Layered Layers

Kristen Kieffer Yunomi Mishima groupingYunomi detail

I spend most of my studio time thinking about (and blog time writing about) form and pattern interplay. My decoration can’t exist without the forms they wrap around, and the forms are incomplete without their surface layers. I make decorative ceramics because I love clay as a material, function as a parameter, and pattern as a layer that ties it all together.

I’m not sure where my love of decoration and pattern began. Perhaps going to antique shops as a kid had influence. Maybe it was the endless drawings with my Spirograph. There’s just something about pattern that feels like home to me. Like touching my Grandma Idene’s funky necklace or filigree bracelet as a kid during a car ride, and asking her to tell me its story for the millionth time. However it came about, I’ve liked ornamentation forever; pattern and symmetry are in my nature.

Kristen Kieffer Large plate Periwinkle floral Plate deco detail Periwinkle floral
Plate deco detail Frost : tangerine Kristen Kieffer Large plate Frost Victorian Moroccan

Why I choose a particular pattern and layer is no simpler to solve than why pattern at all. I can’t say I layer intuitively. I do pick and chose pattern on impulse, but it’s probably more about what I’ve learned in the 2D and 3D design classes I loved for my degrees than instinct. There’s not always an answer to why we’re drawn to certain colors, shapes, or decoration. I suppose I could just say I love ‘pretty’ and need loveliness in my life, know others do to, and these pieces are my response. But there is more to it.

I’ve been decorating my pots for years, but layering began in earnest when I changed how I glaze-fire my pots, switching from cone 10 soda to cone 7 oxidation in 2006. I could no longer rely on the kiln’s atmosphere to provide depth, so took control of adding levels of richness myself.

Patterns create depth, add visual and tactile interest, as well as invite pause. With forms like these new plates and pillow tiles, I layer in part to create an environment in which my customers can get lost for a moment (like the atmospheric paintings I love by Martin Johnson Heade). In a form like the yunomi cups, the extra layer of stamped pattern can spark reflection on a customer’s own history, culture, youth, or vacations abroad perhaps. What I bring to pattern and form as the maker can be quite different from what a viewer takes. What I see as Art Nouveau flora might remind someone else of their aunt’s cottage garden, for example. I like the personalization that can happen in the translation of decoration.

Kristen Kieffer Large plate Green flora Plate deco detail Green : tangerine
Plate deco detail Periwinkle arabesque 

All of the images in this post represent the recent addition of a new decoration layer; a new series with a ceramic technique called Mishima. Originating centuries ago in Korea, Mishima is a way of drawing on clay by inlaying color into a (usually) fine line. I’ve demo-ed this technique for years, including on my Surface Deco DVD, but this is the first time I’ve incorporated it into my own work. The delicate, navy blue line on all these pieces is Mishima. And for me, that drawn line adds another layer of contrast, another layer of atmosphere, another layer of intrigue.

As I mentioned in my last post, I think of the ceramic layers and assembling the disparate pattern shapes as being like collage. Each of the plates pictured for example (after I throw, trim, and alter) has four separate patterns and techniques layered onto the surface. First, I apply the subtle background texture, kind of the ground for everything else. I brush slip (liquid clay the consistency of heavy cream) across the surface, and press a patterned sponge I make into it, leaving a soft texture reminiscent of the textiles I look to for influence. (This technique is one of many I learned from mentor and friend, John Glick, master of layers extraordinaire.) I use cutout shapes of paper to resist some of the slip-sponging, so there are some smooth areas next to the pattern.

Once the slip-sponging has dried, I apply bright polka dots and stripes of underglaze into those smooth areas, which also requires the use of paper as a resist so the edges are crisp. These pops of color become focal points, and give a perfect contrast background for the next layer of slip-trailing. Once the underglaze has dried, I apply the raised lines, swirls, shapes, and dots of slip with a trailer (like small-scale cake decorating). I think of the slip-trail as the main character of the decoration story. Its imagery ties all the other patterns together.

Pillow tile detail Cornflower blue floral Pillow tile detail Green scroll w. tangerinePillow tile detail Pear Arabesque Pillow tile detail Periwinkle calligraphic

Pillow tiles detail. Full tiles pictured here.

