Breakfast Special

Kristen Kieffer Breakfast settings for two and serving

My toast rack, egg cups & caddy, butter dish, and place settings for two
for
Breakfast styled by me at our dining room table.

I received the invitation to participate in a show titled Breakfast (online and in Philly at The Clay Studio 11/7 – 1/4) in April from fellow potter Bryan Hopkins. Each potter was to make their interpretation of a toast rack, egg cups, butter dish or jam jar, plus two plates and cups. I immediately set to work on drawings, particularly of toast racks, knowing I wanted to use wire instead of clay for the dividers. (Indeed, I spent a three-hour flight to a workshop drawing toast racks!)

Kristen Kieffer sketchbook, toast rack drawings

My sketchbook drawings of toast rack ideas.

Kristen Kieffer Toast Rack II

Toast rack in Aqua, Drape-molded (from my design) and altered porcelain with carved,
slip-sponge, underglaze, slip-trail, and Mishima deco, cone 7 oxidation
with multiple glazes, and steel wire.

For the month of May, I was a Visiting Artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT, and spent a chunk of my studio time developing the serving prototypes for this show, as well as making my egg cups and caddies, which I glaze-fired and completed at my home studio.

Kristen Kieffer Egg cups and Caddy

Egg cups & Caddy in Frost, Wheel-thrown, altered and built porcelain with carved, slip-sponge, underglaze, and slip-trail deco, cone 7 oxidation with multiple glazes, and steel wire.

Kristen Kieffer Butter Dish, Periwinkle

Butter dish in Periwinkle, Hand-built porcelain with slip-sponge, underglaze, slip-trail,
and Mishima deco, cone 7 oxidation with multiple glazes.

I don’t often make sets, but do enjoy playing with what defines one. With the pieces for this show, I didn’t want all one glaze color (I used a color family of five), nor identical elements that “match.” Every piece has sky blue underglaze (the stripes and dots of ceramic color I brush on before the first firing because I want it to be layered under my slip-trailing); my swirled slip-sponge pattern (the subtle background texture); and my slip-trail dots and ‘leaf swirl’ pattern. While I played with variations of stripes and polka dots on each piece, as well as how I laid out my leaf swirl, they all share the same style and attention to detail that makes them feel related as a whole, yet able to be mixed and matched or stand strongly alone. (The Yellow Pear cup would just as easily pair with the Spring green plate, for example.)

Kristen Kieffer Breakfast setting yellow pear

Deluxe clover cup & Plate (medium) in Yellow Pear, Wheel-thrown and altered porcelain
with slip-sponge, underglaze, and slip-trail deco, cone 7 oxidation.

Kristen Kieffer Breakfast setting green

Deluxe clover cup & Plate (medium) in Spring Green, Wheel-thrown and altered porcelain
with slip-sponge, underglaze, and slip-trail deco, cone 7 oxidation.

Breakfast opens online and in Philly at The Clay Studio on Friday, November 7 and continues through January 4, 2015, and includes sets by Blair Clemo, Lindsay Oesteritter, Lisa Orr, Meredith Host, Roberto Lugo, Emily Schroeder Willis, and Bryan Hopkins as well as myself.

This was a quite a challenge for me with months of planning and testing yielding one-of-a-kind results. I’m delighted with the final pieces and hope you’ll check the show, in-person if you can, and online for all. Thank you for ‘egging’ me on, Bryan!

Kristen Kieffer Breakfast set (above)

Tea & Flowers

Kristen Kieffer Teapot in blues Kristen Kieffer Teapot PeriwinkleKristen Kieffer Teapot-stamped cup grouping

Pictured above: Teapots (11″ h x 11″ l x 5″ d) and cups stamped w. teapots (4″ h x 6″ l x 4.5″ d), wheel-thrown, stamped, and altered porcelain w. underglaze and slip-trail deco, cone 7 oxidation by Kristen Kieffer.

Spring is closer than when I posted Fresh & Springy in February, but it doesn’t come easy in MA. The new springy and tea-related work pictured here is mostly destined for shows: a teapot off to Cedar Creek Gallery in NC for their annual National Teapot IX invitational exhibition; tumblers (for G & Ts) to m. t. burton gallery in NJ for Top Shelf: Pottery for Spirits, Wine, & Beer exhibition; vases each to The Clay Studio in Philly for Vases for Spring, and Lill Street Gallery in Chicago for Art & the Urban Garden exhibition. And the rest will be sprinkled around galleries, workshops, and my online shop (like a couple of those teapot-stamped cups pictured above), which will re-open at the end of May. As always, you can see where my work and I will be next on my Schedule page.

