American Artisans

American Artisans: Black Forest Pottery

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american artisans- black forest pottery-8

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!

Black Forest Pottery butter dish

A French butter dish from Black Forest Pottery

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.

American Artisans Blacvk Forest Pottery Butter Dish

The two parts of a French butter dish

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 Dargan, American Artisans

American Artisans honey pot

Black Forest Pottery honey pot

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.

American Artisans, Black Forest Pottery studio

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!”

American Artisan Sarah Dargan's French Butter Jar

Black Forest Pottery French butter dish

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.

American Artisans Garlic Pot

Black Forest Pottery garlic jar/roaster

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!

American Artisans honey pot

Black Forest Pottery honey pot

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.

top of garlic jar, American Artisans Black Forest Pottery

top of a Black Forest Pottery garlic jar

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.

American Artisans, how to use a French Butter Jar

Sarah includes instructions with each one of her butter jars


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 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.

French butter dish

Black Forest Pottery French butter dish


You can see all the past featured artists HERE, and HERE’S a fun google map with everyone’s location!



    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Brigid A Kehoe
    June 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    I ordered numerous garlic jars as gifts years ago – all still in use EXCEPT mine. Smashed the lid last night – what trauma. Ordered another this am! Am a big fan of her work and was delighted to come across your terrific article!

    • Reply
      June 3, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      I’m thrilled Brigid, I think giving them as gifts is genius, I’m going to order a few more!

  • Reply
    Joel Cherrico
    June 25, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Great job, Sarah and Sue! I can vouch for the fact that Montana has a pottery mecca. So many of my favorite contemporary and historical ceramic artists worked at the Archie Bray Foundation at some point in their careers. I hope to be among them someday, once I can plan my pilgrimage to the Bray!

  • Reply
    Mary Nyhan
    April 25, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Beautiful! I’ve wanted to try one of these butter dishes.

  • Reply
    Kathryn K
    April 21, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Such beautiful artistry and a unique color vision.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 8:21 am

    As someone who has worked to take intro pottery classes- I have a NEW appreciation for the skill and talent required to make such ART!! Amazing!!

  • Reply
    Linda L.
    April 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Sarah’s work is beautiful! It’s not just the skill of a potter but it takes a colour genius and chemistry whiz to produce results like this. I see at least a butter dish in my near future – the problem is to choose!

  • Reply
    Barbara D'Anna
    April 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Beautiful pottery!

  • Reply
    Paula Lee M.
    April 20, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Having been associate with potters in the local Craft Guild I know just how much work it takes to make pottery, and this is lovely work. I would be honored to win a piece of this beautiful pottery.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2015 at 7:01 am

    Wow, what stunningly beautiful work.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2015 at 6:43 am

    These are beatiful and I would love to have one like many other people.

  • Reply
    Katherine Werner
    April 20, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Inspiring work! Having “dabbled” in pottery myself, I can especially value the work in creating a proper lid. And your color = wow! Most of all, appreciate functional pieces made gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Christine Faber
    April 20, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I love working with clay, but find the glazing (the ‘easy’ part of clay work) to be a bit daunting… Want something that will be beautiful, but stumble on the technique… I believe these unique and colorful designs might prove to be my ‘muse’! Truly lovely results from an artist’s hands and imagination.

  • Reply
    susan otto
    April 20, 2015 at 4:46 am

    I have always wanted one of those butter crocks. Love them she does awesome work!

  • Reply
    janet hogg
    April 20, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Love all your pottery. the colors and designs amazing. Would be very difficulty for me to choose one item as they are all so beautiful.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Lovely work! I am always drawn to the people who sell pottery when I go to craft shows. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    The number of comments on this giveaway tells all.
    Absolutely beautiful pottery.
    And everyone wants to win 😉

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Oh my, I do live in Montana & have never seen these beauties! I know I need a honey pot for sure, I drink tea all day long. Just beautiful items.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    WOW – I’ve already “favorited” a couple of her cups – very unusual!

  • Reply
    Sarah Dargan
    April 19, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you all for the Support and kind words. And an extra big THANK YOU to Sue for the amazing article!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    These are beautiful!

  • Reply
    Amy Hermann
    April 19, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    I love the magnificent color in the pottery! I do believe I found where my next honey pot will be ordered from 🙂

  • Reply
    Ilana Cellum
    April 19, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Love your work, and Montana, too!

  • Reply
    Roberta C
    April 19, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    So pretty! I’m not one for clutter on my countertops but a piece like this would be front and center.

  • Reply
    Susie Overholser
    April 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I love pottery and what beautiful work. I’d love to have a butter dish such as these. You found a great artist and anyone would be proud to place her work on their counters.
    Thanks, Sue for your creative find 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Santora
    April 19, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Love everything – always try to buy from local artisans

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Me too, and with this series we can expand our definition of ‘local’ to mean the whole country!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Her work is gorgeous. I’d never heard of a French Butter Jar before this but now I want one!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Beautiful and functional pottery!! Thanks for sharing this with us. 😉

  • Reply
    Judy Hansler
    April 19, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    love the French butter dish

  • Reply
    Colette Roberts
    April 19, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    These are absolutely stunning, I’ve never seen anything like them before, would love to win one

  • Reply
    Faye Gray
    April 19, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Gorgeous, creative pieces….will definitely place an order!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Holy Moly! Sarah’s pieces are fabulous. Thanks for introducing us to this wonderful artist!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    What pretty pieces of pottery I would love a chance to win a piece of it. Thanks you for showing all these great American artists!

  • Reply
    Mary Beth
    April 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I love the French Butter dish and information. I need butter every day in my life. I liked the pottery page and what a talent.

