Category: News

Pot-cast Interview with Emily Free Wilson

A few months ago I was interviewed by Paul Blais from The Potters Cast. He is doing cool things for the ceramics field. Follow him on Instagram @PDBLAIS. It was fun chatting with him as I reminisced about my journey into clay.

After the short commercial break around 41 minutes, I share a story about eating a meal off handmade pottery. It was the moment of the interview where I had my own little “ah-hah!” moment. I had thought about this before, but it was so fun to articulate it! Ceramics is here to enhance our interactions with others. To build our relationships with others. To make all those moments, little or big-a little more special.

I did not go into too much detail about the future, but I will keep everyone updated as it becomes the present and blends into the past. Enjoy the interview. I hope you pull something from it that inspires you.

Things I learned in College

I wrote this list for a friend who just went off to college.

My college experience looks a lot like the geography of the state of Oregon, where I grew up. It had it’s days at the beach, runs on the riverside trails, and enjoyable walks through lush green filled forests. But it also had the harsh winter weather of the mountains, intimidation of a waterfall and depressing low moments in the desert. Those mountains and deserts have their own beauty too. It all made me stronger, grateful and who I am. And because I’m a visual person, here is an inspirational Montana image too. ha! Hope you enjoy my list. love, Emily

Things I learned in College

1. Know that you are amazing. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.

2. Try a lot of things. Classes, jobs, whatever. You’ll learn more about yourself.

3. Be kind to others. And be patient. Especially to those working in financial aid or secretaries. They’ll hook you up.

4. Don’t whine when working with others. No one wants to work with a whiner.

5. When you do something stupid, make sure you are with a person or people who care about you and have your back.

6. Have fun and do crazy stupid things. (see tip right before this one)

7. Care ridiculous amounts about whatever you want.

8. Have goals and a plan and be ok with them changing.

9. Finish college. Get your degree. In whatever. Just finish.

10. Value yourself. Remember, you are amazing!


Montana Clay in our Capitol’s Rotunda

Students from Jefferson Elementary surround Montana Clay demos
Students from Jefferson Elementary surround Montana Clay demos

Six weeks ago I organized a Montana Clay take over of our State Capitol Rotunda. If you are not familiar with Montana Clay, we are ceramic artists from all over the state of Montana dedicated to promoting our craft, education and sharing of clay resources. You can see this great list of artists and links to our websites at

Montana Clay was really excited to share with our legislators and our state that Clay is important and vital. Historically, economically and for our future. The state of Montana is a pretty special place for the field of ceramics. When you start to dig into the mentors, teachers, and pioneers in the field that once called Montana home, you can not help but feel proud to call yourself a potter or sculptor from Montana.

Montana Clay’s event had a variety of things happening. The highlights for me were building relationships with other ceramic artists-especially those people who came from out of town. We had ceramic artists who came from Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, and Butte! The event created a gathering space where artists and people outside of the field connected, brainstormed and shared plans and ideas. The final highlight was when 80 Kindergarteners through 2nd graders came from Jefferson Elementary and surrounded our displays. Jeff Kuratnick had them chanting various ceramic words and the kid’s energy saturated the rotunda. It was incredible!

Does this ever happen to you? When you step back and look at what is happening around you, your heart tugs and you think, “Wow, this is so great! My heart is aching with joy!” These moments can happen anywhere at anytime. And I love it when this happens.

Phil Mahn was throwing two huge pots. Heidi West was carving cups she brought from Missoula. I had bisque pots I was decorating with a slip trailer. Carla Potter, Sherry Wells and so many other ceramic artists were demoing and sharing their talents. We had information from ceramic organizations around the state as well as ceramic art on display. So much was happening in this tight, plastic covered, beautiful spot in the middle of our state’s Rotunda.

Organizing the event at the Rotunda was a first for me. So of course I over-analyze and strategize how it can be better next time. Lists still need to be put together. A budget outlined and a report given to the group. When it all came together a number of people showed up and made it happen!

A big THANK YOU to the early morning, haul it all, all day crew: Matt Wilson, Philip Mahn, Heidi West, Jeff Kuratnick, and Carla Potter! And so many others chipped in and supported in many other ways including: Eric Van Eimeren, Sherry Wells, Daniela Abel, Lisa Ernst, Lauren Smith, Chip Clawson, Adam Field, Brad Robinson, Julia Galloway, Rachel Hicks and Jen Hensley. Free Ceramics provided materials, lunch and logistics. And thanks to the Archie Bray Foundation for lending wheels and donating clay!

