Frances Senska and the start of the Ceramics Department at MSU
Senska was born in the port city of Batanga in the German Empire of Kamerun and came to America for the first time in 1929. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1935 and 1939, respectively. Her undergraduate training was in Lithography, and her graduate degree in Applied Arts (specializing in Sculpture).
Senska taught art at Grinnell College from 1939 to 1942, when her teaching position at Grinnell was eliminated so that the college could hire a physics professor. That summer, she briefly studied ceramics under László Moholy-Nagyat the School of Design (now the IIT Institute of Design) in Chicago. Moholy-Nagy had a strong influence on Senska, influencing not only her ceramic design but her teaching style as well.
She served in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946 during WWII where she was trained as a pilot. During her time in the military, she was based in San Francisco and there she became interested in ceramics after taking a class from Edith Heath, at the California Labor School. In the summer of 1946, she attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she studied under Maija Grotell (one of the most important studio potters of mid-20th century America.)
She began teaching at Montana State University (now MSU) in Bozeman in 1946. The school’s Department of Applied Art hired her to teach ceramics, though at that time she did not consider herself a ceramicist, “I started teaching ceramics with the merest little scrap of knowledge. I had had just two quarters of ceramics when I started teaching. I just learned it right along with the class.” Senska decided to build a ceramics program from the ground up. Olga Ross Hannon, the department head, gave her $300. With that, Senska and her first class of students took over a storeroom in the basement of Herrick Hall, purchased foot-driven potter’s wheels, and built an electric kiln from scratch.
Continuing to train in ceramics, in 1950 Senska attended a workshop taught by noted French-American ceramic artist Marguerite Wildenhain, from whom she learned her hand technique at the Pond Farm artists’ colony near Guerneville, CA. Her students included a number of influential ceramicists, including Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos. While teaching at Montana State, Senska met fellow art professor Jessie Spaulding Wilber. The two women became lifelong friends and companions. Both continued to live in Bozeman for the rest of their lives.
As a child, Rudy Autio learned to draw by taking evening classes from WPA artists working in Butte. He served in the Navy for two years during WWII. After the war ended, he studied art at Montana State College in Bozeman, where he first met Peter Voulkos, who became a lifelong friend and was taught by Frances Senska. Later, Autio earned a Master of Arts degree from Washington State University in Pullman, WA an in 1951, Autio was a founding resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation with Voulkos. In 1957, Autio started the ceramics department at the University of Montana, in Missoula. He taught there for twenty-eight years and, until his death, he was retired as Professor Emeritus.
Autio’s torso-shaped vessels are painted with figures and animals in a free linear style reminiscent of Matisse’s drawings. They are found in permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Carnegie Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Applied Arts Museum in Helsinki, the Canton Museum of Art, and the National Museum in Stockholm.
After serving in the United States Army during the WWII, Peter Voulkos studied Painting and Printmaking at Montana State College, in Bozeman (now MSU). There he was introduced to ceramics to Frances Senska, who had established the ceramic arts program just a few years before. He earned his MFA in Ceramics from California College of the Arts and Crafts, in Oakland, CA. Afterwards, he returned to Bozeman and began his career in a pottery business with classmate Rudy Autio, producing functional dinnerware.
In 1951, Voulkos and Autio became the first resident artists at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, in Helena. It is from his time there as Resident Director until 1954, that the lineage of his mature work can be traced.
In 1953, Voulkos was invited to teach a summer session ceramics course at Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC. After the summer at Black Mountain, Voulkos eschewed his traditional training and instead started to work gesturally with raw clay, frequently marring his work with gashes and punctures. His work continued to become more abstract and sculptural while founding the Art Ceramics Department at the Otis College of Art and Design then called the Los Angeles County Art Institute in 1954.
In 1959, Voulkos moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he founded the ceramics program within the Department of Design and Decorative Arts. He taught as a full professor from 1967 to 1985 and among his students were many ceramicists who became well known in their own right.