Slip-trail is the last step for most of my pieces, but now I’ll be adding the technique of Mishima here and there, as with these. This requires first laying down a layer of liquid wax to protect all the prior layers. Once the wax has dried, I use an Exacto knife to incise into the leatherhard clay surface, and then fill that line with underglaze. I like the navy underglaze because it’s a dark classic color, and not severe like black. It’s not as quick and easy as drawing with a fine Sharpie, but it does result in a similar drawn line that I love. These lines feel like memories or echoes of the raised slip-trail lines.

All of these ceramic decoration techniques result in very different qualities of line (as I mention when I teach and on my Deco DVD). Each line yields a different shape and pattern, and when paired and layered, they become a formal investigation of 2D decoration on a three-dimensional form. Or they tell a story. Or they’re just pretty. I think all three, but am happy with what you see.

This new series of Mishima pieces is debuting exclusively in my online Etsy shop. I did a countdown to New Year’s listing a pillow tile a day in my shop with updates on my FB page, so those are available now. The plates and yunomi cups will be listed daily throughout this week in the same fashion, so check the top of my shop here. And stay tuned!

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.

The Color Odyssey

I could assert that the first characteristic most people notice when laying eyes on most anything, including a handmade piece of pottery, is its color. The color can compel you to stop and note the form, drawing you in to glimpse the details, or drive you to keep on walking if its hue doesn’t strike your fancy. Color is important to us. Whether it’s the first feature we notice or the fourth, and whether we like less or love more, it can be the deciding factor towards a purchase.

Over five years ago (when I switched from cone 10 soda reduction to cone 7 electric, which means everything from my clay to glaze color to surface quality changed), I did months of testing to create my current palette pictured above (clockwise from top right): Ivory, Frost, Honeycomb, Lime, Rosa, Blackberry/Garnet, Grape, Caramel and Cornflower blue. Because of necessity and aesthetic interest, I’m in the exciting (and exhausting) throws of testing once again to re-vamp my entire glaze palette.

I began this new round of testing with specific colors in mind, but since glaze is nothing like paint (i.e. what you see is not necessarily, even rarely, what you get), allowed process and discovery to sway those expectations. There are a variety of thoughts that swirl through my head as I make the elaborate test tiles that mimic my pottery surfaces, weigh materials while donning my Darth Vader-sounding respirator, and stare at the resulting tests willing a small segment of tiles to call my name the loudest. See photos from my studio in the “Glaze testing” photo album on my Facebook Ceramics page here.

First, as I am the person who by far spends the most time with my work, I need to like the colors I choose. Sounds obvious, but if I didn’t need to like the color, my palette (and pots for that matter) would be quite different. (All potters are aware of a handful of colors that have a higher probability of sale, thus the name Cash Flow Blue for a particular cobalt glaze.) However, salability doesn’t win over likability for me as the maker.

So as a lover of color, it won’t be in my palette if I don’t love it, but the close second in my decision-making is needing you —my collectors, buyers and supporters— to also love one or many in my palette. This point also plays into the reason I have, and will continue to have, so many colors. I would be bored to tears if I was surrounded by only one, two or even three colors, finding it impossible to pick so few anyway, but variety is a way of broadening my audience-base while also attaining my first criteria above. Converse to my ruling out colors of which I’m quite fond because their audience-interest would be too narrow, by increasing the kinds of color (lights to darks spanning the color wheel) I offer, I can potentially garner more clientele than if I only sold green pots, for example. So, I do recognize and appreciate the need for balance between my taste and that of my customers.

There are many more important considerations in choosing color, but their rank is indecipherable to me after those first two key criterions. So in no particular order, I also consider:

The color should compliment the style, content and vision of my work, which of late means a lean toward “light-hearted,” infusing some modern merriment into my Victorian modern style.

The individual colors should work together as a whole (including underglaze stripe and dot colors) to create a pleasing palette when the work is grouped in my online stores and brick-and-mortar galleries.

I like there to be a balance of lights and darks, softs and brights, and colors on the wheel for variety as well as photogenic potential. (I’d say it’s a truth that images are more broadly “consumed” than product.)

