By Rene Kraus
Explorebigsky.com Contributor

BIG SKY – Like many people in Big Sky, Jill Zeidler came to live here by a circuitous route. Before completing her fine arts degree at Northern Arizona University, she studied for a year at Montana State University in Bozeman, where she met her future husband. They briefly lived in Alaska before setting out for a “small town experience” in Big Sky, having skiing nearby an added bonus.

Now with two children, Zeidler’s work as a ceramic artist fits her busy life. Children and art have been a recurring focus for her – she taught ceramics to eighth graders as part of the “Art Around the Corner” program at Big Sky’s Ophir School shortly after graduation. Since then, she’s built a roster of exhibitions, including at the Gallatin River Gallery in Big Sky, as well as the prestigious Turman Larison Contemporary Gallery in Helena. Zeidler participated in her first juried art fair in Jackson Hole, Wyo. three years ago.

Her professional goals now include attaining more visibility through art fairs and influential galleries in new markets such as Idaho, Oregon, Chicago and New York. Her ideal venue is the coveted Scottsdale Art Fair, as she has yet to have a showing in Arizona. She says it would be wonderful to come full circle and become known in that area.

All of Zeidler’s ceramic pieces are hand-built. She doesn’t use a wheel, but rather sculpts each item by hand, then glazes and fires them. She enjoys the physical interaction with the clay, stretching it out and letting the organic nature of the work reveal itself, using a technique known as “slumping.”

She also pioneered a xerography transfer process, which involves transferring a Xerox image in pigment onto wet clay. Because the Xerox image can only be transferred once, each ceramic piece is unique. Typically, her imagery is nature-based, sculpting trees, birds and lotus flowers, but in a recent departure, she’s working on a different line of vessels featuring new imagery, to be revealed once the collection is ready.

Zeidler chooses bright, vibrant colors rather than the dark, earthy palette seen in much ceramic work. Turquoise is a recent favorite, adding to the contemporary “Zen” quality of each piece.

As an artist, Zeidler takes great pleasure in the moment. As a mother, she looks forward to when her youngest is in school, and having more time for her career.Yet, in her perfect artistic, inspirational environment, and as an evolving art professional, Zeidler is just where she wants to be.

“Being in nature, in a small town, with the beauty of Big Sky right outside my window, is my constant source of inspiration,” she said.

She would like nothing more than to continue bringing smiles to people who use her ceramic art for their morning coffee, or as decorative pieces adorning a dining room table. Her work makes people happy and she never wants that to stop.

Jill Zeidler will be featured in the Big Sky Art Walk on Feb. 17, 2013 in the Village Meadow Business Center.