Kristen Kieffer Tumblers Kristen Kieffer Screen vase pair in Honeycomb w. blues Kristen Kieffer Screen vase pair in blues Kristen Kieffer Stamped dot vase grouping Kristen Kieffer Stamped vase groupingKristen Kieffer Cake stand dots w. lilacs

Pictured above: Tumblers (5.5″ h x 3.5″ d), Screen vase pairs (13″ h x 4″ w x 3″ d), Stamped vases (8″ h x 5″ d), and Cake stand (5″ h x 11″ d). Screen vases are hand-built, everything else is wheel-thrown w. various deco by Kristen Kieffer.

Fresh & Springy

Kristen Kieffer Pierced basket Square Mishima Periwinkle kimono I  Kristen Kieffer Pierced basket Square Mishima Periwinkle kimono IIKristen Kieffer Pierced basket Blue Mishima kimono

It’s not remotely spring here in north central boonies Massachusetts, but my internal spring clock is TICKING! If I can’t have flowers outside, I can sure make them happen in my studio.

Along with the flourishing florals are ongoing and new investigations in form and layers. I continue to be excited about pierced forms, and have some new larger ones pictured here (which are loosely inspired by kimono fabrics). I’ve added two new glossy glaze colors (Violet and Aqua), and am continuing to play with Mishima. Lastly, I have introduced some new stamp patterns, and have a new bowl style.

Some of these pots are destined for shows, but others are popping up in my online Etsy shop like springtime daffodils.

Kristen Kieffer Pierced basket Frost Mishima kimono
Kristen Kieffer tableware place setting plate, cup, bowlKristen Kieffer Pierced basket Square Mishima Frost kimono I  Kristen Kieffer Pierced basket Square Mishima Frost kimono II
Kristen Kieffer Stamped cups grouping
Kristen Kieffer Yellow pear w. lime medium plate  Kristen Kieffer large dinner plate Spring green leaf stripe
Kristen Kieffer medium sandwich plate Aqua  Kristen Kieffer Violet indigo medium sandwich plate
Kristen Kieffer Pierced basket Aqua floral

500 Teapots Volume 2

I’m very happy to have a teapot in Lark Crafts’ new 500 Teapots Volume 2 book juried by studio potter and professor Jim Lawton. I have three teapots in the original 500 Teapots book, so it’s nice to be in the new and reflect on the evolution of my work (and teapots specifically) over the twelve intervening years.

I particularly like this passage excerpted from Jim’s introduction:

“The artists represented here are blending innovation and forward thinking with an awareness of what came before. They’re acknowledging a custom that’s deeply rooted in our consciousness even as they propose new forms and iterations for the teapot. Whether it’s used to bring people together or to celebrate solitude, the teapot occupies a special place in cultures all over the world.”

Lark’s 500 Series continues to be a wonderful resource for collectors, makers, and instructors alike. It’s just as fun to see how the teapots are organized in the book as it is to see them all.  My Victorian Islamic, satin-glazed teapot is opposite a juicy, faceted one by Steven Roberts; each has as many similarities as differences. You’ll have to get the book yourself to see more examples of great teapot pairings!

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!

New Work 2012

  
  
  
  
  

A pictorial collection of what I’ve been working on so far in 2012: revisiting the past, expanding the familiar, and exploring the new. Most of the pieces featured here are available for purchase in my online Shop or Gallery. Click the image to follow the link and read more about each. You can also see where more of my work will be out, about, and online in shows coming up on my Schedule page here.

New Hues for You

After a year of testing, I’ve settled on six new glaze colors, and have begun to debut the first of the three for 2012: Aqua, Pear* and Periwinkle. The new colors compliment and contrast with my current palette (mostly by being more vibrant). The image below shows three of my current palette (Honeycomb, Cornflower blue and Frost) nested in the three new colors (Pear, Periwinkle and Aqua). A new, light green is coming up soon!


* Name pondering for Pear/Yellow Pear is happening on my FB page here.

Dessert Plate Sets at AKAR

 
 

Check into AKAR right here to see a wonderful online show of dessert plates, which include my own stripe-y yummies! Each of the 22 artists invited from all over the country sent two sets of four plates, one set of two and two singles. Sets are a rarity for me (more design planning involved plus extras required), but I had fun playing with the details to define and distinguish each. All but one of my plates sent are pictured above with different views below. The Dessert Plate, online exhibition at AKAR Design, 7/22-8/12.

One of my dessert plates is pictured in the lower right corner of the show card.