There are colors (like purple and gold, and more recently, blue) that I’ve used for a while that feel like “signature” colors (i.e. colors my audience expects and enjoys on my work), so I like to continue those in some way for, well, continuity.

I try to be thoughtful of colors that suit the function. From food to flowers, I want to have colors that feel suitable to the use I put forth in the pots. (Not all the colors will work for both tortellini and tulips, but I like all to work for some.)

So! The image above illustrates a grouping of potential new colors in the front row (also in swatches below), and most of my current palette in the second row of tiles. I included some of my finished pieces with the stripes of Red, Lime, Light blue and Tangerine in the background to show how those warm bits of color will continue, and play with the new colors.

In addition to deciding on the colors themselves is the need to name the colors! Since everyone conjures up a different mental picture for the simply named “blue,” for example, I seek to find short names (usually relating to fruit, flowers or nature in general) to conjure the right “color flavor.” Here are some names I’m leaning towards for now, and may ask for your help with in the future!
First row: A. Honeydew, B. Gold or Golden, and C. Kiwi/Dark Celadon/?. Second row: D. Apple green/Citron green/?, E. Aqua, and F. Sky/?. Third row: G. Ocean/?, and F. Violet/?. There are more tests to do (I have the glossies to tackle next!), decisions to be made, and several months to pass before new colors begin to appear, but stay tuned as the odyssey continues!

P.S. My humble take on color trends. It’s not very feasible for most potters to change colors seasonally or according to trends put forth by Pantone (a company I love) or other color moneymakers. (Should color trends apply to art unless it’s a commentary about color trends anyway?) Some ceramic artists use brushable glazes, which would actually make both change in color as well as vast numbers of color possible. All my pieces, however, are dipped in 5 and 10 gallon buckets of glaze. This volume of material means that there is both a physical (or rather spatial) and financial restriction to change as well as numbers of glaze. (I mentioned earlier that my current glaze palette began with nine, but all of my glazes have a glossy counterpart that I use on the interiors and as accents, so the number is actually double!) This is in addition to the length of time required to test and find new colors. So, I’m aware of trends and their potential but they’re too finicky and fleeting for me to follow with my current techniques and logistics.

If you’re on Facebook, I regularly post a pic, link or blurb here on a weekly basis —like images in the “Glaze testing” album— if you’d like to keep up with my work and studio in between my blog post musings. You can also subscribe to this blog in the upper right column under the heading Blog Subscription so that new blog posts go directly to your email inbox and you won’t miss a thing!

“Veys,” “Veyz,” “Vahz”

iSpring 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.

*Cake* Cake Stands

        

As a lover of cake (as influence as well as treat), it makes sense that I would make cake stands. Several years ago, I did make a couple, but lost interest (and apparently didn’t even photograph them).  However!  My new venture into polka dots and stripes in general, and stripe-y plates specifically, has gotten me jazzed to wrap ribbons of striped color down and around to accentuate this fun form.  Above are two recently completed cake stands I photographed from various angles.  Both are about 4″ h x 10″ diameter (able to display an 8 & 9″ cake respectively) with glossy tops and satin-glazed sides.

This summer, I finally got around to making a more substantial cake display form based on my drawings and metal-working influence.  I am humorously referring to it as a “cake throne”.  At some point, I hope to post a pic after the glaze fire, as well as make more. Pictured: Cake Throne detail at leatherhard

It seemed fun and appropriate to share some other cake stands (with and without cakes, functional and not) in this post, kind of a sideways follow-up of favorites to my Cake as Influence post.  I sometimes use the word “cake” as an adjective to mean “great,” “lucky” or “awesome”.  So, below is a range of very *cake* cake stands (and other peripherally related images) I found in my searches, yielding a range of handmade to manufactured, new to vintage and ceramic to, well, oil. Enjoy!

