Garden Influence & Flora Faves

Details of my pots above: Deluxe clover cup, Small covered jar, Large plate,
Flower brick, Screen vase pair, & Wall pillow tile.

More flowers have been popping up on my work in the last couple of years. And why not? I love them! In the dead of a Massachusetts winter, I long for spring and summer, and daydream about those floriferous seasons by placing a little bit of them on my pots.

Penstemon & Eupatorium  Knautia  Geranium & sedumLady's Mantle, Alchemilla  Allium bulgaricum  Heuchera and dicentra

First row: Penstemon & Eupatorium, Knautia, and Sedum & Geranium.
Second row: Alchemilla, Allium bulgaricum, and Heuchera.

I am completely preoccupied with being outside during this time of year, specifically, with being in or sitting beside my flower garden. I wrote about my lovely distraction four years ago in this Perennial Influence post, which still perfectly articulates every sentiment I have for gardening, so I hope you’ll give it a read. A recent pic I posted to my Ceramics Page of my main perennial bed and the corresponding number of thumbs up seems to indicate a universal need and appreciation for beauty and diversion, so I thought I’d do an updated pictorial from garden.

Dicentra & Lamium  Sedum  NepetaSpirea & Knautia  Digitalis & Knautia  Heuchera, Hosta & Fern

First row: Dicentra & Lamium, Sedum, and Nepeta.
Second row: Spirea, Digitalis & Knautia, and Heuchera, Hosta & Fern.

I seem to think about my plantings very similarly to how I think about my pots: How do they look from farther away, as well as close up? What colors best compliment a grouping? What shapes and textures add to the whole? Which are heartbreakers not worth the effort, and which make me the most happy?

Salvia  Lupine  Dogwood, Heuchera, Geranium & HostaIlex  Hosta Patriot  Dicentra

First row: Salvia, Lupine, and Geranium, Heuchera, & Red-twig dogwood.
Second row: Ilex, Hosta (Patriot), and Dicentra.
All images courtesy of my gardens.

Happy Summer!
Below are detail pix of pottery and sculpture faves that have hugs & kisses of flora.

Michael Connelly  Matt Wedel  McKenzie SmithMakoto Kagoshima  Baraby Barford  Kurt Anderson  Michael Kline  Michael Sherrill  Steve Colby

First row: Michael Connelly, Matt Wedel, and McKenzie Smith.
Second row: Makoto Kagoshima, Baraby Barford, and Kurt Anderson
Third row: Michael Kline, Michael Sherrill, and Steve Colby.

Studio KotoKoto ‘Hearty Cuppa’

I’m delighted to have four yunomi in the online Hearty Cuppa show with Studio KotoKoto, as well as share my excitement for this new and beautifully-executed online retailer (est. fall of 2012).

Studio KotoKoto offers distinctive, handmade objects by artists from Japan, the U.S., and around the world. In selecting these thoughtfully designed items, we bring you the stories of the artists, their aesthetics, and the materials they use. We promote talented artists who carry on the tradition of individual craftsmanship. ~ Kathryn Manzella and
Ai Kanazawa

Check out their lovely blog post about the show, which includes cups by potter faves Diana Fayt, Ayumi Horie, Birdie BoonePeter Pincus, plus more cups from U.S. and Japanese makers. Make sure you “like” Studio KotoKoto on Facebook to stay tuned for details on this and future shows, and to see more romantic pix of handmade like the ones framing this post.

The cups I chose to send celebrate the coming of spring as well as Valentine’s Day. For me, spring is a signifier of growth, color, and budding romance, particularly for little animals like the pictured quail and bunnies frolicking in the flowers of my yunomi cups.

Hearty Cuppa celebrating Valentine’s Day with handmade.

  Diana Fayt at Studio KotoKoto Peter Pincus at Studio KotoKotoKieffer yunomi at Studio KotoKoto Kristen Kieffer at Studio KotoKoto

Pictured: cups by Birdie Boone, Ayumi Horie, Joseph Pintz, Sakai Mika, Diana Fayt, Peter Pincus, and myself. Photos courtesy of Ai Kanazawa at Studio KotoKoto.

