ST. JOHN — Carold Long, of St. John, has deep roots in Stafford County, and it is those connections to place and people that inspire her to create pottery and ceramic works of art that have gained attention statewide.

Earlier this month, Carol Long Pottery was honored by Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance Tourism/Art/Culture as the Business of the Year, an announcement made by Stafford County Economic Development Program Director Ashlee Bevan.

“With 35 years in business, Carol Long has been creating unique, one-of-a-kind works that are fit to grace the most remarkable of homes, corporate offices, hotels or even the family living room,” Bevan said.

Bevan said Long’s award stems from her business success and from the encouragement Long provides to emerging artists.

“Long is always finding ways to incorporate art in our local communities.” Bevan said “She is actively guiding the Gray Photo Studio restoration project in St. John where we hope to have a resident artist someday. By encouraging art within Stafford County, she is paving the way for the next generation of talented artists.”

Long’s roots in Stafford County trace back to her birth in 1965 and a childhood spent on the farm that had been in her family since the 1880’s, when it was homesteaded and which had matured with enormous trees and a thick shelter belt.

“Long explored these wooded areas and found a connection with nature, developing a total appreciation of plant and animal life,” Bevin said.

Growing up, Bevan said that Long shared her mother’s interest in art and enjoyed accompanying her mom on visits to art museums.

“She often felt a need to express herself by bringing her imagination to life,” Bevan said. “She remembers as a child using one of her father’s cattle syringes filled with mud to draw structures in the driveway.”

Bevan said that as a high school student, Long excelled in art.

“Her teacher, Sheldon Ganstrom, who is now a prominent Raku artist, helped spark Carol's interest in ceramics,” Bevin said.

As a student at Barton County Community College, Long realized she was drawn to the ceramics lab, Bevin said.

“Long draws influence from plant and animal life and is fascinated by the small complexities of the micro aspects of nature,” Bevan said. “Her work continues to evolve as she experiments with new ways of expressing the tiny beautiful intrinsic qualities of nature that we often take for granted.”

Long said she gets inspirations from historic pieces and those she is working on.

“Sometimes, when I’m working, the clay will speak to me and I find myself going in a new direction as I am working on the piece.”

Long’s creations include vases, tiles, bottles, lidded jars, bowls, animals and orbs, ranging in price from $35 to $2,500.

Long’s work is featured at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, the Charlie Cummings Gallery in Gainsville, Fla., and the Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt. Her work is available on her website.