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.

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

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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.

KKActualSketchbookII KKSketchbook4_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_08 KKSketchbook11_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_weaves KKSketchbook_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_layers KKSketchbook_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_old KKSketchbook_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_Queen KKSketchbook_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.

Design: Industrial & Fashion Influence

boontje_nest_morosoalexander_mcqueen_fall-08dwi_water_pitchermy_beautiful_backside_for_moroso
alexander-mcqueen-elvie-pursearad_loop_loom_92india_mahdavijohn_galliano
tom_dixon_beat_lights1ron_arad_misfit_couch_moroso_08galliano_for_diorboontje_thinking_of_you_vases
cloverchair_arad_for_driadegirard_dolls_vitrareeves_design_bedhourglass_dwr
From top left: Nest by Tord Boontje for Moroso; Haute Couture, Fall ’08 by Alexander McQueen; Water Pitcher from Design Within Reach; My Beautiful Backside by Doshi Levien for Moroso; Second row: Elvie Purse by Alexander McQueen; Loop Loom by Ron Arad (1992); Bluffer fauteuil (an upholstered chair) and Dot stools by India Mahdavi; Haute Couture, Autumn ’08/Winter ’09 by John Galliano for Dior; Third row: Beat Lights by John Dixon;  Misfit Couch by Ron Arad for Moroso (2008); Galliano for Dior;  Thinking of You Vases by Tord Boontje for Artecnica; Fourth row: Clover Chairs by Ron Arad for Driade (2007);  Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard for Vitra; Louis Four Poster Bed by John Reeves Design; and Hourglass by Design Within Reach.

I realize the past few posts have been collages of Favorites blending to Influences, but that is where my head is these days.  Besides, I just discovered that the amazing London design duo Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien (Doshi Levien) have an elegant and beautiful Loves section on their website here where you can read about their influences, including for My Beautiful Backside.