Polka Dot Origin, Influence, & Faves

Dots on my pots!

  Corset series vessel w. dots    
  

My recent work with dots: Screen vase pair, yunomis, flower vessel (Corset series), pitcher, small covered jars, small stamped bowls, and plate.

I started layering dots (and stripes, which will be a future blog post with more influences and faves) in early 2010. The added pattern came through self-critique and seeing a need to both visually pop the raised slip-trail patterns by providing small background color, as well as add some modern fun to the Victorian flavor of my work.

So the primary purpose for the polka dots was to further my love of layered surfaces for the pots, formally creating even more richness and depth. The dots punctuate the patterns.

A close secondary function for the dots has been to add some joyfulness; polka dots are rarely somber. Though I do receive some comments by folks who favorably see ‘Disney,’ I think my pots can appear more serious than I actually am or intend. In some ways, I’m still the five-year-old tomboy who hated my freckles (my own personal polka dots), deciding one summer day that, with the aid of my grape-smelling marker, they would be much better purple. So, the dots are a way to include my influences of sweets, for example, as well as infuse connotations of informality and playfulness.

You can check out all the dotty pots in my online shop here.

Polka dot influences below with more here:

    
  
    
    

Norma Kamali dressTattoo round rug by Deanna Comellini  
  

.Pictured above from top right, first row: Peter Murdoch ‘Dot chair’ for kids; Dot window building in Beirut, Lebanon; and ‘Confetti’ tree skirt.  Second row: Draga Mathilde sofa; and Yayoi Kusama concept store for Louis Vuitton.  Third row: June Leaf organic canvas in Marine; Mod fashion;  and vintage dress.  Fourth row: White-grey ombre dot cake; paper straws; and slipper chair.  Fifth row: Norma Kamali dress; Tattoo round rug by Deanna Comellini; and ‘Op-art Attracts’ wedge by ModCloth.  Last row: Quilt in progress by Judy Martin and starfish.

The origin of the Polka Dot: It is believed that the name “polka dot” came from the Polish polka dance, and first appeared by name in 1854 in The Yale literary magazine. At the same time that the polka dance and music began in the mid 19th century, polka dots were popular and common on clothing. The pattern name was chosen simply because the dance gained such acclaim, which led to many contemporary products and fashions also taking the name. (There used to be “polka-hats” and “polka-jackets,” for example.) Most disappeared with the popularity of the actual polka dance in the late 1800s. Only the printed fabric pattern remained fashionable, and the name stuck.

Polka dot favorites of fellow studio potters and ceramic artists:

Andrew Martin  Brenda Quinn  Malene Helbak
Kari Radasch  Jun Kaneko polka dot sidewalk, Art Museum of South TX
Chiho Aono  Sandblasted process, Hans Tan Studio via Ateliér Keramiky  Ayumi Horie
Harrison McIntoshMeredith Host  Harumi NakashimaTetsuo Hirakawa  Betty Woodman  Sean O'Connell

Pictured above from top right, first row: Andrew Martin, Brenda Quinn, and Malene Helbak.  Second row: Kari Radasch and Jun Kaneko.  Third row: Chiho Aono, Hans Tan Studio, and Ayumi Horie.  Fourth row: Harrison McIntosh, Meredith Host, and Harumi Nakashima.  Last row: Tetsuo Hirakawa, Betty Woodman, and Sean O’Connell.

Pierced Pottery: Basket Faves & Influence

    

A couple weeks ago, I was in my studio pondering, and had a ‘piercing epiphany.’ I haven’t had time to do more than draw just yet, but am excited about expanding my use of piercing/reticulation/cut-outs (as pictured above) on some new and existing forms as a way to play with line, light and shadow, and form through articulated pattern.

