Upstream of the Confluence


Upstream of the Confluence: a Woodfire Celebration
Monday, October 1st – Thursday, October 25th

East Fork at the Helen E. Copeland Gallery in Haynes Hall
213 Haynes Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717
Exhibition:  Monday, October 1st – Thursday, October 25th
Reception: Tuesday, October 16th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

West Fork at the Waller-Yoblonsky Gallery at the Melvin Graduate Studios
2998 West Lincoln Street, Bozeman, MT 59718
Exhibition: Monday, October 14th – Friday, October 19th  
Reception: Tuesday, October 16th, 4:00 – 6:00 pm

Middle Fork  in the Beyond Gallery at the Melvin Graduate Studio
Exhibition and Reception: Tuesday, October 16th, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Helena dates: TBD

Downstream Downfire in the Exit Gallery in the SUB
Located in the Strand Union Building
Strand Union Building Room 212
Exhibition: Monday, October 15th – Friday, October 26th
Reception: Wednesday, October 17th, 5:00 – 6:30 pm

final woodfire posterThe School of Art at Montana State University is pleased to announce the opening of a multi-part woodfire ceramics celebration, Upstream of the Confluence, occurring  Monday, October 1st – Thursday, October 25th. In conjunction with the “Cultural Confluence,” an international woodfire symposium in Helena on October 18th – 20th, the event at Montana State University will extend the celebration of woodfire traditions to Bozeman, highlighting the evolution and convergence of woodfire practices in creation of the contemporary.

The celebration will take place across campus including the Helen E. Copeland Gallery, the Waller-Yoblonsky Gallery, the Exit Gallery, and the Beyond Gallery (a new pop-up space that will be on display outside of the Waller-Yoblonsky the evening of Tuesday, October 16th).

Each gallery will be showcasing unique collections of woodfired ceramics created by Montana State students, alumni or staff, ranging in date from 1945 to present. The Helen E. Copeland Gallery exhibition, East Fork, curated by Ella Watson, Josh DeWeese, and Dean Adams, will display alumni and faculty work including include Rudy Autio, Peter Voulkos, professor emeritus Frances Senska, professors Dean Adams and Josh DeWeese, as well as former students Rachael Marne Jones, Kelsie Rudolph, Danielle O’Malley, Mark Kronfuss, Boomer Moore, Mat Rude and many more from Monday, October 1st – Thursday, October 25th.

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Al Tennant

The Waller-Yoblonsky Gallery will be hosting West Fork, showcasing art by current MFA students from Monday, October 14th – Friday, October 19th.  

Attendees at West Fork on October 16th will also have a chance to view student woodfire pieces in Middle Fork in the Beyond Gallery, the brainchild of MFA candidate and ceramicist, Jon Bashioum. The Beyond Gallery is a mobile gallery intended to promote arts in Montana. Installed in a 1987 MCI Motor Coach, the gallery is currently a work in progress and this show will be the first exhibition in this space after Phase I of renovations. Middle Fork will feature student work based around the theme of wood firing, portraying a respect for tradition and an enthusiasm for innovation.

On October 16th, reception for Middle Fork  and West Fork will take place from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the Melvin Graduate Studios, followed by a reception for West Fork from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at the Helen E. Copeland Gallery.  Both receptions are free and open to the public.

Chad Carignan

The Exit Gallery in the SUB will be hosting Downstream Downfire, showcasing undergraduate woodfire ceramics from Monday, October 15th – Friday, October 26th .  the MSU Ceramic Guild will be showing their collected woodfired work, exhibiting different techniques of firing and use of clay.  According to co-organizer, BFA student Matt Biasotti, “This work represents our struggle, love and addiction for wood fire ceramics.”  

There will also be a variety of woodfire burnings, as well as visiting artists throughout the month.  Dan Murphy, Associate Professor from Utah State University, and Julia Isidrez, Studio Artist from Paraguay will be giving ceramic demonstrations in the Ceramics Studio in Haynes Hall on MSU Campus on Thursday, October 11th, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Both will be lecturing later that afternoon, at 4:00 pm in Cheever 214.  Please visit for more details on these events, including artist bios, directions, schedules, and kiln histories.

