switches, horses and figures, among other figurative creations. Few fulltime artists work in polymer clay, at least not on so large a scale, because it is impossible to make reproductions of the work, as with metal. Each piece is one of a kind. Clay sculpture is time consuming and, practically speaking, few have ovens large enough to cure pieces.
One of Summer’s recent projects was to transform satin pointe shoes into a sculpture themed after Ballet West’s "Madame Butterfly." She has built an array of butterflies, flowers and greenery on the shoes, which will be on display, and up for sale, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. The event, called "Shoe In" benefits Ballet West. It features a variety of ballet slippers bedazzled with gems, wood and beadwork from Utah artists.
The slippers are a departure from the long-legged horses patrons are used to seeing at Artworks Gallery the Kimball’s Park City Arts Festival. Summer started Artworks in 1982. She is also a founding member of the Park City Professional Artists’ Association and the nonprofit Arts Kids. This year will mark the 30th year Summer will sell her work at the Arts Festival.
In 1979, the festival was a casual affair, unlike the parade of booths it is today. Vendors weren’t allowed to sell in the middle of the street. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the quality of merchandise began to spike. Crowds followed. "In some ways, I’m nostalgic for the old days. We were all sun burnt, wearing shorts," she laughed, "but the quality of the work, and the juries, are excellent. I wouldn’t want to go back."
Summer would like to reserve a small section of her booth for this year’s festival, which is Aug 1 and 2, for her older pieces, which includes bronze sculpture and the jewelry she no longer makes.
The 40th Annual Park City Kimball Arts Festival on historic Main S kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 1, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and runs through Sunday, August 2, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will feature 225 artists, live music and three beer and wine gardens.