The development of new forms paired with new surfaces is a given goal, but some days I feel more inspired (a.k.a. internally pressured) to bring that back-burnered desire to the fore. That drive usually sends me to my books on silver, my favored springboard for new forms. (It is perhaps odd to be influenced by centuries-old objects with functions so specific, many are now obsolete, but most any form for me can become an idea for a vase, which can then lead to many more ideas.)

So I was down in my studio thinking, but my books were upstairs and are worn from years of gleaning, and my computer was downstairs with me and filled with new, enticing images I’ve been bookmarking, so of course, I opened my computer. I visited my own Pinterest boards where I ‘pin’ both objects I enjoy (favorites) and objects that inspire my forms and surfaces (influence). A common thread popped out to me from my Form & Pattern, Oldies But Goodies, Ceramics: Vintage/Historical, and Ceramics: Studio Potters/Artists boards, and sent me to my sketchbook to draw: Piercing.

  

Pierced work was very popular in both silver and pottery in the 18th century (particularly the latter half) in England and Europe. I haven’t found specific information claiming so, but piercing seems a wonderful blend of form and function: the cut-outs allow air circulation (for food service and storage) while both visually defining form and lightening materials (silver, clay, wood) that can otherwise appear a bit more heavy or dense. (I sometimes envy glass’ ability to be simultaneously solid and transparent.) I also enjoy pierced elements in architecture, furniture, clothing, and many more mediums.

So, I’ve yet to get started on my own cut-outs, but have done some drawings, am very excited about minimal and maximal piercing (particularly for fruit bowls and baskets), and collected some of my favorite basket-y forms by fellow studio potters mixed in with ones from the 18th c. for you below. Enjoy, and stay tuned for some pierced pots from my own studio!

                   
  

From top left: Rebecca Chappell; Shorthose & Heath creamware; and Kari Radasch. Second row: Dr. Wall chestnut basket, c. 1750s; and Bryan Hopkins. Third row: Baddelly creamware basket, c. mid 1700s; and Creamware basket, c. 18th century. Fourth row: Brian Jones; and Bruce Cochrane. Fifth row: Odette fruitbowl w. silver stand; Steven Godfrey; and Monticello creamware basket (reproduction). Sixth row: Malene Mullertz; and Julie Crosby. Seventh row: Spode Pierced Creamware Basket and Stand, c. 1820. Last row: Sunshine Cobb; and Remodelista ‘Farmer’s market basket’.

Fabulous Fan Mail

Artists can never hear enough that their work has connected with a customer. We can also never be thankful enough for our customers’ support and their taking the time to share the connection. I’m always very appreciative and thankful for every email accolade, Facebook fan comment, and face-to-face flattery that comes my way.  The email below I received recently is so particularly heart-warming, I just had to share it and my response.

Dear Kristen,
I am so happy that I [stopped into Lillstreet Gallery for the first time on Friday after living nearby for years] because my attention was immediately drawn to a wall of coffee mugs. Now, I just adore coffee mugs and have several, but I have never seen one so beautiful as the one right in the center of them all. This was, of course, a piece created by you. It was light blue with what appear to be pearls throughout. I was so surprised that something to be used daily could be so fantastic and special. I have never spent $60(ish) on a coffee mug, but after considering for a few minutes, I absolutely could not imagine leaving the store without it. Your attention to detail and balance is so extraordinary. I even noticed this morning, what appears to be a “pearl” in the bottom of the cup. The fact that this detail exists in your creation says to me that you that you celebrate not only your work, but the person who purchases your items.
I am sure that you hear this often, but even still, I want to thank you for doing what you do. Looking at this piece of art (because I cannot call it just a coffee mug), actually brings a smile to my face. Not only because of its beauty, but because I can easily imagine how much time, care, and passion went into its creation.
Sincerely, L. N.

Dear L.,

Wow!  I can’t thank you enough, not only for purchasing my cup and contacting me, but for taking the time to write such a lovely and thoroughly eloquent message.  You touched on about every goal and hope for me as a maker to connect with a user of my work.  Your observations could be my artist statement.