Mat Rude

In 1889, Montana became a state. Fifty-six years later, Frances Senska moved the Ceramics program out of Home Economics and under the umbrella of the School of Arts with the assistance of Olga Ross Hannon, from whom Hannon Hall receives its namesake. Seventy-three years later, the School of Arts is proud to host this series of events, celebrating the ceramics program which has been around for more than half of Montana’s history.  Many alumni from MSU ceramics have thriving careers, creating everything from functional pottery to contemporary, conceptual works. However, what makes woodfire special is not just the works created, or the history of the department, but the community it inspires. 

As alum Mark Kronfuss, whose work will be in East Fork, states, “Living in a smaller community really lends itself in finding like minded folks. Ceramic artists seems to always find each other. No other medium in art brings a group of dedicated artists together to work collaboratively and share knowledge like ceramics does.”

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Nicholas Danielson

Wood firings take anywhere  from one to four days, during which the fire is continually stoked and kept alive by loyal, anticipating craftsman.  “Some of my closest friends and fondest college memories come from long days and hours spent prepping for and tending to a wood kiln,” Kronfuss recalls. 

Woodfiring unto itself is a dance with the heat, a slow burn that brings out the natural tones in the clay, whilst flames lick the muddy surface. There is a stronger element of chance with wood firing as compared with electric or gas kiln firings.  One cannot be sure where the work will be singed by the flames, and can only speculate how location in the kiln will impact how the incandescence will incinerate the material. The surface is often rough, but ripe with texture and nuances only available to the keen viewer that takes time investigating the work in the proper light.  Woodfiring is a process in which the artists surrenders much of their control to the blaze that they in turn feed and stoke, sometimes heartbroken, sometimes elated by the results.

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Robert “Boomer” Moore
While stoking, sealing and feeding these kilns over 72 hours, bonds and community are built amongst ceramicists as they pass sunrise, afternoon, sunset, and moonrise in shifts, alternating company as the hours pass.  Bystanders in the ceramics department can always see when a woodfire is underway: the counters are littered with pizza boxes and empty drinks, and the detritus of small potluck meals. Students are smeared with ash, yet enlivened.  MSU can speak greatly to this celebration. According to alumni, Christine Gronneberg, whose work will be in East Fork, “The ceramics department at MSU offers its students a lot special experiences.  I fondly remember digging for wild clay, visiting the Archie Bray, firing atmospheric kilns, and having exceptional visiting artists at the studio.”

According to alumni Mark Croghan, also in East Fork, highlights the importance of the exhibition: “Anyone who fires with wood knows how hard it is. I’m just glad to share this with others whom know what it really takes.  the wood process is just that: process. It reeks of process and that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I love making pots but wood touches pots in ways that makes it a collaboration.”

Danielle O’Malley

For more information on this exhibition, or on the Helen E. Copeland Gallery and Waller- Yoblonsky Gallery in general, please visit or follow us on Facebook under the Helen E. Copeland Gallery and the Waller-Yoblonsky Gallery.  For information on the symposium in Helena, please visit

The Helen E. Copeland Gallery is located at 213 Haynes Hall on the second floor of Haynes Hall, across from the Aasheim Gate off of 11th, with the Ski Swing out front. Please note that the parking passes are required for parking during the business day (6AM – 6PM). Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 9AM – 5PM/Closed on weekends.

The Waller-Yoblonsky Gallery at the Melvin Graduate Studios is located at 2998 W Lincoln Street off Garfield Street, east of 19th Street.  If coming from 19th, take a right onto Garfield, go ½ mile, and take a left into the Agricultural Experimentation Station.  there will be a sign for the Melvin Graduate Studios. Take a right and drive to the last building. Please mind the speed limit and stay beneath 15 MPH once you turn off of Garfield Street.

Christine Gronneberg



Ella Watson – 406.994.4501

Josh DeWeese – 406.994.4501