Though some of my elegant vessels are completely handbuilt from slabs, most begin on the potter’s wheel. All are softly altered, treating the porcelain more like fabric than clay. I use a variety of surface decoration techniques, including stamping (with stamps I both design and make), slip-trailing, slip-sponging, and more to accent and define the forms. All of my work is fired in an electric kiln with glazes and colors I chose and developed. My influences range from 18th-century silver service pieces to Elizabethan and couture clothing, and from Art Nouveau illustration to cake fondant and wallpaper. Each of my Victorian modern pots has its own unique building process, and while I work in series, each piece is truly one-of-a-kind, and made solely by me from beginning to end.
When the clay is still very soft—at a stage I refer to as “suede“—I alter, stamp, and/or dart (cutting shapes out of the clay wall and re-attaching the seams to create a new form). Additions like spouts, handles, and raised feet are hand-built, pulled, and shaped. Once attached, they’re refined and carved at the leatherhard stage. Except for sprigs (shallow relief appliqué) and drape molds of my design for some serving pieces that are also altered, I use no other molds to create forms or make parts. Timing is crucial to the making.
I use dozens of stamps I both design and make to impress into my wheel-thrown forms at a stage I refer to as “suede.” By stamping at such an early point in the process, I’m able to capture the plasticity of the material, which allows me to simultaneously bring precision, softness, and tactility to the finished forms. The stamp designs come from my own sketches, and are influenced by Art Nouveau, Middle Eastern, and other patterns, as well as imagery I just enjoy that can bring an elegant or playful quality to my pots.
In addition to stamping, I also embellish with dots, swirls, and shapes of slip (liquid clay squeezed through a trailer, like small scale cake decorating); slip-sponging; as well as stripes, polka dots, and details of underglaze colors. These bits of color accentuate the fondant like slip-trail, and add a visual and aesthetic layer of fun.
High Temp Wire
Since 2002, I have used Kanthal wire as a decorative element in certain forms (clasps in older corset vessels, grid-work in flower bricks, and in the last few years, as handles for my basket form). It is another way for me to use line and draw within my vessels with a different medium. Kanthal is a high-temperature wire that can be placed into the work at leatherhard and remain through the glazing and firing processes.
Clay, Glazes, & Firing
My work is made with Standard Clay‘s midrange porcelain #213. I mix by hand my palette of gloss and satin glazes with color from Mason Stains. I pour and hand dip each piece with these glazes, which highlight the vessels’ forms and reveal the surface patterns, creating a tactile and functional finish. I do extensive testing to achieve the colors and surfaces for my pots, and currently have a palette of ten colors I developed and chose. All of my work for bisque and glaze is fired in L & L electric kilns. I glaze fire to cone seven, approximately 2150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Copyright Please ask before using images from this blog/website.
The photos and work they represent are under copyright. Thank you.
All rights reserved © 2007-2015 Kristen Kieffer Ceramics