We hired the amazing Eliza Wiley to take photographs of this inaugural event. I am sharing only a handful of the many great photos that Montana Clay will use and that are for the participating artists as well! You can find out more about Eliza at Photographer Thom Bridge from our local paper the Independent Record, joined us in the morning and shared some great photos as well. To see those images visit:

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more writings! It has been a busy six weeks! love, Emily

Students lightly touch the large pots Phil Mahn is making
Philip Mahn
Lauren Smith, Philip Mahn, Heidi West
Jeff Kuratnick engaging the kids!
Heidi West demoing
Carla Potter demonstrating
Lauren Smith
Montana Clay in the Rotunda


Emily Free Wilson


Daniela Abel and Jeff Kuratnick at the wheels!


Lisa Ernst


Emily Free Wilson decorating
Montana Clay group shot LtoR, Back: Matt Wilson, Phil Mahn, Lauren Smith, Carla Potter, Lisa Ernst, Chris Dufala, Daniela Abel, Sherry Wells, Jeff Kuratnick, Front: Adam Field, Emily Free Wilson, Heidi West and son, Donnie Keeton, Noah Riedel, Steve Lee, Eric Van Eimeren


Collaboration with Tyler Knott Gregson

Transform_new_fixed We_are_the_artTo purchase a tile for $95 + 10% ($104.50 -includes shipping.  Add $15 for international shipping) visit our online fundraiser at:

Last month Tyler reached out to me through Instagram and asked if I was interested in collaborating. Life has a sweet way of opening up fun opportunities if one takes the time to reach out and grab them. I knew people who knew Tyler and thought, “Yeah, that would be cool! I wonder what a collaboration with poet and photographer Tyler Knott Gregson would look like?”

The next day I was giving Tyler a tour of our building and found out he had been familiar with my work for years. We shared stories about being artists, kids, making art, the internet, and the building. Standing in the doorway of Nathan Haney’s studio we were talking, sharing and coming up with ideas for this tile collaboration. Tyler was so taken by our building and our plans for an art center that he graciously offered to have this collaboration be a perk for our current fundraiser.

Over the next few weeks I spoke with friends and artists about the various tools I could use to press Tyler’s typewriter font poems into clay. We wanted the texture and feel of hand-typed font, but exaggerated with clay. I found myself stretching beyond my comfort zone. That stretch, that push outside of what is easy and comfortable, is important for artists to do. And probably good for all individuals to do.

Tyler sent me two beautiful poems about art, making, living, and much, much more. I do not know how many versions Tyler wrote before the final ones were sent my way. And it doesn’t seem necessary to tell the world how many versions and sizes of these tiles I attempted before being happy with my piece of the collaboration. But I know that the process and the exploration making a piece of art with Tyler’s poems was a great experience. And I am excited to share it with you!

These poem tiles are one of a kind. The clay version of Tyler’s poems will last a lifetime and are offered at a limited edition of 250 each. Each tile will be decorated differently by me, numbered and signed. And I can’t wait! Our building is making collaborations like this possible. And when we reach our final fundraising goal and keep working and making in the space, more collaborations will take place. Enjoy the poems! Enjoy the tiles! And thank you for supporting art and artists!

Don Reitz

Thanksgiving in the year 2000 I went on a life changing journey. A friend and I had decided to go on a crazy road trip to Flagstaff, Arizona. My friend, let’s call him Saul, I knew from my ceramics class. I was in my 2nd semester of ceramics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, learning about clay and how to make and think three-dimensionally.

That was the semester of disasters! Everything I made broke. The tall free-standing arch that was at least as tall as my waist (from what I remember!). One night while drying it had fallen over. The other sculpture I made of multiple little arches, all delicately stacked on each other, was destroyed while playing disc golf with Saul. It was one disaster after another. And I was getting graded on “glazed” pieces at the end of the semester.

Thanksgiving weekend was coming up. We had four days and Saul knew some guy who was working for some potter in Flagstaff, Arizona. Sure. Let’s drive that 1600 miles! Why not?! Everything I had made was in pieces. A 24 hour drive one way on a four day weekend. Let’s do it!

So off we went. I remember the beautiful lighting performance that we watched from a distance while driving those long desert highways. I remember getting to the small town and heading out to this potter’s home that seemed in the middle of nowhere. And then, I remember the kindness and giving and realness that I was greeted with by this potter Don Reitz.

