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Penny Price Swanson: Pots, Prints and a Bit of Whimsy

September 6, 2024


October 28, 2024

Opening Reception:

Friday, September 6, 2024

5:30 pm
7:30 pm
Artist Talk Friday, September 6 at 6:00 pm
Artist Statement:

This exhibit encompasses a wide variety of materials and techniques of work done over five decades. Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset smoked Raku boxes are hand-built, made at the Boulder, Colorado Potters Guild in the early seventies. The two round porcelain pieces that incorporate mirrors reflecting trees onto a lake were also done at this time.

During my two-year residency at The Archie Bray Foundation (1974 -1976), I concentrated on hand building, especially with colored clay*. Two hand-built teapots from that time are on display – one using colored clay and the other traditional glazes.

My love of drawing is evident in this show. Flowers, pears, cats, rabbits, swans and fish all make an appearance, while my hand built pieces range from trays to vases to boat-like shapes. These are decorated with hand-carved stamps or with brushwork. The hand-built smoked boxes and vases were low fired in sawdust. I have explored other forms of artwork on my own and in classes throughout my career.

On the walls of this gallery are a few examples of my small prints. The larger two-dimensional mixed-media artworks are created using charcoal rubbings, sprayed ink, and various found objects and images.

Most recently, I have been working with white porcelain using the Mishima* technique which allows me to create the fine line drawings on my present series of tea bowls. The pairing of pots and birds on my porcelain cups and bowls was inspired by the daily visits of birds to our bird-friendly yard. Others have been inspired by various events or landscapes.

Many curious and unexpected things have started showing up on my porcelain pieces.
Floating teapots!
A bird chasing cherry pie!
A bird sailing at sunrise!
All creating a bit of Whimsy!

* A technique in which powdered colorants are wedged into porcelain clay to create clay of various colors.

* Mishima is the technique of etching a fine line into the clay and then filling it with underglaze. Then the excess of
slip is carefully scraped back to leave only the fine etched lines.


Penny Price Swanson graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota with a double major in Art and Elementary Education. After teaching 3rd grade for 3 years in Huntington Beach, California, Penny and her husband, Richard, relocated to Boulder, Colorado where they both taught elementary school. In Boulder, they joined the Boulder Potters’ Guild changing the course of their lives forever. They fell in love with clay!

Their years at the Boulder Potters’ Guild were rich in opportunities. The Guild offered classes such as glaze formulation and Raku firing plus it brought prominent clay artists from around the country to jury the Guild’s statewide juried exhibitions. These prominent artists also to gave demonstrations and artist talks for Guild members. When the Guild relocated, Penny and Richard worked side by side with a master kiln builder to build new kilns for the Guild learning a skill that has served them well.

Three years later they set up their first independent pottery in Sandpoint, Idaho. While in Sandpoint, they became familiar with the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena when they came there to restock clay supplies.

In November of 1974, Penny accepted a two-year residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena. Her time at the Bray was also rich with opportunities to work with new techniques. Penny’s hand-built ‘colored clay’ pieces in thisexhibition are one example.

When back in her home studio, Penny taught morning Kindergarten in the Helena Public Schools followed by pottery making in the afternoons. Then followed several years of full time studio work.

A chance to teach Art at C.R. Anderson Middle school brought her back to teaching, first half-time and later full-time. In 1994, after earning her Masters of Education degree with an emphasis on Computers in the Classroom, Penny added computer animation to the middle school art curriculum. During her time teaching middle school art, Penny twice co-chaired the Montana Art Educators’ Convention. Also while at C.R. Anderson, she wrote a grant to create a large clay mural of student work. The mural is installed at the main entryway of C. R. Anderson Middle School.

After retirement from teaching in 2006, Penny was back in the studio full time. In retirement she volunteered as a docent at the Holter Museum of Art and also served as secretary on the Montana Art Mobile’s board of directors for six years.

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