Among the public collections holding work by Peter Voulkos are the American Museum of Ceramic Art (Pomona, California), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (Tokyo), the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, the Oakland Museum of California, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Rick Pope was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He taught ceramics at MSU Bozeman from 1975 to 2008. He received his BS from California State Polytechnic and his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1991, he traveled to Jurmala, Latvia where he was invited to participate in an international ceramics symposium at the Dzintair Institute of Art. He has received numerous awards and grants, including grants from the Russian Artist’s Union and the Montana Arts Council. Rick’s artwork has been featured in more than 100 exhibitions and is included in many public and private collections including the Archie Bray Foundation; the Pushlin Museum in Moscow Russia, and the private collection of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Washington DC.
William C. Alexander is known for his terra sigillata pots. He experimented extensively with low-fire ceramics, terra sigillata and woodfiring. His artistic production includes a wide range of wares. In 1973 he presented his first research in ceramic toxicity. Through his research and publications on the topic, Alexander is considered one of the founders of the art safety movement.
Alexander started his ceramics career in Europe as a potter in Germany and an Apprentice Master in Switzerland. When he moved back to the states, he helped establish and grow the ceramics programs at Colorado State University and Montana State University. Alexander was briefly the Director of School of Arts at MSU.
From 1968-1969, Alexander served as Director at large of NCECA and from 1977 as the President. He served as a ranking officer on the committees of the American Crafts Council and the World Crafts Council.
Josh DeWeese is an Associate Professor teaching ceramics at Montana State University in Bozeman. He served as Director of the Archie Bray Foundation from 1992-2006. In 2009 he co-founded International Wild Clay Research Project at MSU with his colleague Dean Adams to study the use of local, indigenous ceramic materials, and to advance sustainable, efficient practices in the ceramic arts. DeWeese has exhibited and taught workshops internationally and his work is included in numerous private and public collections around the world.
Dean Adams was born in San Francisco, California and raised in Billings, Montana. He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa. Art has taken him around the world, most recently designing and firing wood kilns and exhibiting work in Brazil and Paraguay. With Josh DeWeese, Adams is co-director of the International Wild Clay Research Project at MSU, an interdisciplinary research and teaching vehicle based on indigenous ceramic materials. Adams works as the Foundations Coordinator in the School of Art and the Associate Dean for the College of Arts & Architecture at MSU. Notable recent exhibitions include work in the Bienal de Curitiba in Curitiba, Brazil and Animal Farm: Beastly Muses and Metaphors, curated by Susanne van Hagen for Sotheby’s S2 Gallery in London, England.
Earle Ceramics is a ceramic art studio operated by Nicholas Danielson. Nicholas was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. After 20 years he moved west to Montana. There he completed his BFA in ceramics at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana in 2012. Following his graduation, he held a short term residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. He went on to earn his MFA from Utah State University in Logan, Utah in 2016. While a graduate student, he completed a study abroad program at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea. In 2016, Nicholas was selected as Long Term Resident at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Following the completion of his Archie Bray Residency, Nicholas will continue to live and work in Helena, Montana. earleceramics.com/
Rachael Marne Jones
Rachael Marne is a ceramic and Mixed Media Collaborative artist, born and raised in Montana. She graduated from University of Montana with her BFA (2011) and Montana State University with her MFA (2018). Her work has taken her to many exciting places such as the Bayou of Louisiana, the rainforests of Brazil, and the Glacial Fields of the Andes in Peru. The diverse ecologies of these places have influenced her deep connection to the land, which has ignited an intense interest in advocating for peoples’ agency within the places they call home. The diverse ecologies of these places have influenced her deep connection to the land. She is the founder of The Seed Bank Project (2017-ongoing) and was the first artist to attend the Global Sustainability Fellows Program this summer at the Arava Institute for Ecological Studies in Israel. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY where she teaches ceramics & drawing. www.rachaelmarnejones.com
Mat Rude (born 1974, Decorah, Iowa, USA) lives and works in Spokane, WA where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Gonzaga University. He earned a BA from Luther College in 1998 and an MFA from Montana State University in 2007. Mat also had the distinguished honor of working closely with internationally renowned artist Don Reitz as his studio assistant as well as working alongside Donovan Palmquist of Master Kiln Builders. Before joining the Faculty at Gonzaga, Mat was an Assistant Professor of Art at The University of Iowa and in 2008 he taught for one year at Yavapai College in Clarkdale, AZ. In 2010 he was selected as a member of a delegation of ceramic arts professionals from the United States to research indigenous ceramic materials and their uses in China.