I had no idea about the history or depth or experience of Don Reitz. I knew he used to teach at Madison. I knew he could trade a pot for a mobile home that I was crashing in. And that was so cool. I could see how he lived and worked. It was really nice.

Saul and I visited this very interesting community in the hills beyond Don’s home. We visited his daughter in the big city to the south. She was at an outdoor art fair selling tie-dyed clothing (I still have that skirt!) I remember the great antique stores, the vast expanse of sprawling neighborhoods in the city. And how much more attractive Don’s home seemed to those rows and rows of houses separated by concrete and lights.

I was such a beginner in clay that I attempted one of the basic beginning throwing projects in Don’s basement studio. I threw two different things and attached them together! It was so cool!

Well, the ride home wasn’t as beautiful. Maybe because 24 hours one way is cool, but 24 hours back, not so cool.

Once Saul and I returned from our crazy whirlwind trip to Don’s we were walking up Bascom Hill to my studio in the education building. Half way there I said to Saul, “I’m going to be a ceramic artist.” Saul responded that I couldn’t just decide that. I said, “Sure I can. I just did. And I’ll be a ceramic artist until I figure out something else I want to be.”

The remaining part of that semester I only had a little time to have glazed pieces ready for critique. I took all the pieces and parts from my failures and glazed them all. I monopolized that spray booth and glazed every hunk and piece of bisque clay I had. I wrote poems on some of those pieces. I used bright colors. I learned so much. I was hooked.

Wow. Who knew 14 years later I would still love clay, being a ceramic artist and this amazing community so much. I know I am only one of many inspired by that amazing potter in Flagstaff. Thanks Don.


soft, hard,

cold, warm,

layers, solid


metal, plaster,

cloth, paper, balloons,

wood, anything.

pieces, parts,

surface, vessels

sculpture ????

space, interiors, external,


animation, being

comfortable or not,

person space, life-

size, monumental, big,

small, who cares

stacked, horizontal

vertical, anti-totem-pole,

sets, groups, pairs,

spotted, striped,

isolation, solitude,

alone, my fish tiger, he has orange stripes,

color, bright, dull, neon,

grays, relationships,



objects, pedestals,

represent, distort,



stories, experience, lack of

public art, functional,

important, painting,

contemporary, new,

old, experimenting,

learning, talking,

bull shit

bull shit

bull shit

power, politics,

survival, future,

ideas, too many ideas,

inaction, action, time

life, love, death,

friends, family,

pain, holidays, birth-

days, connections,

time to yourself, wind,

frost, “what just happened?”

shapes, math, life,

sculpture = art??

forms, community,

cooperation, teaching,

learning, always,



opera, movies, sayings,

priorities, staying


theory, beats, feelings,

therapy, anxiety,

stress, eating, sleeping,

drawing, I need to draw more.

lines, ghosts, images,

seeing, not seeing,

almost seeing,



repetition, power,

numbers, mass,

poetry, literature,

knowledge, cross word puzzles,

? yarn _____ thread

being scared, insecure,

self analyzing, over-


trust, quiet, decisions,

work, working, walking,

sitting, trading biking,


commitment, time,

adjusting, memories,

lack of,


translation, spirits,

coincidence, connection,

noise, alchohol-spelling,


help, frustration,

energy, sickness, health,

words, art, making,

confusion, decisions,

starting, finishing.


written by Emily Free on a continuous piece of paper towel in 2000

Call for Artists “This is Helena”

"This is Helena", 2013
“This is Helena”, detail, 2013

Dear Artist!

Emily Free Wilson and Matt Wilson of Free Ceramics are excited to host the 2nd Annual “This is Helena” Exhibition at our very own new building location, the Studio Art Center at 650 Logan Street. To celebrate we are inviting every artist we know or haven’t met, to be in a multi-media art exhibition at our building. We also encourage you to invite your friends!

“This is Helena”

October 25- December 20th

650 Logan Street Helena, MT 59601

Opening Reception, October 25th, 5-9pm

This multi-media art exhibition will be installed salon style. In order to fit in over a 100 artists, please drop off a modest sized piece. If you work large, please bring it in! We will do our very best to make sure it looks great and we are excited to share a piece of your art with the public! All artwork will be insured and available to see during regular business hours.

To qualify for this art exhibition and help us stay organized please follow these rules:

–You need to live in the Helena area. ONE submission per artist.

Artwork DROP OFF–October 10th – 18th

Regular business hours Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm.

