Galloway, Kline, & Kieffer on Tales of a Red Clay Rambler

Julia Galloway, Michael Kline, and Kristen Kieffer on Ben Carter's Tales of a Red Clay Rambler
pFellow potter Ben Carter has a wonderful podcast, Tales of the Red Clay Rambler featuring studio potters and “culture makers” from around the world, that I love and listen to regularly. This past February, while we were all together for the Florida Heat Surface workshop symposium, he invited studio potters Julia Galloway, Michael Kline, and me to sit down and discuss for the podcast some of the individual and group conversations we had been having about pottery trends, design, copying, imagery, and how social media impacts all of those as well as our studio lives.

I admit it’s hard to talk with a microphone so close to your mouth you could lick it and knowing your words are being recorded to be replayed by hundreds, but it was neat to listen back because that was such a fun week together.  This conversation could have gone on for hours, there’s so much more to say and add.  Thank you to Ben for being such a great host with tough questions, and Michael and Julia for the fast-paced and smart exchange.

Have a listen right here to episode #61, and enjoy!

Studio Cycles Pictorial 2013

      
   
      
          

It’s enjoyable to put together this annual, year end pictorial of images from my studio of in-progress and new work, as well as artist goings-on, and reflect back on both 2013′s newness and continuations. These are just a selection of images I posted throughout the year on my Facebook page and now Instagram too. As with last year’s, it’s not an order, it’s a cycle.

As always, thank you for your continued support of my work and studio.
A happy, healthy New Year to you and yours!

Studio Cycles Pictorial 2012

                  

I enjoyed putting together this second annual, end of the year group of images from my studio of in progress and new work. These are just a selection of images I posted throughout the year on my Facebook page. As with last year’s, it’s not an order, it’s a cycle. I just completed two glaze firings, so more to come —immediately!— for 2013 here and in my online stores. Keepin’ on, keepin’ on!

Thank you very much for your continued support of my work and studio.
A happy, healthy New Year to you and yours!

Shots From and Of My Studio

My studio doubles (quadruples really) as many things when needed: making space, glazing area, gallery, as well as photo room. One of the questions I am asked frequently by fellow makers is do I shoot my own images. I do, and have from the beginning.

My Dad helped me get started photographing my work way back in 1991 with film. (Remember when we called it that and used that stuff?!) Along with my Dad, John Glick (who I assisted/residencied with from 1996-97, and who also shoots his own work, even when large format, 4 x 5 was a tricky medium), helped me understand the settings on the camera, lighting, etc. And it’s really through the same two decades of practicing how to make pots that I’ve had the simultaneous practice of shooting them.

Artwork almost doesn’t exist without images. (These days, maybe nothing exists without images.) Most folks see someone’s work via image (web, books, magazines), many times more than in person, if they ever see it in person at all. The image of the work can be paramount over the work itself, so good, current pix are a necessity. Once I’m ‘in it’, I like the photography part of my studio practice. As the maker, I have a unique idea of how my work should be shot and looks best (from angle to lighting to placement). While I’m making pots, I imagine how they’d be framed in an image and ponder groupings. Someday I would love to have my work professionally ‘styled in situ’ (and am not saying a pro couldn’t do even my simple, standard shots better), but for now, doing it myself also allows me to shoot frequently, so my images for publicity and the web are always current and new.

So, the top image is one I composed and shot for a potential new postcard to illustrate my favorite forms, varied styles, and color pairings. The image below is of me in my studio taken by my hubby for a needed ‘studio shot’ request by NCECA. (The table behind me is where I shot the grouping.) The other images below from my studio are my darling hubby acting as a stand-in for me with our new, shelter-adopted doxie, Hannah, while I try to frame up my shot, and Hannah (the reason I seem to be blogging less) posing with my CM cover when it first arrived. All glimpses from a week-in-the-life of my studio, which isn’t always a pottery-making studio.

 

Studio Glimpse

  

Coming up this weekend is my Holiday Studio Sale (November 5th & 6th), and while I would love for every single one of you to visit me here in north central Massachusetts, I realize that’s just not possible. Part of visiting an artist in their studio is to buy unique items and support handmade, but the other part is to see where the artist works every day. Those of you living beyond New England’s driving distance can always shop directly from my studio online in my Gallery Store and Pottery Shop. While it’s not exactly dropping by and sifting through pots on my shelves in person, it is the next best thing. For everyone (those who live within shipping range and those who live way beyond), I decided to circle my studio and shoot some of the tools and objects that surround me everyday to help fulfill in some small way the “glimpse behind the scenes” reason to visit.