The following year Mat returned to China as artist-in-residence at The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen.Figge Museum of Art, Davenport, IA; International Ceramics Magazine Editors Association (ICMEA) Emerging Artist Juried Exhibition, Fuping, China; Crimson Laurel Gallery, Bakersville, NC; Lyndhurst Gallery, Tarrytown, NY; Glassworks Gallery, Louisville, KY; East Central University, Ada, OK; Helen N. Copeland Gallery, Bozeman, MT; The Clay Studio, Missoula, MT; Akar Gallery, Iowa City, IA; The Cedar Rapids Art Museum, Cedar Rapids, IA; and The Eutectic Gallery, Portland, OR. www.matrude.com
Robert “Boomer” Moore
Robert “Boomer” Moore, born in Fargo, North Dakota received his BA from Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana in 1995. Mr. Moore received his MFA from Utah State University in 1999. Upon completion of his MFA, Boomer held the position of Studio Coordinator/Instructor for nine years at Ohio University in Athens, OH. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Art at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.
Boomer is a fellow of the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, Newcastle, ME. He has presented numerous workshops at schools and institutions across the nation. Mr. Moore’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, in such venues as NCECA Clay National 2003, American Shino 2002, and The Fletcher Challenge 1998. His work can be viewed in many publications such as, The Ceramic Design Book, The Ceramic Glaze Handbook, and Claytimes Magazine. In 2004 he was awarded an Ohio Arts Council – Individual Artist Grant.
Kelsie Rudolph is a ceramic artist based out of Bozeman, MT. She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2013. She then apprenticed under wood fire potter Simon Levin in Gresham, WI. She graduated from Montana State University with her MFA in 2018. Rudolph is currently traveling, working, and doing residencies, continuing to pursue her ceramic skills and career. www.kelsierudolph.com
I was born and raised in South-central Montana not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I initially went to college in pursuit of a career that was “safe” and guaranteed financial stability, though I knew I couldn’t waste my years doing something that didn’t provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It wasn’t until I took a few art classes in drawing and ceramics that I found my calling. I realized then that the ability to create interesting things with my hands is my most valuable asset and it is a passion that can sustain me. And so naturally, I attended art school at Montana State University and graduated with a BFA in 2017. I am now living as an artist in Bozeman, and working to develop my own studio.
Casey Zablocki was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. He received his BFA from Finlandia University and studied ceramic design in Kuopio, Finland. After graduating he spent one year working and studying as an apprentice to Peter Callas and as a special student at Montana State. He has showed in both national and international exhibitions. Spending two years as the Wood Fire Resident at the Clay Studio of Missoula. Recently he spent time working in South Korea as assistant to Lee, Hung Chung. Currently he resides in Missoula, Montana where he continues his studio practice. www.zablockiceramics.com
Danielle O’Malley was born and raised in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. O’Malley received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Plymouth State University in 2012. Since graduating, she has had residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, and at the Red Lodge Clay Center. She has also shown her work throughout the United States, been a demonstrating artist at universities, completed a ceramics focused post baccalaureate program at Montana State University, and assisted many artists in the Helena, MT area. Her work is in collections at the Northwest Art Gallery in Minot, ND and Silver Bow Art Gallery in Butte, MT. Currently, O’Malley is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree at Wichita State University in Kansas. omalleyart.net
While in high school Louis built a wood burning raku kiln, and started making pots in his basement. As interested in numbers as he was in working with his hands, he enrolled in the University of Michigan Engineering School. In his words, “Engineering school was an exercise in conformity, creativity was discouraged.” Three weeks into his first year he transferred into the School of Art with the intention of becoming a potter. He received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1981 and a M from Montana State University in 1986.