  
      
    
            
    

If you hover your cursor over the pics above, you can get most of the info below too. From top left: Vintage glass cake stands with cakes; Esther Coombs’ 3-tier Rose Cake Stand, EstherCoombs on Etsy; and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel dress paired with wedding cakes, Trend de la Creme blog post; Second row: Blaue Blume cake stand by Tina Tsang; The Husband Catcher Cake, oil painting by Janet Hill; and Art Deco cake stencil wrapper from Fancy Flours; Third row: Silver cake stand;and Maren Kloppmann’s Ledge Platter; Fourth row: Whitney Smith’s Bird Cupcake Stand, WhitneySmith on Etsy; Lemon cake with blue icing and dots, Country Living photo shoot; and Iacolli & Mcalllister cake stands on Big Cartel; Fifth row: Kari Radasch’s cake stand with confetti cake, Redware on Etsy; Lazy Daisy skirts by Made With Love By Hannah (cake stands have skirts, and these are super cute!); and w2products Willow cake stand; Sixth row:  Jeanette Zeis’ Lace cake plate, vesselsandwares on Etsy; 4 Layer Cake, oil painting by Paul Ferney; and antique three-tier cake stand;  Seventh row:  reproduction of 1930s-era glass cake stand; D’lovely cake stand, fergusonpottery on Etsy; and Elle cake stand by Clara French; Last row:  cake stand from The Tea Pot Shoppe; striped cake by The Yummy Cake Company; and Black Lace Cake Stand from the MoMA store.

Candy, Striped & Quilted

A pictorial montage of some current influences…

…fondant deco, quilted materials (leather, glass and couches), Japanese prints, stripes, candy colors, couture details, tatted shapes, plastic sandwich container form, climbing roses and arched fencing, dots… and stripes.

Hope to be posting images of some new work that relate to these images (if only in my mind) soon!

C O L O R

First row, left to right: Mark Rothko painting No. 22, 1949, 1920s Chicago Transit Authority poster, and Bev Hisey Reflective Folk CushionSecond row: autumn leaves, Andrew Zuckerman bird photograph and my warm-toned glazes;  Third row: Berlin Festival of Lights, Dave Jordano Storefront Church photograph and a Sevres potpourri vase;  Fourth row: Andrew Zuckerman Masked Lovebird photograph and my cool-toned glazes;  Fifth row: Hindu (Holi) Festival of Colours, JollyBe Chrysanthemums wedding cake, and peacock;  Sixth row: Cole & Son Dorset wallpaper, botanical print and Felissimo’s Colored Pencil SetLast row: KiBiSi chairs and a Viola Frey figure.

Oh, how I love color.

I suppose most everyone enjoys color, but if there were a 1 to 10 rating for color love, I would be at a 9 or 10 on the scale. I envy synesthetes and think about color throughout my day, in and out of the studio. I have a similar response to color that others do when they eat a piece of chocolate—that little butterfly feeling of yum.

Darks.

These tumbler images (above and below) represent the myriad of ways the nine colors in my palette can be placed together to give a completely different color feel.

Lights.

One of my grad school (MFA, Ohio U. 2001) professors, Joe Bova, recently commented to me that he believes “color is the most personal element in art”.  I certainly took a lot of time considering my color palette when I switched from high-fire soda (a more limited inherently glossy palette) to mid-range electric where the options are delightfully and overwhelmingly limitless.

Fruity.

I spent several months testing glazes to find both the color and quality (“breaking” satin vs. glossy) that best suits my work and me.  There were several determining factors.  The first and most important is that since I spend more time around my work than anyone else, I wanted colors I enjoy.  I also wanted colors that work well together, that compliment each other.  Finally, I wanted a palette that gives my collectors options: some people prefer neutrals, some prefer brights, and I have both as well as what’s in between.

Autumnal.

Because my work is predominantly monochrome*, I don’t think it’s as recognized for its color because an individual piece isn’t particularly colorful (i.e. having multiple colors).  Though I am currently running some new tests to add stripes and dots of patterned color, “colorful” in my pots comes from their proximity to each other.  I love seeing which colors my customers pair, mix and match when they buy 2, 4 or 12 pieces.

Neutrals.

All of my glaze colors are warm-toned, meaning that even the cool colors (blue, purple and green) have yellow undertones.  The names I have given the nine colors are Ivory (an off-white that looks almost like leatherhard porcelain), Frost (the super pale turquoise that looks a bit like a celadon), Honeycomb (a pale, warm yellow), Lime (a fruity yellow-green), Rosa (a salmon-y, mahogany pink), Cornflower blue (a rich lighter blue), Grape (a warm, plum-y purple), Caramel (a very yummy gold brown) and Blackberry (a deep wine, purple-y red).
Naturals.

