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!
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
Just a quick pictorial teaser that I have been busy on new designs, which include sets, pedestal forms and little bits of color all ’round. More to come with new adds in my stores, like this!
I’m going for both meanings of props in my title: “things used in creating or enhancing a desired effect” and “proper respect” (slang).
The idea of using props to spice up my pics, as well as to suggest my pots’ elegant use and beauty in your home is one I have both toyed with and ignored for years. As a former lover of the folded magazines Metropolitan Home and I.D., and current adorer of the hugely popular online design blogs Design*Sponge and Apartment Therapy, I am first in line for expecting (even salivating over) lush interiors with perfectly placed, unusual items in gorgeous environments. The idea of staging my own work, even in the simplest of ways, however, seemed impossibly time prohibitive.
Photography has changed a lot in the last few years, not only leaving the idea of a “photograph” in the dust, but also the simplicity of the single object on a grey background in the wake of staged objects in homey yet tailored settings. Retailers placing goods we want alluringly in environments we love is hardly new, but as we’ve all shifted to online reading and shopping, it’s what we expect, even for handmade.
The influence of Etsy’s marketplace, where I have an online shop and where beautifully styled images of equally beautiful objects is the norm, also made me take notice of staging. So, the time manager and photographer in me decided to let the designer and marketing director in me finally play for once. (As a lone studio potter, I wear all the hats around here.) It did take more time, but was also fun, and it allowed me to shop for props (felt pom pom flowers, soap cupcakes, and wooden flowers, all by fellow Etsy artists in this case), as well as use objects from around our home that are influences for my work like all my books. Even my own work became props for other pots.
It’s just a start, even if it’s baby steps; I’m pleased with the results. Someday when we’ve finished ongoing home renovations, I may do some in-room staging. For now, the time manager continues to breath down my neck (not to mention the potter who would like to get into the studio!). So simple staging is where it’s at for me: bits of playful added to the elegant, modern merriment to the Victorian.
Props to my pots!
The coconut confection, festive pics and kind words by fellow artist Janice Jakielski in her current blog post here could not be more timely! I began my last glaze-fire for 2010 on New Year’s Eve, which consequently became my first glaze-fire for 2011. The kiln-load of 62 consisted solely of cups and cake stands (and one ring-holder, but that’s a different story). I met Janice when I was the guest artist at Ayumi Horie‘s studio sale in October, and was thrilled when she had to have one of the first in my series of striped cake stands. As I am about to shoot pics of the 12 newly unloaded *New Year* cake and cupcake stands (sans such a spectacular topper!), Janice’s post is the perfect teaser. A big thank you to her, and make sure to check out Janice’s beautiful and thoughtful work when you visit her site.
Stay tuned for stands to come!
PS: Pics of you enjoying your Kieffer pots are always a welcome treat!
I titled this post before remembering that 2010 is actually the year of the tiger in the Chinese zodiac. A fitting animal for my very striped year! The stripes and polka dots of layered color are another way for me to visually pop the pattern and draw the viewer’s eye around a form. Plus, I’m having fun deriving influence from here. In the last 10 years, my work has evolved from just ornate to (I hope) elegant, and now I’m entering my…joyful?…playful?…perky?…stage!
Most of these are —or soon will be!— listed in my Online Store for the holidays.