Pictured above: The doormat that welcomes visitors to my space features big flowers, which remind me that spring will eventually come when there’s two feet of snow on the ground. An old tumbler of mine and three-tiered candy dish (from Ikea) hold my most-used tools and reside on a lazy susan in the right corner of my seven-foot work table. And, the large buckets of glaze, which live under my work table and are rolled out when I’m ready to pour and dip the glazes I mix.

  

My test tile board (test tiles are the ceramic artist’s paint chip) displays my current palette of satin and glossy glazes both alone and over stripes of underglaze colors, and new test colors. The chest-high foundation wall of my studio is a great shelf and keeper of many tools, including this decorative tea tin for my pens and markers, and collaborative ceramic basket by my grad professor Brad Schwieger and me for my brushes. A pound scale is a pretty typical tool in a potter’s studio (even of this era) for weighing amounts of clay, like the cups in the background that started as a pound and an eighth ball. I bought my scale at a re-sale shop when I lived in Detroit two years before having a studio in which to use it!

  

On my potter’s wheel sit my throwing tools in a bowl I made while working with studio potter John Glick (1997-98), and have used in multiple studios since. Also visible is the backrest I lean against while I stand to throw to keep my back healthy. Behind my wheel, à la laundry-hung-to-dry style, are lots of influence images. I couldn’t bring myself to tape or push-pin into my new walls yet, so this works and is fun for easy adding and subtracting. Other than me, the workhorse(s) of my studio are my ware boards. These 1″ x 12″ x 36″ boards are my shelves and allow me to tote pots (12 cups fit on one board, for example) from my wheel, to my studio shelving unit, to my kiln shelving unit and back again with relative ease, as well as make the shelving units themselves flexible for holding short items to tall.

Lastly, pictured left is a partial collection of influence objects I’ve picked up at antique stores, resale shops, and apparently anywhere else (like the plastic sandwich “triangle container” I think would make a great flower brick form).

That’s my studio at a glance! I hope some of you can swing by to see it in person and shop elegant for the holidays on Nov. 5th & 6th!

Eve Day

I spent my Christmas eve morning doing some glazing, and caught this small vignette in the crisp sun. Sometimes working on a day that is supposed to be one of leisure or vacation reminds me how much I enjoy the little things about being a maker, like the curve of my cup handle in shadow on my work table. I am now off the rest of the day and a few more, but will return before the New Year to finish glazing. I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a happy holiday. I hope you seek out and find those small, special moments in the New Year.
A Happy & Healthy 2011 to you and yours. XX KK

In Studio & Online Goodness

The warmth and energy of spring has struck for me, and I hope for you too.  I will be away much of June (to teach at Penland) and July (to do a residency at Watershed and teach at the Appalachian Center for Crafts), so I am cranking away in my studio, as well as hoping my hubby will shoot pictures of my perennial garden while I’m away.

This is a brief update about what’s coming up for my work and studio prior to my travels:

Studio Sale
Saturday, May 22nd 10-5  and Sunday, May 23rd 11-4
My Spring Studio Show & Sale is just around the calendar corner, here at our home in Otter River, MA. This year it falls the weekend before Memorial weekend.  As usual, seconds will be available for purchase (come early!) as well as gallery-quality pieces.  Cash, check or Visa/MasterCard are welcome.  Visit my Contact page to drop me a note for directions. Please bring a friend, and we look forward to seeing you!
Pictured: Three stripe and dot plates, in progress.

My online store.
KiefferCeramics.etsy.com
My online pottery store is open for your springtime gifting needs, and filled with new pots like stripe-y plates, house vase forms and of course, cups! Because of upcoming travel, I may be closing my stores from 6/10 – 7/24.  I apologize for the inconvenience, but wanted to let you know so you could shop in advance for gifts, and stay tuned soon after for new work to be posted.
Pictured: Plates in progress with shadowed striping from blinds.

“Salad Days” Pottery Sale at Watershed
If you happen to be in Maine, or would like a reason to be, I will be participating in the pottery sale at the Watershed Center for the Ceramics Arts in Newcastle, ME on Saturday, July 10th.  The sale is in conjunction with Salad Days, a fundraiser for this great ceramic center and residency studio where I will be one of many resident artists for two weeks also in July.  Check this link for more information.
Pictured: In progress pitcher handles.

If you happen to be in CO, l will soon have three pieces juried by Pete Pinnell in the Contemporary Clay Biennial at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction, CO (5/14 – 6/26).