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Haha, my mother was the same way about butter, Mary Beth, and she handed that down to me.

  • Reply
    Susan L.
    April 19, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    This pottery is truly beautiful! Thanks for sharing all of the different craftspeople with us. So fun to see!

  • Reply
    Deb Harmon
    April 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    All of these pottery pieces are so beautiful!!

  • Reply
    Kathy English
    April 19, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    these are so beautiful.I especially like the dots

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      I think the dots are my favorite too 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve really been wanting a butter bell, and these are by far the most beautiful and original.

  • Reply
    Deborah Dyte
    April 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    These pottery items are so beautiful! I will order some as soon as I am able. I love all of them but would love a butter dish!

  • Reply
    Debbie G
    April 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Love this art!!! How wonderful to h this talent.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    OOOOOh, another great artist! Super series, Sue. I just went over to her site to see even more of her work. I am amazed by the variety of greens she uses. I have never tried a butter jar but now I am tempted.

  • Reply
    Donna Worth
    April 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    What colorful and charming pottery! I love the whimsical touches in the designs. What fun to have a French butter dish or a honey jar!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I think Sarah is a kindred spirit because I love her use of color, especially the red, in her designs. Another wonderful artist you’ve found, Sue. I love her work!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Her color sense is very sophisticated, that’s why, I suppose, I feel like it would be perfect in a sleek granite and stainless steel type kitchen as a beautiful accent.

  • Reply
    Chris W.
    April 19, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Wow! Those pieces are absolutely gorgeous, but being a butter bell aficionada I am smitten with Sarah’s version! Thanks for the opportunity to win all these wonderful American Artisan prizes, Sue!

  • Reply
    Susan Perry
    April 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Love the butter dish idea! The glazes are all gorgeous, but the dotted one shown first really makes me smile. (Seems I never got the memo that butter was “out”, thank goodness.)

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    WOW this stuff is gorgeous!!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Very cool pottery. Seeing the glazing and kiln brings back fond memories.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    you are an inspiration! Thank you for being at the Clay Arts Guid.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 11:29 am

    This pottery is beautiful…love love the idea of the butter dish. I would love to have one of these. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I have been looking for a butter dish of this type. And I love the pottery design on them! Kudos!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      You came to the right place, Marilyn!

  • Reply
    Cathy Yearwood
    April 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

    These are wonderful! I will definitely be ordering for myself and others. I have wanted a French butter dish for a few years and these are the prettiest I’ve seen, along with the other items she makes.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Beautiful pottery, and at a reasonable price. All the designs are gorgeous! Love the butter dish, the garlic keeper, several mugs, and especially the honey pot! Thanks for introducing the American Artisans to me!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I love all of her pieces Sue, especially that first polka dot butter dish you showed. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Love the pottery. Beautiful and functional – my favorite combination.

  • Reply
    JD Georgia
    April 19, 2015 at 10:47 am

    They make me smile. Love the butter jar with red and blue flowers.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:39 am

    LOVE all the unique glazing effects..interesting wite up on the technique. It must be a blast to open up the kiln to see how each piece turned out.
    Interestingly enough but, my mom has a vintage Shino planter fro the 1930’s that I is deep forest green and chocolate brown.
    The hard would be to pick a design they are all so pretty. I have a plain honey pot, butter keeper (white) and garlic keeper/baker in terra cotta..these put mine to shame..Home to win so I can give my to the Goodwill.
    I so enjoy this serious you do every couple of weeks..thanks!!!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 10:57 am

      I’ve always wanted to learn to make pottery, and the glazing is the thing that really intrigues me… it’s interesting that your vintage piece has similar deep dusky colors. I’d love to see it!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Thank you Sue for sharing. Don’t know why the first post didn’t go through. Trying it again. Love, live, love these pieces and this artist!

  • Reply
    Trish A
    April 19, 2015 at 10:31 am

    What lovely, unique and useful items. Sue, thank you for the entire series featuring American artists!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Woe Sue, just beautiful pottery. How do you find all these talented artists’?! Thank you so much for sharing their talents!

  • Reply
    victoria mcauliffe
    April 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I’ve used a butter dish for years, love mine but it is nothing like Sarah’s hers would look beautiful on my counter. Definitely will be purchasing some if her items. Garlic jar/roaster a must honey pot need too! Thank you for so many fascinating artist!!!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I love the funky patterns. Crazy about the orange butter dish with the blues circles. What a talented lady.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I would love to get a butter dish and a honey jar. Her designs are beautiful!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:17 am

    This pottery is absolutely beautiful! thank you for highlighting such a talented artist and thank you for the chance to win.

  • Reply
    Jan R
    April 19, 2015 at 10:16 am

    These are magical…love them!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I’ve hearted a set on Etsy that includes a spoon rest, pitcher and butter dish! Even with the spontaneous style of each glaze, I found a design thread I love to make a set! Thank you for sharing her!

  • Reply
    jean miller
    April 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I’m loving this series, Sue! You find the most beautiful things. I just purchased a French butter dish from Amazon. It looks awfully plain next to these beauties. Thank you for sharing these artisans’ work.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    April 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Her work is lovely and so creative! The butter jar sounds so interesting – I would love to give it a try!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Butter jars work really well, Tricia!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 8:47 am

    i love the patterns! Will order a butter dish for my counter.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2015 at 8:35 am

    What beautiful pottery! I love the very funky patterning.

    • Reply
      April 19, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Me too, Sami.

  • Reply
    Lauren g
    April 19, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Beautiful pieces! I’ll have to re-visit that etsy site frequently 🙂

  • Reply
    Jane McWey
    April 19, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Beautiful work! I Pinned you site and will be ordering items as gifts. (maybe for myself as well) 🙂