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.

Needlework as Influence

Kristen Kieffer Flower bricks Embroidery patterns in Periwinkle and Green

Fashion (from all eras, Elizabethan to Couture) has been a long-time influence for my work. The structure and detail of clothing inspire my own functional pottery forms and their decoration. Basically, there is always something new for me to uncover from clothing and textiles as influence. My most recent revelation is the expansive genre of needlework, which includes everything from crochet and embroidery to a myriad of techniques I’ve only begun to learn.

Kristen Kieffer Deluxe clover cup in GrapeI own pillow cases tatted by my Grandma and Great Grandma, love quilts of all kinds, and knew that some of the 18th century clothes I adore had embroidery, but I’ve only just recently tuned into the wide-ranging variety of needlework design as influence, particularly for slip-trailing. I’ve been collecting needlework pix and details here with some faves below. New adventures into deco have begun!

Flower bricks and cups as pictured above, as well as other pots with deco influenced by embroidery and quilt appliqué are available in my online Etsy shop.

Detail of Look 8, Erdem Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear  Crochet flora  Embroidery flowers Sashiko embroidery  Aemilia ars needlelace  [Micro] quiltingCourt Suit embroidery detail, c. 1770-85  Antique Carolina lily applique quilt detail c. 1880  Reticella samples

Rollover or click on the images above for details. Pictured: Crochet, embroidery, sashiko, aemilia ars lacework, quilting, applique, and reticella.

Architecture Influence Invite & NCECA

Burr House Porch Kristen Kieffer Burr House Flower brick II

I’m delighted to have work in a very unique show at this year’s NCECA, Houston conference curated by ceramic artist, professor, and color guru George Bowes. He invited 18 clay artists to participate, and paired each of us with a specific building in his city of Galveston, TX to use as inspiration for a completed work. The Dwelling on the Gulf: Ceramic Artists Respond to the Architecture of Galveston exhibition takes place at the Galveston Historical Foundation from March 9-28, 2013 and is on the bus tour for NCECA. You can read more about George’s thoughts on the show and see a couple more in progress pix by participating artists here.

Burr House roof line and porch Burr House as flower brick drawingsFlower bricks in process Kieffer Burr House Flower bricks

My assignment was the Lemuel and Julia Burr House (c. 1876), which has a “mixture of classic, gothic, and Italianate styles, and is attributed to Nicholas J. Clayton, Galveston’s leading 19th century architect.” Pictured above is ‘my’ house; drawings I worked up contemplating the house as a pot, its form and deco; leatherhard, in progress; and finished.

I opted to turn my house into a flower brick, an idea that relates to past work, but is much more intricate and based directly on the porch and styling of the Burr House. I incorporated light blue underglaze into the “porch openings” to reflect the sky as well as porch ceiling, navy mishima lines to echo the windows, slip-trailing to illustrate the surrounding trees and gardens, stripes for the roof line, beading for architectural detailing, and polka dots for fun. Invitationals for a specific form and/or influence are fun and challenging, and always push me to do shapes and details beyond my “usuals.”

Participating artists include: Peter Beasecker, William Brouillard, Joan Bruneau, Kristen Cliffel, Deirdre Daw, William Edwards, David Eichelberger, Carol Ann Fer, Julia Galloway, Bill Griffith, Suze Lindsay, Kari Radasch, Louise Rosenfield, Judith Salomon, Richard Shaw, Aaron Sober, Holly Walker, and myself.

Kieffer pots NCECA 2013 Kristen Kieffer place setting La Mesa 2013

For those who are attending NCECA in Houston, come cheer me on as one of four headlining demonstrators! In addition to the Dwelling exhibition, I also have work available at the Houston Convention Center Gallery EXPO with 18 Hands Gallery, opening Tues eve. And a place setting at Santa Fe Clay‘s La Mesa Exhibition at the Holiday Inn Express Downtown. Both are open during the conference, March 20-23.

For those who are unable to attend, no worries! I’m already stocking up my online Etsy shop with new work before I go here, and have upcoming workshops scheduled you can check out here. Hope to see you, and thanks so much for the support!

Color Me ColorFULL

This is a pictorial of my recent color ruminations as I seek (out of both need and desire) to re-vamp my glaze palette. Pictured: chartreuse, lime and celery to cerulean, robin’s egg and turquoise to red maple, raspberry and garnet to plum, aubergine and grape to persimmon, tangerine and mango to white. Big color fun! Finding, testing and perfecting glaze colors is not nearly so simple, but having the beginnings of ideas for color is sure a good start. More to unfold in the next year…


See a more extensive past blog post about my current glaze color palette here.

Travel Influences & Favorites, Pt. I

March – August 2010: PA, MA, NC, TN & NYC


The images above are the very few I took during my minimal outings at NCECA in Philadelphia, and include some favorite pieces from a quick jaunt through the PMA (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and one great building somewhere in the city with curved leaded windows. (You can see more of my favs from the PMA here.)

