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Frances Senska

Biography to Display: 

1914 Born Batanga, Camaroon

2009 Died Bozeman, Montana

EDUCATION

1935 B.A., University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

1939 M.A., University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

ca.1942 Edith Heath, California Labor School, San Francisco, California

ca.1945 Maija Grotell, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

1950 Marguerite Wildenhain workshop, Pond Farm near Guerneville, California

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE

1939-1942 Art Instructor, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa

1942-1946 WAVE U.S. Navy Reserves

1946-1973 Professor of Art, Montana State College, Bozeman, Montana

1948 Founding member of Montana Institute of the Arts, Kalispell, Montana

1954-1956 Crafts Chair, Montana Institute of the Arts, Kalispell, Montana

1961-1962 Director, Montana Institute of the Arts, Kalispell, Montana

1964 Fellow, Montana Institute of the Arts, Kalispell, Montana

AWARDS

1979 Honorary Life Member, National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA)

1982 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana

1988 Fellow Award, American Craft Council

1988 Montana Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts

2002 Meloy-Stevenson Award of Distinction for Outstanding Service to the Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, Montana

 

Frances Senska is known for wheel-thrown locally dug stoneware functional pottery with pulled handles and finials. Surface techniques included wax resist and locally sourced slip and glazes materails. 

Senska was a professor who was called the Grandmother of Ceramics in Montana. She founded the ceramics program at Montana State College in 1946. Here Senska taught her students ceramics from clay to fire including: the digging, drying, grinding and mixing of clay; the forming of ceramic wares; and the final firing processes.  Senska’s students included Rudy Autio & Peter Voulkos. For Voulkos Senska’s influence could be seen in his mastery of monumental wheel-thrown stoneware functional forms with wax resist surface technique.

During World War II Senska was in the women’s branch of the United States Naval Reserve, the WAVEs (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).  She was stationed in San Francisco were she was introduced to the potter’s wheel in a night school class taught by Edith Heath. Senska studied with Maija Grotell and later with Margueritte Wildenhain.

 Known for her service to the field, Senska influenced the development of the Archie Bray Foundation from its very beginnings and was a founding member of the Montana Institute for the Arts (Montana Arts Council).

 An interview with Frances Senska was conducted April 16, 2001 by Donna Forbes, for the Archives of American Art’s Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America is available at: https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-frances-senska-13078

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York

Holter Museum, Helena, Montana

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Browning, Skylar. “Ms. Senska’s Opus.” Missoula Independent 17, no. 49 (December 7, 2006).

Frances Senska: A Life in Art. Helena, MT: Holter Museum of Art, 2005.

“Eleven Montana Potters.” Studio Potter 8, no. 1 (1979).

Folk, Thomas. “Frances Senska: Studio Potter. American Ceramics 8, no. 2.

“Frances Senska (Exhibit in the Boardwalk Room of Gallery “85, Billings, Montana).” Ceramics Monthly 20 (November 1972).

Galusha, Emily, and Mary Ann Nord. Clay Talks: Reflections by American Master Ceramists. Minneapolis, MN: Northern Clay Center, 2004.

Hunter, Robert, ed. Ceramics in America 2004. Fox Point, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2004.

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics 1607 to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988.

Newby, Rick. “Frances Senska: Missionary for Modernism. American Craft 65, no. 2 (April/May 2005).

“Portrait.” Bulletin of the Portland Museum of Art 15 (June 1954).

Senska, Frances. “Pottery in a Brickyard.” American Craft 42 (February/March 1982).

Smith, Marjorie. “Frances Senska. Ceramics Monthly 50, no. 7 (September 2002) 50- 54.

“Frances Senska Interview, 1998 June 9.” General Montana History Collection (Montana Historical Society) 2 tapes.

“Frances Senska and Jessie Wilbur Interview, 1979 July.” General Montana History Collection (Montana Historical Society) 1 tape.

Autio, Lele, Gennie DeWeese, and Frances Senska. “Montana Historical Society Panel Discussion 1990 March 7.” General Montana History Collection (Montana Historical Society) 1 tape.

 Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. “Evolving Forms with Frances Senska.” Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, 1978, VHS.

Smith, Marjorie, and Bill Neff. “Frances Senska – Art All the Time.” Bozeman, MT: KUSM-TV/MontanaPBS, 1997 DVD, VHS.

 

 

 

Typical Marks
ca 1970
1960-1970
1960—
Ya Ba Bo=There Will Be Nine=Good Luck-Jar
Date: ca 1970
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Sgraffito
E John Bullard Collection
E John Bullard Collection
Vase
Date: 1989
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection, Dane Cloutier Archives
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection, Dane Cloutier Archives
Covered Jar
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Incised
Forrest L. Merrill Collection
Forrest L. Merrill Collection
Wine Set
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Brushwork, Glaze
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Yellow Bird-Sculpture
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Brushwork, Glaze
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Pitcher
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Covered Jar
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Ya Ba Bo=There Will Be Nine-Jar
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Glaze, Wax Resist
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Holter Museum of Art
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Pitcher
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Holter Museum of Art, gift of Miriam Sample
Photo: TMP
Holter Museum of Art, gift of Miriam Sample
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP

Citation: Carolyn Herrera. "The Marks Project." Last modified October 26, 2019. http://www.themarksproject.org:443/marks/senska