Frances Senska

Frances Senska started the Ceramics Program at Montana State University and is affectionately called the Grandmother of Ceramics in Montana. She dug her own clay around Montana and is pictured working in her studio in Bozeman.


For more information on Frances Senska.

For Frances Senska's "I Make Pots" Interview

For a transcript of Frances Senska's Interview for the Archives of American Art.


The International Wild Clay Research Project (IWCRP) has been created to study the use of local, indigenous ceramic materials, and to advance sustainable, efficient practices in the ceramic arts.  The IWCRP functions as a vehicle to support interdisciplinary exploration of art through collaborative research including, but not limited to, geology, agriculture, GIS, chemistry, physics, ecology, history, soils, engineering, business, and art.

Further, we are interested in ways that indigenous unique materials contribute to the identity of artwork produced in a specific locality. In Montana we have many unique deposits of clay minerals suitable for the ceramic process, and through the IWCRP we develop ideas and sustainable processes for harvesting indigenous materials unique to our area.


The mission of the IWCRP at Montana State University is:

  • To be an international leader in interdisciplinary research, discovery and use of indigenous ceramic materials.
  • To be an international leader in interdisciplinary research and implementation of sustainable practices related to ceramics in the use of materials and firing of kilns.
  • To promote the exploration, discovery, and dissemination of new knowledge and processes.
  • To work with others to provide a collegial environment for faculty and students that is truly interdisciplinary and holistic in its approach to integrated problem-solving and knowledge development.
  • To serve the people and communities of Montana and the world by sharing our expertise and collaborating with others to improve the lives and prosperity of Montanans and denizens of the world.


Montana Clay Map

This map is from Frances Senska's retrospective exhibition at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena in 2004. It shows all of the locations that she dug materials for her clay and glazes.



Josh DeWeese, Associate Professor of Art, MSU-Bozeman, Co-Founder

Dean Adams, Assistant Professor of Art, MSU-Bozeman, Co -Founder

Vaughan Judge, Director, School of Art, MSU-Bozeman

Tim Stepp, Geologist, Montana State Department of Environmental Quality

Trevor Douglas, Professor of Chemistry, University of Indiana-Bloomington

Steve Eiger, Professor of Biology, MSU-Bozeman

David Peters, Studio Artist, MSU Alumni, Helena, MT