Even though world-renowned ceramicist Don Reitz passed away in 2014 at the age of 84, his spirit can still be felt around the kilns and in the studio at his off-the-beaten-path ranch in Clarkdale. The ranch’s current owners, Sheryl Leigh-Davault and her husband, Ted Davault, feel close to Don every day. “Don’s daughter Donna lives in Cottonwood, and she swears that one of the red-tailed hawks that lives in the area is Don,” says Sheryl as she leads a tour of the property, her four dogs close at her heels. “Everyone in this area has a Don story. Everyone knew him, but they weren’t necessarily aware that he was an internationally known artist.”
Sheryl and Ted purchased Reitz Ranch in 2017 and moved from their home in Phoenix to the 13-plus-acre property on the Verde River in July. The couple have turned the ranch into a center for ceramics arts. Center members have free run of the ranch’s studio, working on the same kilns and wheels that Don used. (Memberships range from $30 to $120 per month.) The ranch also hosts workshops like the one happening Jan. 26-28 with glaze guru John Britt. Sheryl would like to see the center become the go-to location in the Southwest for wood-firing ceramics and artist-residency programs. Eventually she hopes to open a Reitz Ranch Gallery in Clarkdale or Cottonwood where member artists can sell their work. For now, some of that work is on display alongside sculptures by Don in the studio’s front room. In fact, Don’s work can be found throughout the property whether it’s leaning up against the studio’s exterior walls (the building dates back to the 1800s) or in the brush outside the kiln complex.
How did Sheryl and Ted come to own an artist’s paradise off a dirt road in rural Arizona? Sheryl, who was born in Detroit, had spent her life drawing and painting. Four years ago, she began taking ceramics classes in Phoenix, and she fell in love with the medium, especially wood-firing techniques. Ted began searching for property on the outskirts of the city where they could build a wood kiln, and that’s when he found Reitz Ranch – kiln included. Sheryl knew they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “Don always wanted a center for the arts,” she says. “It’s very important to us to continue his legacy and curate his story.”– Erika Ayn Finch. Photo courtesy of Reitz Ranch.
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