On most forms, the satin glaze is the most visible, but the interiors are lined with a glossy version of the outside color, so I really work with 18 glazes.  Some forms, like my bowls and serving pieces, reveal more of the glossy color.  I like the contrast of satin to shine, so in addition to keeping the food surfaces functional with a glossy glaze, it is an aesthetic choice too.

Romantic.

Choosing glaze colors is not like picking out paint (potters will sardonically laugh and nod at that statement) because there is chemistry, elemental change and heat involved.  Red and blue does not necessarily make purple in the clay world.  My color palette came from having a sense of colors I wanted ( a green, a purple, a red—one of the hardest colors to “get” in ceramics, etc.) and then testing to match that expectation with the possibilities paired with my clay, cost of materials, firing temperature and application, not to mention aesthetic goals.  As my husband would say, it’s tricky business.

Cools.

I gather inspiration for color from everywhere.  There are my “usual” sources (period clothing, Art Nouveau prints, Islamic architecture, etc.), but there are also more obscure suggestions for color, like the images at the beginning of this post.  Right now I’m liking the blue in the shadows of the snow, the transitional green from light to dark inside an avocado and I keep thinking of that orange that was in a room my husband and I stayed at in Iceland six years ago.

Festive.

I believe the color in my work is one of several elements which makes my pots unique.  I agree with my professor that color is personal, a way to relay an emotion or spark a memory.  It’s a fascinating subject.

*I tend to use one color or two similar colors on a piece because I feel this best shows off the form, where multiple colors tend to divide the form. Imagine a woman wearing a purple shirt, blue belt and yellow pants next to one wearing a purple dress.

My Sketchbook: Not Just for Sketches

KKActualSketchbookII KKSketchbook4_09 KKSketchbook11_08KKSketchbook11_08II KKSketchbook_09_weaves KKSketchbook_chinaKKSketchbook_layers KKSketchbook_lighting KKSketchbook_oldKKSketchbook_oldII KKSketchbook_WW_Queen KKSketchbook_yummy

More than half my sketchbook is made up of gathered images, making my sketchbook as much an idea book as a place to draw.  Collected images, often mashed-up and flipped around, have become an important part of my process and influence to my work.  When I teach workshops, I usually pass out my last sketchbook because I think it is just as important to see how an artist develops an idea (the origination of a form, texture or sensation) as it is to see a demonstrated technique.  I gather images from all over (magazines, catalogs, museum pamphlets, postcards, etc.) so it’s hard to know where an image came from or when, and while I’ve gotten pretty good at noting what is in the image, sometimes there are lapses, so if it’s not noted now, I didn’t note it before.

KKActualSketchbookIIKKSketchbook4_09

First row: This is my current sketchbook (’08-present). I made it using coptic binding, sewn with black waxed thread, allowing it to sit flat when open.  I use duct tape to strengthen and protect the corner edges and signatures for studio use and travel. The outside is collaged with sections from soap boxes. The second image has pictures of women’s and boy’s Russian munisak robes from late 19th to 20th century mixed with architectural details from a contemporary home.  I put these disparate images together because I liked the highly ornate from one time period next to the minimal of another, and both carry ideas for pottery deco.

KKSketchbook11_08KKSketchbook11_08II

Second row: This first image is a mixture of writing and animal drawings of mine for stamps, collaged with animals from a catalog and Deerfield, a sculpture by Anne Lemanski. The second are notes I jotted next to a variety of industrial design objects and furniture I find influential for form and detail, including Devils wallpaper by Waterhouse for Brunschwig & Fils; Bluffer fauteuil by India Mahdavi for Ralph Pucci; wire birdcage candelabra by The Conran Shop; Variér Eight chair by Olav Eldøy; Now Isn’t That Lovely #7 sculpture by Stephen Johnson; and My Beautiful Backside couch by Doshi Levien for Moroso.

