Fiona Zahnke's life in clay started in the early 1970s when she studied Ceramics at Michigan State University's historic Pewabic Pottery under instructor, James Powell. Fiona was particularly interested in Raku firing and salt-fired ware. While at the Pewabic, she was fortunate enough to sit in on lectures by many nationally known potters such as Marie Woo, John Glick, Richard Zakin, among others.
After leaving Michigan, her family resided in Iowa for a year where she taught Ceramics at the McNaider Museum housed in a beautiful Frank Lloyd Right building. While there, Fiona entered some of her work in the "Iowa Crafts: 9" Show and was awarded 1st place in the category of clay.
After moving to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, Zahnke did a one year course in "production" clay work, which meant working in a seriew. All her work, until then, had been based on one-of-a-kind art pottery.
Fiona taught for many years, courses in hand-building and wheel-throwing at both Mountain Empire Community College and University of Virginia at Wise. She also taught pottery as summer courses for children, organized by the Pro Art Society of Wise County. Twice, she was "Artist in Residence" at Powell Valley High School where she taught a course in Raku, with the theme, "mask making". Fiona also ran her own studio, "Powell River Pottery", for many years.
During this time, Fiona exhibited work at many shows around the region, in which was a two woman show at the Harris Gallery in Wise. This show featured Fiona and her daughter, a painter. She was invited to put on a one woman show at S.E. Community College, Cumberland, KY, for which she produced nearly 100 new works. In 2000, Zahnke was selected as one of the finalist for the "Governor's Award for the Arts".
In Zahnke's "fiber" life, she studied spinning under Persis Greyson, an internationally known spinner. Spinning "novelty yarns" is one of her specialties. She is also a knitter, a weaver, a felter (both wet and needle felting), and she "twines" rugs and mats, which is a relative of, but not the same as weaving.