Forms I at Schaller

Teapot by Kristen Kieffer  Covered jar by Kristen KiefferPitcher by Kristen Kieffer  Screen vase pair by Kristen Kieffer

I’m delighted to be included in Schaller Gallery‘s online invitational exhibition Forms I. Thirteen makers from all over the country were each invited to send a teapot, jar, pitcher, and vase. (My grouping of four is pictured above.) It’s always wonderful to see how different potters approach the same form, and this show highlights those delightful variations. The show is live with all work for sale, so click on over right here.

Forms I Exhibition, Schaller Gallery

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.

Luxury & Quality for Every Day


Tis the season to ‘shop small,’ and I hope you will shop Kieffer Ceramics online not just because I’m a small business (of one), but because I make unique pottery that adds beauty to your life. My pots celebrate luxury for everyday with distinction.


Thank you for buying and giving quality handmade during the holidays
and in between. Shop Kieffer Ceramics online at my Pottery Shop on Etsy.

Before, At & Around NCECA

I am working hard in my studio making new pots and vessels for a number of upcoming shows for next month, so want to let you know where you can see my work in March here in MA and in Philadelphia, surrounding cities and online for NCECA.  

In my own fair state of Massachusetts, I will have my booth and be selling at the Paradise City Arts Festival juried craft show in Marlborough (3/19 – 21).  On the instructional side, I begin a new six-week intermediate/advanced throwing class on 3/3, and I will be teaching a short workshop on marketing Saturday 3/27, both at the Worcester Center for Crafts, where I currently have work up in the Faculty exhibition.

I will be attending NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, 3/31 – 4/2) this year in Philadelphia since it’s a fairly short (5 1/2 hour) drive down and I am in a number of shows.  I’m excited to also be attending the Pre-Conference Making Through Living—Living Through Making: Studio Pottery in 2010 hosted by Michael Connelly and Alleghany Meadows at a community college just out of town.  They have a great line-up of potters to demonstrate as well as discussion panels.

If you are attending NCECA (or live in Philly), I hope you will cruise by some of these exhibitions that include my work.  I am honored to be in the An Evolving Independent Network of Artists exhibition (3/25 – 5/14 with an opening reception I hope to attend on 4/1)  which was juried by members of ArtAxis (a peer juried site as well) and will be in the Gladys Wagner Gallery at the Cheltenham Art Center. Pictured, Pear jar in progress.

I am actually honored to be in all these shows, and the Studio Pottery show (3/30 – 4/2) with the Ferrin Gallery at the main conference hotel is no exception.  I will have quite a few pieces for this exhibition (purchased pieces can be taken on the spot) which will be neighbor to Alleghany’s ArtStream.  Also at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown is the La Mesa exhibition (3/31 – 4/3) hosted by Santa Fe Clay.  If you haven’t seen place settings by 150 invited potters, it is indeed something to behold! Also in Philly, but at the Marriot Courtyard Hotel, is the Strictly Functional—Then & Now exhibition with current work by potters who won awards in past Strictly Functional exhibitions (for me this was in 1997 by Val Cushing and 2000 by Ken Ferguson).  The Clay Studio will have some of my work too.  Pictured, stripe and dot plates in progress.

Concurrent with the conference but in other cities, I will also have work in Celebrating Ten Years: 2000 – 2010 (3/25 – 3/29) at the m. t. burton gallery in Surf City, NJ;  Made In Clay: Sustainable Sweets (3/25 – 4/29) exhibition at Greenwich House Pottery in NYC; Sumptuous Elegance (4/1 – 6/1) with the online Schaller Gallery, and the Yunomi Invitational (3/26 – July) at AKARPictured, lattice work view of a tall flower brick in progress.

More information about my upcoming exhibitions and workshops for 2010 is always on my Schedule page. Shwew!  I need to get to my studio!

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_Sketchbook Pitchers_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_Sketch Kieffer_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!

Fresh From the Kiln: Blocks and Pots

All three alphabet blocks finished and glazed.  (In progress post here.)  I love ’em.
This is the only word these three can spell.  A next series will purposefully blend imagery with the letters to spell…something. True alphabet blocks are a learning tool for children; a minor intent for these was to do the same and familiarize the viewer with little known or at-risk animals. So, I kind of like the blend of “Oh.” or “OH?” or “OH!” in this beautiful format paired with these even more beautiful animals.

This view shows my versions of all six real animals (all birds except one): left to right, Boreal owl, Red fox, Finch (I unfortunately didn’t write down what kind), Hoopoe, Huet-huet and Bee-eater.  (You can use GoogleImages, to see photographs of the real things.)  It’s subtle, but this view also shows that three sides of each block are satin and two are glossy versions of the same color for each.
The bottom two blocks show a top view (left), and bottom view (right, signed and unglazed).
One more view.  The letter for each animal is on the opposite side of that image, following real children’s blocks.  As I wrote before, the primary goal for these was to have fun incorporating elements I enjoy (fonts, text, vintage toys, animals and decoration) into a small format of 3 1/2″.

I chose one of the four pitcher forms I “tried out” a few months ago (see this post), and made this small series with my favorite. Each between 7-8″h.

kk_script_jar_ii kristen_kieffer_jar

Two new, large pear jars. The left is the glazed script jar in the post below. The right is a big purple mama with the lilac pattern.

Sketchbook & Pitchers

Kieffer sketchbook pitchers  kk-pitchers-l1
Kieffer sketchbook pitchers
I thought these images would eloquently demonstrate the importance of my sketchbook in making. I drew these images –in my handmade sketchbook– on Tuesday evening, and just finished making the four likenesses this Saturday morn. My studio time is more productive when I work from drawings and have an idea, rather than walking in and thinking, “Today I will make a new pitcher form.” The drawings are guidelines; a faster way to work through some form ideas than on the wheel. I admire artists who make spontaneously. I am not one of them. And have become more successful in the work and in my head by recognizing –sounds a bit cliché– how my personality suits the making (and vice versa).

I knew two of the pitchers would be stamped and the others softly squared, but don’t usually feel the need to produce the decoration in the drawings. That is improvised later. The drawings aren’t meant to be replicated anyway. Seeing something in three-dimensions is different than two, and my drawing skills only take me so far.

I have never really made pitchers. Odd for a potter. I make one every once in awhile to play with how I might do it, but it hasn’t held my interest in the past. I demo them frequently for my students, and I think that’s what got me sketching this week. So these are some new ideas worked up from other forms of mine. One (top left) is based on my covered jars; a slightly new form (pear-shaped) idea. The middle two reference my current teapot form. And the fourth (lower right) is a stretched version of my creamer.  *The second image of greenware pitchers was accidentally deleted.

I would like to see all of them bigger. I have one I like more than the others…

I mentioned my sketchbook being handmade (by me) because the type of binding –coptic, I think it’s called– allows it be opened flat for drawing and viewing. And ultimately, it feels more meaningful to draw in a book I made. This sketchbook is nearing the end pages, so I’m making another one. But the “old” one will continue to be flipped through for awhile before it gets shelved, and new ideas evolve completely into the new book.