I do hear kind words about my work, but as someone who works in a fairly isolated home studio (often not knowing if I’m making connections with folks ‘out there’), having a customer reach out to express such appreciation with such exuberance is rare and absolutely delightful.

Thank you for reciprocating your own smile be giving me one to carry back to my studio as I make more pots for loving homes like yours…bringing some beauty to everyday.

Sincerely, Kristen

Thank you again, L. in Chicago! For the note, and for bringing some handmade elegance into your home from my studio.

My Talented Hubby

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my own bowl and breakfast the other morning: cantaloupe and matching stripes. I made the bowl, but it’s actually my husband’s bowl. I’m the unusual studio potter who doesn’t have a lot of my own pots in our all-handmade-pots kitchen. There are only two actually, this bowl and a white and red striped plate that’s a ‘third’ (not even a ‘second’), which I love to use. For the most part, I live with my work all day, most everyday in my studio, so the last thing I want to see when I’m not working is my own work. I have this sense that I would spend my meals critiquing my pots (why many potters smartly use their pots in the first place) instead of relaxing. I spend eight or so hours a day evaluating my pots’ form and function, so am happy to unwind by using other people’s pots —like the Tyler Gulden plate above— during my ‘off’ hours. So, like I said, the bowl is mostly my hubby’s. He saw it in my studio and claimed it, for ice cream.

Ginger Jar by Trevor Toney
Mitered and carved curly maple, paint, and shellac.
6″ h x 4 1/2″ w & d

He and I met ten years ago at the Worcester Center for Crafts where as an Artist-In-Residence I gave a slide lecture (with actual slides) and he attended as a student in the furniture/woodworking program. We began talking because he liked my work and we have similar influences. Of course, we’ve been together ever since, and while he is now a full-time preparator/exhibitions carpenter at the Worcester Art Museum and only able to make work part-time, we continue to share ideas and have informal critiques of each others’ work.

Last October was our five-year wedding anniversary, the Wood Anniversary if you follow such things, and though we would normally pay this no mind, he’s a woodworker and I’m married to a woodworker, so for love and fun, it just couldn’t be ignored. The Ginger Jar above was his gift to me. (He received a walnut-inlayed watch I scored on Ebay.) He’s a consummate maker, and I don’t feel the slightest bit biased in saying so. You will hear it here first when he opens his own Etsy shop, so stay tuned for fabulous, slightly mod objects and furniture with historical influence from my talented, darling hubby Trevor Toney! Check out the couple shots below of his mitering and carving process for my jar. Clay has nothing on wood for complexity…and math.

 

By the way, the jar ‘works’ beautifully. It’s personalized function is a bedside holder for my earplugs. (I’m a super light sleeper.) I like how the opened lid, which reveals the sublime tangerine orange that continues inside, with earplugs in place and shadowed flange look incidentally like a smile.
:-)

Interest in Pinterest

interest. I’m on it, and either you are too, or I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it. Technically it is yet another ‘thing’ to do online, but it’s different (really!), and I’m completely addicted and want you to be too. Actually, it’s perfect if you’re someone like me who frequently bookmarks images into folders to your browser, which you can only see if each one is opened. So! Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board. A place for you to ‘pin’ what ‘interests’ you, thus ‘Pinterest.’ You have your own page where you can have as many pinboards as you’d like on which to pin images you find on the web, repin favorite images others have pinned, and upload your own new images in whatever way strikes your fancy.

I use Pinterest primarily to bookmark influences for inspiration, organize images for future blog posts and Power Point presentations, and minimally to dream about home renovation ideas and fashion purchases (which also inspire pots). Plus, I’m an image lover. Who doesn’t like pretty pictures of fabulous objects?

