Learning the pottery craft evolved slowly, as do any new skills. But once Judith Snyder started formal training at Arapahoe Community College, her deepening knowledge of art and design, and technical skills took her creations to a professional level. The inspiration for Judith Snyder's ceramic cairns and Zen stacks evolved from the cairns she saw along mountain trails and streams. They became a metaphor that guided her experimentation. The cairns changed as the metaphor expanded from trail guides to spiritual guides. She realized that the act of fitting pieces together produced a sense of peace and balance as she strove to find the perfect combination of color and shape, space and line. When introduced to saggar and wood firing, Judith fell in love with the varied results. She found that saggar firing complemented the natural asymmetrical shapes in her sculptures. The colors, patterns, and textures from the firing mimicked the randomness found in nature. Each unglazed piece is fired inside a closed container to a temperature of 1709 degrees. The colors develop in an atmospheric process that occurs with the mixture of heat, salt, and other special ingredients. The occasional turquoise splash produces a rare and happy surprise.
Wood and salt firings also offer possibilities for natural patterns and provocative focal points. As flames rush past and around the pieces in the kiln, ash falls and the intense heat turns it to a glassy sheen.
The pieces for these sculptures were hand molded or thrown and altered, and then stacked on metal or wooden dowels with steel, stone, or ceramic bases. This stacking allows the sculpture to transform at the whim of the owner, who then participates in this dance of balance and form.
Judith grew up on the west side of Denver in a family that appreciated the arts. The artist in her simmered while she worked on an MA in creative arts, an MA in library science, and a long career in education. She became a professional storyteller to satisfy her creative urges, and engaged her students with poetry and drama. It wasn’t until after retirement that the simmering turned to a rolling boil and she discovered her artistic passions in both ceramic art and writing.
She strives for balance in life as well as in her sculptures. She walks. She practices yoga. She writes and is a published author. She lives in southeast Aurora now with her husband and visits Omaha often to see her son and his family.
Judith’s inquisitive nature pushes her to create—to bring forth something that has never before existed—using hands, mind, and soul.