The next group of pictures is from jaunts near my home. The first two are from a building in Amherst, MA. I love the tall, slender windows and contrast of brick and stone. The second is a detail of the stone and how they used brick dust in the mortar leaving the stones looking like they are outlined in hot pink.  The rest of the images are from two visits to Historic Deerfield in central Massachusetts not far from our home.  Since I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the historic homes, most of the pics (except the barn detail and canopy bed detail) are from pieces in the visible storage cases of their museum.  I see different things in each image, from ideas for form and detail to appreciation for handmade and craft like the last two images of the mended bowl and plate.

These last images are a favorite each of something I saw while teaching at the Penland School of Arts & Crafts (the garden bottle tree in Bakersville) and the Appalachian Center for Crafts (one of the many hand-painted signs on campus) this summer. And last but not at all least are two images of the Statue of Liberty I took when I did a lecture for the Brooklyn Potters Guild.

I’m getting better not only at remembering to take my camera with me, but actually remembering to take pictures as well, and hope to share more of what I see and figuratively bring home to my studio with you here.

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!

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.

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 House is Filled with Birds

Owls_on_bikeFridge_birdHummingbirdCandlestick

Clockwise from top right: Bird magnet (Kathryn Finnerty pot in background); Robin candlestick (John Glick pot in background); Hummingbird from a French deco/vintage bird illustration calendar; and Owls on tandem bicycle tea towel.

I made my first bird stamp during a workshop I taught in spring of 2006 at the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts in Asheville, NC.  The idea of incorporating animals into my patterning had been brewing for a while, and a little chubby bird was the first to make his way around one of my pots.  Since then I have made over 20 animal stamps, but birds are definitely the dominate animal in my stamp bin.

Brick_birdsChickenTo-do_birdBead_bird

Clockwise from top right: Glass chicken from my Great Grandma; Beaded Hornbill by an African artist; Bird ornament;and a Kiwi (?) on a reclaimed brick from the Non Fiction Design Collective with a blue, glass bird from my Grandma.

The birds pictured in this post came from almost every room in our house. I don’t consider us collectors of bird items and imagery, but noticed one day how many keep us company. I did a post recently about pattern in our home and how those things we see every day happily creep into our creative minds. I imagine this bird menagerie has certainly influenced my work.

Coo-koo_clockBenjieBirdcageDuck

Clockwise from top right: Earthenware Rubber duck from Benjie Heu’s Trophy sculpture series; Female Mallard Duck painting by Andrew Woodward; Cockatiels in cage image; and Cuckcoo clock image.

There are three primary reasons I began to incorporate bird (and animal) imagery into my pots.  One, by adding a bird into the layers on a piece, the surface is more than just a pattern: it becomes an environment.  The second is my continuing interest in Art Nouveau pattern and decoration.  There are many gorgeously rendered animals with flowing lines and curlicues I admire depicted in illustrations, textiles and objects from that era.  A Nouveau bird as a repeated motif blurs into a lacey pattern and then re-emerges as a stately flock as our eyes choose on which lines to focus.  The third reason is because they make me happy.

Glass_BirdKiwiJoeBluebird

Clockwise from top right:  Porcelain and fabric Kiwi by Roberta Massuch; Angry Bluebird fridge magnet;Soda-fired porcelain Bird by Joe Bova; and Glass Dove by Beth Lipman.

I developed the fascination for animals and plants from my family of ardent nature-lovers.  From my fifth-grade science teacher Mr. Morton, the love for birds, their names and calls grew even more.  (He could imitate any bird, and I thought that was super cool.)  I have binoculars sitting on my desk by my computer to see “who” is flying through the trees in our backyard.  I plant perennials to attract different species, and was ecstatic this summer to see gold finches treating our garden like their own private, gourmet hangout.

Birdcage_tweetGingkoGlass-candleOven_bird

Clockwise from top right: Nuthatch in Gingko ink and color painting by Liang Wei; Blackbird toy; Hummingbird glass candleholder; and Wind-up caged bird.

I imagine artists are drawn to animal imagery for a variety of reasons.  Aside from the long, long history of birds depicted in ceramics by every culture imaginable, the use of animals in contemporary ceramics imagery—and birds in particular—has become popular in the last couple of years. (I’ve indeed heard that “birds are the new fish” for pottery.)  We see birds every day (fish, not so much).  Their image represents everything from hope and history to peace and protection.  In this era of technology and fast-pace, I wonder if makers now are drawn to nature and its animals for the same reason we hope the general public will continue to be drawn to handmade objects.

Heade_birdsOwlShaw_bowlToucans

Clockwise from top right: Barn Owl photograph by Sharon Montrose; Toucans in a Guinness beer sign;Porcelain Bird Flock Man Bowl by Sandy Shaw; and postcard of Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade.

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” –Victor Hugo

KK_bird_Corset_detailKK_Bird_cups_detail

Details from my work: Two Sparrows Flower Vessel (Corset series)
and a grouping of stamped bird cups.

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.