See more details about my exhibition and workshop schedule here.

DVD
On a different pottery note, the feedback from my Surface Decoration DVD continues to be a delight.  If you haven’t already, I hope you will check out the trailer and enthusiastic comments by viewers on my DVD page, which will also take you to the buy page.  Makers will see some new ideas in the DVD, and ceramics teachers/professors may be interested in buying, or having your school purchase it for your program and/or your library.  I appreciate your support!

Coming Soon to a DVD Player Near You!

This trailer is a sneak preview of my soon to be released DVD Surface Decoration: Suede to Leatherhard with teasing glimpses of all eleven chapters. Watch the clip and then read more about all the excitement on the DVD page.

Signature Style

 

There are a handful of questions that I am asked at every workshop: “How do you know when to dart?”, “How do you make your feet?”, and “How do you get the stamping to line up?!”, for example. The answers to those are fairly straightforward: practice, carving, and practice.

I’m teasing with the one-word answers, but alongside those simpler, technical how-to questions are toughies like, “How did you find/get/develop your style?” I love deep questions in workshops, the ones that are about being an artist. Those conversations are a big part of why I enjoy teaching. Workshops are a great forum for learning techniques and discussing quandaries like personal style, not for picking up “style tricks.” There is no sincere short answer to the style question during a workshop or in this blog (though “practice” is part of the answer).

 

A few years ago, while attending NCECA, I attended a lecture* that essentially encouraged the current generation of makers to look not to the former generations’ work for ideas, but rather to their influences. He stated that the prior generation, the WWII-era makers, looked at things (nature, gesture, history, architecture) not other people’s pots.  He expressed wonderment at a potential future in ceramics with artists referencing only the preceding generation.  This observation was profound to me.

To oversimplify with an example, if I like Linda Sikora’s work, rather than imitating her forms and surfaces, I could begin to develop my own voice by researching what has influenced her work. By delving into the handfuls of objects, cultures, and periods that have defined her style, my own work could become unique rather than simply referential. Who I am as a person and maker will affect how I respond to the exact same historic European porcelain pitcher that inspired her. That’s not to say I can’t appreciate, admire, and buy her work, but I am more likely to find my own voice by looking at what is behind her pots rather than just looking at her pots.

 

So that is one of the anecdotes I tell in a workshop to begin to explain how one might develop a style. I honestly think if an artist sets out with style as the goal rather than as a byproduct of making what he enjoys based on what inspires him, he will fail. (Though I’m sure there are artists who receive recognition this way, I don’t think they are happy, respected artists.)

Style is the amazing culmination of everything an artist has experienced, loves and is, manifested in an object. I touch on the wide range of things that have shaped my own work (and style) throughout this blog, and also discuss them in my Bio and Statement.

 

The images in this post represent some of the details—based directly on my influences and interests—I feel make my work unique, my style signatures: slip-trailed shapes that look like rolled fondant; ornate stamping; two-part cup handles;  and Kanthal wire as form. Vessels like my Corset series, surfaces like my satin color palette, and even an actual signature, like my name stamp (below) are also part of that design “signature”.  The best compliment I receive about my work is, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”  What I bring to the pots is something no one else has: my touch, my eye, my mish-mash of interests and my passion. That’s style.

* I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the speaker for that 1998 Dallas/Ft. Worth NCECA slide lecture.  If someone knows, please drop me a note.

“Surface” DVD Progress

Kristen_Kieffer_video_I

As some of you know, in May I spent about five days demonstrating in my studio for my first how-to dvd: Surface Decoration, Suede to Leatherhard.  I thought I’d let you know that I’ve seen the rough cut, and am pretty excited about it (especially after I got over the weirdness of watching myself).  Videos have as many steps as ceramics, so for this big first foray, it’s not surprising to report we are a bit off schedule.

Video_II
This dvd will include techniques I use and some I enjoy but don’t currently incorporate in my own work. All are “suede” to leatherhard decoration techniques mostly using slip, including stamp-making and stamping, slip-trailing, sponging, paper resist, water-etching, sgraffito, mishima, carving and sprigging. My goal is to show techniques with which you may not be familiar, offer a new take on the traditional and generally excite interest in the potential of the ceramic surface.

Kristen KiefferI strongly feel that in-person instruction is best, and a video by anyone is no substitution for classroom interaction, workshop question-and-answer or one-on-one discussion. I know not everyone is able to take a workshop or class, and I realize that many of those who are able to attend one of my workshops may like a video to review some learned techniques.

I will continue to keep you all posted!