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South Salt Lake Journal

The arts abound at Pioneer Craft House

Oct 24, 2019 04:38PM ● By Bill Hardesty

A collection of Native American flutes made at the Pioneer Craft House. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The Pioneer Craft House held an open house on Oct. 7 to showcase their many offerings and improved facilities. They have been a South Salt Lake fixture for over 60 years.


The Pioneer Craft House was created in 1947 by Glenna Beeley to honor the crafts of the Utah Pioneers. The name was used to mark the centennial of the settlement of Salt Lake City. The Pioneer Craft House was originally housed in the old Auerbach's department store on the corner of Broadway (300 South) and State Street. They moved to their current location (3271 S. 500 East) in the 1950s. They are co-located with a Promise SSL after-school program at Historic Scott School.

According to their website, "Our mission is to honor our rich history in the community as an art education center by continuing to offer affordable art classes, workshops, and events within Salt Lake County and greater Utah areas. Our goal is to foster lifelong participation in and appreciation of the arts. Pioneer Craft House is dedicated to inspiring imagination, exploration transformation, ​and joy through art and crafts education."

Salt Lake County used $764,000 of the Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) taxpayer bond funds to buy the property from Granite School District and began restoration in 2008. The District transferred the property jointly to the county and the city of South Salt Lake. 

In 2007, an interlocal agreement between the county and SSL directs that when the bonds are paid off, the county will transfer ownership to the city. Even though the bonds are paid, a transfer has yet to happen.


With the help of skilled volunteer instructors, the Pioneer Craft House teaches classes in jewelry, music, pottery, stained glass, weaving and fiber arts, and woodworking. In many cases, within these broad categories are specialized arts.

Within the jewelry cottage, classes currently being taught are beading basics, lost wax casting, basic wire wrapping and pattern wire wrapping. 

Lost wax casting is an ancient method of making jewelry from a wax mold. It is called lost wax casting because when the mold is made, the wax is melted away leaving an opening for the casting. Students create the wax design, make the metal mold, pour the metal, and polish the jewelry. 

A Pioneer Craft House student enjoys the distraction at the pottery wheel. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

Wire wrapping is wrapping wire around a stone, minerals or gemstones to create items such as necklaces and earrings. After mastering the basics of the art, students can use advanced techniques to make intricate works. Classes run between $100-$120 with $20 for supplies. Every Saturday, there is an open jewelry lab from 1-5 p.m. for students to finish projects. 

Under jewelry is also lapidary and silversmithing. Lapidary is the art of cutting, grinding, and polishing stone, minerals, or gemstones into decorative items. Silversmithing is making objects from silver using the same techniques as a blacksmith, but on a much smaller scale and with smaller tools.

Music classes focus on playing Native American flutes, which are often made by students. Currently, the only woodworking instructor is skilled in making these flutes from a variety of woods and styles.

The Pioneer Craft House recently expanded the pottery studio. 

"We have about 150 students in 10 classes. We have students that come from Delta, Utah and Wyoming," Pete Bringhurst, pottery director, said.

Classes teach using the slab method and using the pottery wheel.

"This is a nice distraction from my busy work week. It teaches me patience," Jing, an SSL resident, said.

Another user of the wheel, Edric Woo of Salt Lake City, when asked what he was making responded, "I just follow my fingers. Planning is too stressful."

There are multiple classes costing $160 with $25-$35 for supplies. The classes last 10 weeks. Open labs are held throughout the week.

Weaving and fiber arts include basket weaving, crochet, knitting, hand-painted silk, spinning and weaving. 

During the open house many types of weaving were demonstrated. One person was making a rug and another was using a technique called "overshot," which has become a true American art form. It consists of weaving a pattern of geometric designs. The design is formed as the weaver raises and lowers shafts containing thread. In this case, he was working with 3,000 threads and it took about two weeks to set up.

The Pioneer Craft House also holds special classes. At the open house, a guest from Denver was conducting a scratchboard art class. This art form is considered by many artists to be one of the most difficult and most time-consuming of all mediums. 

The artist starts with a Masonite panel that is coated with smooth white clay. The clay layer is coated with a thin layer of black India ink. This gives the artist a solid black panel to start with. After tracing a design, typically an animal, the artist uses a variety of tools to scratch away the India ink and re-expose the white clay. The final picture can stay black and white or color can be added.

Check their website for class details and to sign up for their newsletter.

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