In 1988, Louis received a Fulbright Research Grant to Document Thai Folk Pottery, he spent ten months living in a village of potters and traveling to other pottery villages taking slides and videotape.
Although not a potter in a functional sense (he hasn’t sold much ware that he expected people to use) Louis’ work often serves as an advocate for functional wares. Louis refuses to accept the edges of the box. His work often seems to straddle genre. Most well know of these works is his flame throwing pipe organ. Since 1994 Louis has been teaching at A&M Corpus, The Island University, on the Gulf Coast of Texas. He refers to himself as a “clayer.” louiskatz.net
Christine earned a BFA from Montana State University in 2015. Upon graduating, she returned to her hometown of Helena, MT to apprentice with Tara Wilson and fire wood kilns. After which, she spent a year at Utah State University, delving into the world of low fire ceramics. Currently, she is a resident artist at The Clay Studio of Missoula.
Ryan Embry was born in Fort Collins Colorado, on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He received a BFA in Pottery from Colorado State University under Sanam Emami and Del Harrow. Ryan was a studio resident at Smokestack Pottery upon graduating. He moved to Bozeman Montana to work with Josh DeWeese and Jeremy Hatch as a Special Student at MSU. Ryan moved to Missoula, MT to work under Trey Hill and Julia Galloway as a Studio Resident at the University of Montana. Ryan Embry is currently in his first-year MFA student at Ohio University in Athens Ohio. www.ryanembry.com
Mark Kronfuss is a ceramic artist based out of Cody, WY where he owns and operates Crown’s Foot Studio. Mark was born and raised in Wyoming. His love for clay started during his high school years where he pursued ceramics courses at his hometown community college. He received his BFA from MSU, Bozeman with a focus in ceramics in 2009. Mark’s knowledge and admiration for atmospheric firings are greatly attributed to his time spent learning from his MSU ceramics professors: Rick Pope, Josh DeWeese, and Dean Adams.
After graduating Mark spent a year working closely with Tara Wilson in her Helena based studio assisting with numerous wood firings in her newly built kiln. He then spent a year in Lander, WY as a resident and teacher at the Lander Art Center.
Mark’s forms are built with function and comfort in mind, while his surface decorations and glazes mimic the colors and patterns of the unique Wyoming landscape. His business, Crown’s Foot Studio, works to supply the people and storefronts of Cody with handmade ceramic pieces that will become a part of someone’s everyday life. Crowns Foot Studio on Facebook
I was introduced to pottery at Bozeman Sr. High by Gary Sullivan (MSU) when Frances Senska was teaching. Gary opened up his studio to myself and a friend the summer after high school graduation and I’ve made pots ever since. Gary–he had seen a truck of fire brick going to the dump in the 70’s, chased it down, and built a wood kiln out of it. He had taken it down to make improvements, when Dave Pledge (MSU and UM) and myself ran into him in the early 90’s.
We built the kiln at Gary’s house on Bridger Creek. The kiln was very quick to cone 10; under 20 hours but we would slow it down for better ash. We fired it three times and then Gary sold his property. At that time I had some property in the Madison Valley, so we moved the kiln over there. In 2003, we fired it the first time there. It has never been a problem getting done too fast– it usually takes about 36 hours. It has been fired about every other year since then. I am currently planning on moving it back to the Bozeman area as it is very hard to fire a kiln in a cow pasture. The focus of what I do is functional wares with textured surfaces which allows the wood process to be seen, but with nice useable insides. My whole life, all my “careers” have been about “process;” wood fire IS process.