I’ve been ‘pinning,’ as they call it, for about six months and seem to have accumulated 20 separate pinboards of interests with over 900 images, including Form & Pattern, Color, Couture, Oldies but Goodies, Interiors & Objects, Props to Props, as well as three different ceramics boards (vintage/historical, studio, and industrial design).

So, you can learn more about Pinterest from the NY Times, request an invitation from Pinterest, and follow my pinboards. Below are some recent favorite pix, one each from most of my pinboards. Feel free to pin images from my website and online shops to your boards! Happy Pinning!

  
  
  
  
  
  

Whirlwind to The Met

    
    

A pictorial blog post with some of my favorite items and details from our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC this past Friday. About 4 1/2 hours of driving each way from north, central boonies MA left about 7 hours for some focused wandering. Fast, yes, but still fabulous with new influence ideas to boot!

    
      
      
    

The majority of our time was spent in various galleries of the permanent collection (hover your cursor over my pictures above for details and click to enlarge). The remainder of our time was spent in several of their special exhibitions where pictures are not permitted, so the images below are from the Met’s site where you can see a wonderful selection from each show.

      

The title for the late Alexander McQueen’s exhibition “Savage Beauty” probably best sums up this extraordinary, haunting and gorgeous installation by my favorite fashion couturier. I am glad to own the book for the exhibition, but the in-person experience was unparalleled. Read and see more about this exhibition here.

    

The Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art exhibition was also a great treat. Read and see more about this exhibition here.

“Veys,” “Veyz,” “Vahz”

Spring means it is finally warming up here in north, central MA. For me, this primarily means things will start to bud and bloom which gets me all excited to sit on our porch and observe my gardenwhich makes me want to make vases.

Last summer (July ’10) during a two-week residency at the Watershed Center for the Arts in Maine, I made a new prototype vase (finished right). As is not uncommon for me, play and design are waylaid by deadlines, so I’ve just gotten around to making a next and improved version now (in-progress left).

Vase forms are a perennial (the pun that had to happen) favorite for me because they can be any shape, size and color, but are equally challenging in the balance between function and beauty (i.e. the potential to elegantly arrange flowers matched with a form that doesn’t overpower the display, but looks attractive and interesting sans posies). “Vase” is such a vague term though because it can be any size, shape and color. I wish there were more specific names for vases intended for certain flowers (like the “tulipiere”) or names that designate a certain size or shape (like the “flower brick”). This Vase In Floral Design page I found gives something close to what I’m craving, giving nice summations on various vase shapes and how they’re used best with tips and notes.

My new, large (15″ h) wire lattice vase is intended, however, to be more sculptural than functional, and is a slight mash-up of form inspiration between a small, cobalt blue glass vase of my Great Grandma’s (similar to the first image below) and a brass antique find that sits in my studio. The wire creates an airy finish to the top of the vase, appearing a bit like a blue-print drawing, a crinoline framework or the unfinished, underlying architecture of the clay part itself. The wire is a way for me to draw in three-dimensions and is a nice contrast material to the clay. (I enjoy working with the wire, but the humbling nature of clay and its shrinkage does not always cooperate with my master plans for elaborate wirework, so we’ll see how it fairs in the firings). I, of course, finished this muscular form off with suggestions of Victorian wallpaper layered over mod candy stripes.

Below are a selection of vases, from antique to contemporary, in a variety of sizes and materials that caught my eye for this post. (You can see the trend that I tend to like pedestal or footed vases.) There are more of my favorites in this post here too. Enjoy!

   
   
 
   

From top right: Laced-edge glass vase c. 1920; Vintage trumpet milk glass vase; Antique brass vase; and “Eva” solitaire glass vase. Second row: Etched vintage glass vase; Vintage ruby and gold glass vase; Vintage 1950s Hull vase; and antique Louis Majorelle glass and iron vase. Third row: Anika Engelbrecht ceramic, and balloon Swell vases and Petite Friture Ikebana vases. Last row are all KleinReid: Cyril vase, Chateau bud vase, Upright vases by Eva Zeisel for KleinReid, and Peep vase.