KKSketchbook_09_weavesKKSketchbook_china

Third row: The left image is a pairing in textures.  I love the negative space in each, but I mostly enjoy the dense texture that creates each shape: Light of Tomorrow sculpture by Mimura Chikuho and Welcome the Cube black jacket by Giles Deacon for Fay.  The second image is a collaged influence mixture of manufactured china by Calvin Klein, Paola Navone, Royal CrownDerby and Royal Copenhagen with a photograph I took of a painting in a window storefront in Berlin.

KKSketchbook_layersKKSketchbook_lighting

Fourth row: In the first image, the first page shows the dining room in Donatella Versace’s Milan apartment with murals of Chinese vases and jars on the walls.  The second page is a collage of fabric and wallcoverings by Jakob Schlaepfer with Baccarat Apparat crystal cups and decanter by 5.5 Designers.  On each page, I like the layering and the “real” mixed with its 2-D version.  The second image shows my affection for lighting as influence.  I have both these George Nelson pendant lamps and this Murano glass chandelier (I love the other colors it comes in too) in two different sketchbooks, I like them so much.  They are purposefully flipped sideways and upsidedown to suggest other forms.

KKSketchbook_oldKKSketchbook_oldII

Fifth row: The first image is actually an old pairing I use in my slide presentation and had on my studio walls for years.  I put the two together because both Art Nouveau advertising images and Haute Couture clothing are influences, and because their stance and gesture are remarkably similar.  On the left page of the second image is a magazine ad with imagery that becomes tattoo-like, collaged over with a bird I cut out from a friend’s card.  The layering and suggestion is something I would like to have in my work.  The right-hand page is also a very old magazine ad that has been on various studio walls and in my slide presentation.  I purposefully taped this upsidedown to change the context from a couture Miyake dress to the silhouette of a footed vase with striking shadows and pin-stripes.  A reminder to play and change my perspective.

KKSketchbook_WW_QueenKKSketchbook_yummy

Last row:  The left image features two well-known characters and actors.  The costume/dress of both Wonder Woman (a childhood hero of mine) and Queen Elizabeth have been influences because of  their decorative and structured forms.  The contrast and similarity of these two pictures of strong women is both humorous and striking.  The second picture is another interesting pairing that I have titled “yummy” in my mind.  The shapes are curiously similar, but what I appreciate in each is their very different take on extravagance, decadence and compound form.  A crystal chandelier on the left and a sculpture detail of Cherry Bodies by Nikki Renee Anderson on the right.

PS: A hazard of having a glass of (red) wine while doodling in your sketchbook is a spill that results in wrinkled and lavender-tinged page edges.

Sketching & Prototypes

As I wrote in the last post, when I am working out a new design I tend to draw, make and then draw again. How many I make, and how many times I draw, depends on how different the new design is from my “regular” repertoire of forms.

Pitcher_SketchbookPitchers_InProgress

The pitchers above are an example of a shorter development cycle.  I had been making creamers (as part of a creamer and sugar set) for years, but never really made pitchers, so last year did some drawings for a milk-sized pitcher.  I originally did some drawings of four different pitcher ideas (see Sketchbook & Pitcher post); made one of each of the four; decided I like the one above the best; and have since made several more with minor variations from the original.  Ideally I would make the time to re-draw or document the revised design in my sketchbook.  Realistically, and more often than not, I look at a finished piece on the shelf in my studio as a reminder of proportion and for cues to readjust details on the next series.  (How studio artists work in series could be a whole post in itself, note to me.)

Wire_vase_SketchKieffer_wire_vase

This wire vase form is an example of an idea that is going through a longer developmental cycle.  I made the drawings above as well as the finished prototype during a Watershed (a ceramic center in ME) artists-invite-artists residency last year (’08).  My definition of a studio pot prototype is the same as that for industrial design: “an original, full-scale, and usually working model of a new product or new version of an existing product”.   I needed to practice working with the wire, and to see how the wire interacted with the form, so completed this one form to understand the idea better in three-dimensions.  I still have a ways to go for the prototype to better match my ideas and drawings.  The role of “designer” is one of my many jobs to which I’m not able to devote a lot of time.  I will continue to pick away at this idea (using the wire to create an additional form or layer that corresponds with the clay, and allows the flower stems to be visible through the body).  However, it will definitely take time to evolve.  More drawing and play are in order!