–Artwork NFS or NOT SOLD, please PICK UP beginning January 5th An email reminder and status update of the sold or unsold work will be sent out by December 20th.

A form will be available on the front page soon.  Or bring your art in and fill out a form on site! Thank you so much for participating!  The exhibition is incredible because so many people take part!

Adding & Subtracting. My 10 Days.

10 days ago my husband Matt Wilson got on a plane to join our son Clayton with the grandparents and spend time together fishing in lovely Canada.

I stayed home.

My plan: to make work for my upcoming exhibition with my brother Bobby Free called “It’s Still Free” at the Clay Studio of Missoula. It opens in a few weeks. Yep, pushing that deadline. (oh-come see it-September 5th! Bobby will be in town for it!!)

Anyway, I have been thinking about the last ten days and what I need to hold onto. You know, when you make a body of work and look at it and think, “what should I take from this and keep working on?” Well, if you’re not a maker and you’re reading this, it can be used in life too. Just change the words to read “what did I learn from this and what can I keep working on in my life?”

I had a great conversation with my new friend Gail Brown just a few days before the 10 days started. She encouraged me to add something to the 10 days to make it memorable. To make is special (like the special time my guys were having). I thought about that a lot. “What do I add?” To my work? To my house? A trip? An experience? What can I add? How do I make it special? And the more I thought about what to add the more I wanted to subtract!

All the house projects I could have done. Taken off the list.

Fridges that could have been cleaned: Not happening.

Filing that could be done: Can wait.

Facebook: I took a break. I tried to cold turkey that-and the icebucket challenge sucked me back in and I sneaked a few looks.

The work I made out of clay: I can subtract some clay and make those sushi trays a little different.

Changing it up. Adding something. Or subtracting-it really is all the same isn’t it? Taking away is subtracting and then by default, adding. Right?

During these past 10 days I got to spend a special amount of time making. That was adding. And on the flip side, the main thing I subtracted was guilt. The mom-guilt, the work-guilt, the relationship-guilt, well….some of it happened because my guys were gone. And in other parts of my life I just tried to focus on it.

I subtracted guilt. Wow. Well-except for that one thing I feel a little guilty about. 😉

If I didn’t get as much made on a day, but moved forward with setting up the office at our new building-great. If I didn’t get to spend time with everyone I wanted or I spaced out on an opening-well, oops. My friends will still love me.  Those 20 lbs of cucumbers still in the fridge-Matt will help me can those!

In an hour my amazing family will return to me. It was lovely time in the studio. And good times outside of the studio. I made new friends, completed some projects, and just kept moving forward. And as I continue to move forward I will try to do so with a little less guilt.

Sushi trays and small plates
Sushi trays and small plates
Soy bottles with lids
Soy bottles with lids

Entrepreneurial Perseverance and Assiduity

Last Fall Matt and I attempted to become part owners of the beautiful brick building we have had studio space in for the last 10 years.  We worked hard making wherever we were-better.  We threw an amazing party to celebrate the impending “buy in” and take a step forward in part ownership of the building.  Less than two days before the celebration, the deal was pulled and we were told never mind.

It was heart breaking.  There are all kinds of ways to spin it to look on the bright side, but we poured our hearts into that place and all of a sudden we knew we couldn’t stay.

Since then we have been politely telling artists we have no extra studio spaces to rent.  I pulled back on keeping the gallery full.  Construction in the basement stopped.  The snow fell and we just put our heads down.

For a month or more.  We came to a halt.

And then Matt and I started talking about this building on Logan Street.  It has been empty for around 3 years.  An old funeral home.  Lots of space.  A good price.  Closer to downtown.  But I really dragged my feet.  I wasn’t ready to jump in and figure out plan B.  So I started running more.  Started learning piano.  Put a deposit on some bees-for my new beehive!  Anything but chipping away at plans for a new building.  Occasionally close friends would spark the fire and I would spend a long night sharing the vision of the new place, to immediately table it the next day.  Just for a little while.

Two months went by.

Sitting in a hot tub at my dad’s in Oregon during spring break, Matt and I had another of those heart to hearts about “what next?”  We had a vision for Free Ceramics that became a reality on the shores of Ennis Lake in 2008.  It’s shifted a tiny bit-but six years later it’s pretty true.  With the stars peeking out of the clouds, the conversation was real.  Meaty.  All the what ifs.

When our family returned home from Oregon, it was clear we needed to give it our best.  We needed to try and get this building until at least five or more different scenarios told us we couldn’t get it.  We will keep trying until we run out of ways to try.