Even Artists Need A Hobby

I didn’t think it strange that an artist might have a hobby until my students (adults who take my class as a hobby) giggled with wonder and surprise when I voiced needing one. Everyone needs time away from their work, even if their work is someone else’s hobby.

There are definitely days in my studio when I get lost in the enjoyment of giving breath to the clay while I throw, “quilting” the wall of a pot as I stamp, spinning that perfect curl of slip-trail, or creating a lovely negative space for a handle. But, there is also weight—self-imposed pressures—carried into the studio about sales, deadlines, goals, growth and more that is hard to “lose” sometimes. Again, I love what I do, but I don’t want it to be all that I do. I like finding other activities that are mentally or physically rejuvenating (or quieting), so that when I am in my studio, that time is as enjoyable and productive as possible. Pitcher (handle) in progress.

Since we bought our home here in the boonies of MA, when the weather allows, I am outside in my perennial gardens. A hobby for me is doing something I enjoy that allows escape and thoughts of nothing else, and gardening is the first thing I’ve found since my pottery beginnings that does that. I had been planning to do this post when Roger Ebert (yep, the movie critic) posted an article* last week in which he mentions that the most valuable asset of his hobby (drawing) is to allow him to both “experience a place or moment more deeply” and to lose track of time. Exactly! (Even a guy who watches movies for a living needs a hobby!) Painting by Andrew Woodward.

Since I work at home, I find it hard to shut the imaginary door (or even find the door) separating my work time (which isn’t without play) from my not-work time.  Basically, I think too much, and since there is no “off” switch, I need a hobby.  Gardening isn’t something I can do year-round, so I decided just recently to start painting. I loved, I mean loved, to draw as a kid. Remember when “color” was a verb and we wanted to do it as much as go outside and play? Maybe that’s just me, but it’s a feeling I want to resurrect. I remember coloring with the big box of Crayola crayons and then fat Crayola markers as a kid, and then in my teens, painting with acrylics. For my degrees, I’ve taken classes in painting, drawing, printmaking and design, but the last time I drew or painted for fun had to have been in high school. Painting by Mathias Heiderich.

Coincidentally (or not?), my Grandpa painted for a hobby. My grandparents home was a revolving gallery of his paintings. He showed in some local juried exhibitions, won numerous awards, but never sold any (perhaps to maintain hobby status), which is happily why I own a wonderful selection of them. One of the best conversations we had in his later years was about art (his paintings and my pottery)—comparing goals, aesthetics, and foibles of material and maker. As an oil painter who strove for realism, I don’t know what he’d think about my interest in impressionism, abstract expressionism or exaggerated color, but it would be neat to talk to him now about what he felt as he painted. Painting by Ward Kieffer.

I’m curious to see how my pottery informs my painting and vice versa. I’m already painting fields of stripes, and my envy over the ease of mixing paint colors has revved my desire to revamp my glaze palette. I’m also finding it hard and humorous to be new at something. Mostly though, I’m enjoying getting lost in color, line and process, like when I garden (except painting is easier on the knees). Stay tuned for the impact of hobby (my painting) on art (my pots)! I think it will be pretty interesting myself. If nothing else, it should remind me to play more during my “work time”. When I look back on my life, I want to make sure that Iplayed. Painting by Ian Davenport.

Above and below are some painters and paintings in particular I love, and consider influence on my painting-as-hobby pursuits, with more favorites here.

  
  
  
   

From top left: Giorgio Morandi, Jennifer Sanchez and Charles Demuth.  Second row: Michael Cutlip, Clare Rojas and Beatriz Milhazes.  Third row: Gene Davis, Kate O’Connor and Chuck Close.  Fourth row: Glennray Tutor, René Magritte and Richard Diebenkorn.  Last row:  Peter Freitag and Matte Stephens.

*I highly recommend reading Roger Ebert’s journal post “You can draw, and probably better than I can” if you are a maker, teacher or art-appreciator, which is really all of us.