Sarah Holt

I believe that functional art creates a connection between maker and user that gives everyday objects a special intimacy and importance; that a considered existence peopled with useful objects that have personal meaning and value improves the quality of life. Particularly important to me is the use of handmade tableware: in our culture today meals are all too commonly eaten in front of the TV, in the car, and on the run. A meal carefully prepared and thoughtfully presented on handmade dishes is a nurturing ritual that builds family and community. sarah-holt-headshot

When I am making pots it is of primary importance to me that they be totally functional and comfortable for daily use. I work for simple forms that have elegance in line and grace in balance without appearing fragile. I primarily use clay slips instead of glazes on the exterior surface of my pots – I like that the thinner coating allows the throwing lines and the structure of the pot to show through more clearly. When I do use exterior glaze, I use it sparingly to create a jewel-like effect to accent my carving. My carved decoration is based on a lifelong close observation of nature, as well as the mismatched contents of the family china cabinet and my mother’s collection of quilting calicoes. I fire my pots in atmospheric and wood kilns, which gives them a special warmth as well as spontaneous decoration of the surface as the flame and atmosphere respond to the shape of each pot and its placement in the kiln. The finished surfaces of my pots are silky and softly textured, a pleasure to touch. I want my pots to be approachable, even comforting, and to find a meaningful place in the owners’ everyday life.




I grew up in rural East Central Illinois, and since I was homeschooled I spent much of my time exploring and learning about the woods and prairie around our house. My father was an entomologist and my mother is an artist and avid gardener, so much of the knowledge of the natural world acquired in my childhood still feeds into my work today. I’ve been working in clay since 2003 when I started taking classes at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. At the time I had a dual focus on clay as well as fine art jewelry, something I also seriously pursued until fairly recently.

In 2009 I took my first clay class at Penland School of Crafts, an 8-week Spring Concentration on wood, soda, and salt firing with McKenzie Smith and Gregory Hamilton Miller.  This class was a revelation: it was my first experience with firing wood or atmosphere kilns, and I fell in love with the subtle active surfaces that these firings produce. Since then I have been back to Penland for 8-week workshops with Gay Smith and Scott Goldberg, Suze Lindsay and Kent McLaughlin, Matt Kelleher, and most recently to build a new wood kiln with Kevin Crowe and Dan Finnegan. I have also been invited to assist at Penland during summer sessions for Elisa Helland-Hansen and Phil Rogers. Between sessions at Penland, I apprenticed for four years with Michael Schwegmann at Boneyard Pottery back home in Champaign, IL. I completed a one-year residency at St. Pete Clay, in St. Petersburg, FL in 2014, and am currently living in the
Penland community, and working for area potters.