A letter was written to the owners.  Meetings were scheduled, discussions continued and they all ended with, YES!  We want to go for it and buy this building!  We want our pottery there, other artists, a cool, fun, artsy space we can share with others.  That letter was read to the owners and within a day, because of their generosity, we signed the first set of papers to make the building ours.

Two weeks later (which, in real estate time, bank time, any time that involves chunks of money and taxes and EIN’s and SOS’ and new LLC’s and blah blah blah….IS NOTHING!)

That’s right.  This morning, Matt and I went to the title company with a dear friend, signed a bunch of papers, dropped the key twice before finally holding it in our hands and are now commercial real estate owners.

Which is all cool and unbelievable and it’s going to be a ton of work.  But it’s going to be awesome.  If you’re an artist that called me in the last 7 months looking for a studio, please call me again.  We are now going to be looking for you.  It’s going to be incredible.

This weekend we are hosting our annual Spring Pottery and Art Sale.  At 1308 1/2 Boulder Avenue.  It’ll be our last art event at this place.  The artists we have-incredible.  The artwork-some of it-even better.  Nathan Haney is printing all kinds of crazy cool creations from his 3D printer.  Eli Kultgen has been meticulously creating “paintings” with duct tape.  Kasey Bergum has been finishing new incredible oil paintings like the one featured on our postcard announcement.

Lauren Brophy, who has been working tirelessly with Matt and I to get Free Ceramics pots ready-will have her own 2D work on display.  Marco Rosichelli sent a new batch of sweet, hip, fun prints. David Peters has been prepping his beautifully made ceramic pieces, made from local clay.  Noreen Lehfeldt will round us all out with her delicate porcelain jewelry that I am thrilled to be the proud owner some spectacular pieces.

And then, after we all show off our art this weekend, WE MOVE!

I just sighed this huge sigh.

Friday night’s reception will be super fun.  We’ll have beer, wine, food, and way more art.  The sacrifice for pulling off what all the details Matt and I just pulled off with our new building, were at the expense of mugs.  Ok.  When I type that out, it seems silly.  But yes, I will not have any mugs at this Spring Pottery and Art Sale.  But I’ll have to be ok with that.  It was completely worth it.  Oh-and way less running.  And no bees.  But I am getting better at piano!  Ok, it’s more than mugs.  But the pots we do have are so beautiful!  I can’t wait to see it all set up.  (And I’ll take special orders for mugs)

I am super excited about what the future has in store for us!  See you this weekend.  It’s your last chance!  Don’t commit this to memory, but we’re at 1308 1/2 Boulder for a few more weeks.  And then come stop by and see the new space in its raw-yet to be transformed state!  We will be at 650 Logan Street in Helena, Montana.  Woohoo!


That instinct to avoid if not perfect

Today I had a number of great conversations with other ceramic artists.  One of the conversations I had revolved around blogs. I have a blog, that I wished I used more. Almost daily I think, ‘Oh! That’s something I could write about it!” and then my insecurities get the better of me.  I second guess if I should write and never do. I have this thing I do, where if I’m going to do something-I’m going to do it right!  -or never do it at all. And that isn’t healthy.

So I have been trying to combat that instinct to avoid if not perfect.

I started taking piano lessons earlier this year. Trying something unfamiliar is tough. And sooooo good. I am up to four versions of Chugga Chugga Choo Choo….with a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the end.

I felt so insecure during my second lesson. I hadn’t practiced hardly at all and I felt like a little kid trying to pull off something without the experience to back it up. And I was not my self. It was so weird. I thought, “where did that Emily come from?”

It was not easy to shrug off that lesson. I started wondering if I would pull off this attempt at something new in my already crazy full life. A month went by…..traveling, spring break, life stuff and then Clayton (my almost 7 year old son and I) went back for our piano lessons.

I actually did ok.  And it wasn’t as scary. I did not feel as guilty about my lack of practicing. Maybe because, well, I won’t be able to practice as much as I “should” or as much as I think others might. But my teacher is so cool.  And patient. I why am I letting my head get the better of me?!

Here is a blog post by my desire to learn the piano. When listening to piano music and I now have an inkling of what that takes! We have this great old piano lent to us and I want to take advantage of that. Despite my guilt, insecurities or desire to be good right away, I will have to just push through all that and sneak in 10 minutes here and there. And maybe I will be able to do that with this blog too.

Thanks for reading.  Emily