Sarah Dargan is the seventh in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople across the country who share a love of all things handmade, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful and useful products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking, dining, and entertaining, and they’re using skills and techniques that might otherwise be lost in our era of throwaway mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!
Today we’ve landed in Helena Montana to visit with Sarah Dargan and Black Forest Pottery. What drew me to Sarah’s work is her obvious ‘joie de vivre’. There’s a confidence and boldness about her pieces that I just love. It’s that sense of originality and ‘doing her own thing’ that sets her apart from the pack and is, in my mind, the mark of a true artist. I zeroed right in on Sarah’s useful little French butter dishes, (above and just below) honey pots, and garlic jars. You may or may not know what a French butter dish is, but I think every kitchen needs one, and they make the perfect host or hostess gift. Let’s explore the world of Black Forest Pottery together, and don’t forget to enter to win one of Sarah’s unique pieces for yourself, details at the end of the post.
Sarah Dargan is a fine arts major who decided to forgo pursuing a higher degree in art to return to her hometown and found her own company, Black Forest Pottery. You can find her work in local shops, guilds, museums, and even the farmer’s market in the summer, but luckily for those of us who don’t live in Montana, she also sells on Etsy. According to Sarah, Helena is a mecca for pottery — “We have the Archie Bray Foundation right here in town, an artist residency program of international fame. The Bray gives us local access to ceramics supplies and brings in some of the best artists in the country. We also have several other community studios. I am the studio technician at The Clay Arts Guild, a large facility for local artists. Because of this amazing place, I have access to any equipment I could possibly need.” Who knew? It’s been so interesting to me, as I’m writing this series, to learn how the different cities and towns across the country are nurturing and supporting the creative community.
Sarah loves color and is not afraid to use it. Her style is uniquely hers, and when I asked her about it, she said it “evolved from my desire to have it all! I love bright colorful glazes, but I think they can be a little kitschy by themselves. And I love the look of rustic pottery too, but I find it too quiet for my own tastes.” She draws her inspiration from Asian ceramics, as well as from the funky patterns and colors of the 1970s. It’s quite an eclectic mix, and it just works! There’s something for everybody in her collection, whether you are into gutsy florals or geometric patterns. The colors are bold, but grounded in nature, and I think they would work really well in the granite and stainless steel kitchens that so many of us love today.
Sarah specializes in what is known as Shino glazing. Shino is a very old Japanese style of glaze that has unique properties. I won’t go into the complicated chemistry of it all, but basically it results in brilliant, glossy surfaces with a sort of crystalline effect. Sarah tells me it also creates a unique smokey outline to her designs that gives them a ‘illustrative’ quality. She skillfully uses it to create her characteristic warm glowing patterns and colors. Interestingly, she compares the experience of working with glazes to the process of baking, both of which can be unpredictable. “The variety of materials, and nuance of firing in a gas kiln, can give surprising results. I love stumbling on a glaze combination that results in a new and beautiful surface, and figuring out the various ways that I can use it!”
Butter dishes are an ingenious, and very old, traditional French way of keeping butter fresh and spreadable without refrigeration. The water that is stored in the base creates an airtight seal that actually keeps the butter from spoiling. You can set it on your counter and enjoy spreadable butter at any time, all you have to do is change the water every few days. It will stay fresh for up to 30 days with this method. And if you haven’t already heard, butter’s been sprung out of nutritional ‘jail’ and is now considered a part of a healthy diet again – yay! These butter jars are a great way to celebrate that and to keep it handy for daily use.
The above garlic jar has holes for ventilation, and can be used to store bulbs of garlic, but it doubles as a roaster, you can just pop it right in the oven!
Sarah’s honey pots are perfect for all the tea lovers in your life, and a much better way to store honey than having to deal with the annoyingly sticky plastic jars.
I think any of these pieces make thoughtful and original gifts at that magic under $50 price point. All Black Forest Pottery is microwave and dishwasher safe.
Sarah is generously giving away one of her beautiful butter jars, and a bonus spoon rest, to one lucky reader!
To enter, please visit Black Forest Pottery, HERE, and leave a comment below…you have until Friday the 24th to comment, and good luck!
(Giveaway ends Friday April 24th)
*I use Random.org to pick a winner, and will announce it here on friday. I have not been compensated in any way by the artisans in this series.