David Peters was born and raised in Amarillo Texas. The son of a wood-shop and earth science teachers, he was curious about the natural world and made things at a young age. He went on earned his BA from Utah State University. While an artist in resident at the Archie Bray Foundation, David began using locally sourced materials for his work. During graduate work at MSU, he researched and refined his unique approach to wood-firing through kiln design and experiments with CAD. He has returned to Helena, MT where he is a full time artist. davidpetersceramics.com
Two Hold Studios | Alexander Clinthorne & Kimberlie Wong
Two Hold Studios brings together two distinct design perspectives that result in a unified vision of dreamy and comforting whimsy. Alexander Clinthorne and Kimberlie Wong first met in 2011 during their BFAstudies. Since then, they have both gone on to develop eclectic bodies of work in their own disciplines.
Alexander Clinthorne has taught workshops, attended symposiums, and been a resident artist around the world. He received is MFA in installation Art at MSU where he has also taught 2D design, 3D design, Comprehensive Design and Ideation and Creativity for the past four years.
Kimberlie Wong is originally from Hawaii and received her second BFA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 2017, and has been working as an illustrator in addition to being Two Hold Studios lead designer and finance manager.
The couple married in 2018 after co-founding Two Hold Studios together. Alexander brings years of experience building from imagination and teaching in academia while Kimberlie captures the hearts of her audience with whimsical illustrations that are seemingly simple but deceptively complex. Working to each other’s strengths, each product is a one-of-a-kind amalgamation of carefully hand-pinched and hand-painted collaboration.
Their work explores the penetration of the seemingly super-natural into our world that gives rise to childlike awe and sends our imaginations soaring. They hope to share a healthy dose of imagination with adults and kids alike. Teamwork makes the Dream work! Two Holds Studio website
Christopher A. Bieniek
Born in New Hampshire, Chris graduated from MSU with his BFA with an emphasis in ceramics. He received an award of excellence in the BFA Thesis Exhibition, and was awarded the Bronze Pencil Award. After graduating, he worked at Santa Fe Clay in Santa Fe, New Mexico as the warehouse manager. Chris taught classes and workshops, as well as shipping and receiving artwork for shows in the gallery.
A year after Chris started at Santa Fe Clay, he was chosen to be the post bach at Northern Arizona University with Jason Hess. Chris attended NAU for a year where he worked alongside the undergraduates making, firing, and critiquing bodies of work. After finishing his time as a post bach, Chris moved back to Bozeman where he has been working as studio assistant to Josh DeWeese.
I was born here in Bozeman. I went to grade school at Anderson Elementary, where I first experienced working with clay. In high school, ceramic classes were taken and more appreciation of the art form was developed. I decided to get a BFA at Montana State University with my focus on ceramics. Using natural resources has become my preferred medium, with a focus on functional ware and occasionally dabbling in sculptures.
Ernest Sumner Forward
Beginning with his first high school ceramic class in 1996, shortly after moving to Eagle River, Alaska, Ernest realized his passion for ceramics. He pursued this aspiration when he moved to Fairbanks in 2004 where he spent four years attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, receiving his BFA in Ceramics in 2008. Ernest was selected to teach Ceramics for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Summer Visual Art Academy. In the Fall of 2008, the artist moved to Montana for a year-long residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center to further develop his work, his dedication, and love for the ceramic arts. In Spring of 2012, he received his MFA in Ceramics at MSU. Ernest moved to Oxford, Mississippi in the fall of 2012 to join the Department of Art as Instructor/Ceramic Technician at the University of Mississippi. In Fall of 2014, Ernest changed roles at the University of Mississippi, becoming Visiting Assistant Professor, Ceramics. Currently, Ernest has decided to move back to the great state of Montana to join the Red Lodge Clay Center as Program and Facilities Coordinator, and will reside in Red Lodge, MT.