Shots From and Of My Studio

My studio doubles (quadruples really) as many things when needed: making space, glazing area, gallery, as well as photo room. One of the questions I am asked frequently by fellow makers is do I shoot my own images. I do, and have from the beginning.

My Dad helped me get started photographing my work way back in 1991 with film. (Remember when we called it that and used that stuff?!) Along with my Dad, John Glick (who I assisted/residencied with from 1996-97, and who also shoots his own work, even when large format, 4 x 5 was a tricky medium), helped me understand the settings on the camera, lighting, etc. And it’s really through the same two decades of practicing how to make pots that I’ve had the simultaneous practice of shooting them.

Artwork almost doesn’t exist without images. (These days, maybe nothing exists without images.) Most folks see someone’s work via image (web, books, magazines), many times more than in person, if they ever see it in person at all. The image of the work can be paramount over the work itself, so good, current pix are a necessity. Once I’m ‘in it’, I like the photography part of my studio practice. As the maker, I have a unique idea of how my work should be shot and looks best (from angle to lighting to placement). While I’m making pots, I imagine how they’d be framed in an image and ponder groupings. Someday I would love to have my work professionally ‘styled in situ’ (and am not saying a pro couldn’t do even my simple, standard shots better), but for now, doing it myself also allows me to shoot frequently, so my images for publicity and the web are always current and new.

So, the top image is one I composed and shot for a potential new postcard to illustrate my favorite forms, varied styles, and color pairings. The image below is of me in my studio taken by my hubby for a needed ‘studio shot’ request by NCECA. (The table behind me is where I shot the grouping.) The other images below from my studio are my darling hubby acting as a stand-in for me with our new, shelter-adopted doxie, Hannah, while I try to frame up my shot, and Hannah (the reason I seem to be blogging less) posing with my CM cover when it first arrived. All glimpses from a week-in-the-life of my studio, which isn’t always a pottery-making studio.

 

Retro Month, In Progress

This last month has been about allowing (maybe giving) myself time to play. YAY! It’s a rare thing for me because of deadlines and requests; my inherently deliberate pace (‘fast’ and ‘detailed’ are mutually exclusive it seems); and currently, perennials are calling to me like Sirens to abandon my studio and toil away my afternoons with them. I chose to play by re-visiting forms from the past, so it has been Retro Month for me here in the studio. Perhaps I felt a bit guilty for sidelining other responsibilities, or I’m just a masochist, but I apparently chose to re-visit some of the most complicated forms I’ve ever made. Go figure.

The first things I made were six Corset vessels (above). This is a form that is the most distinctive in my reperatoire I think, but is actually not a form I make often. In fact, I haven’t made the size pictured (+/- 9″ h) since 2005 when I was still firing cone 10 soda. For some reason when I moved to mid-range electric-firing in ’06, I scaled them up to 15-18″ and made only a couple every so often. So, it was fun to work on a smaller scale with patterns and polka dots I’ve developed in the last years. Indeed, a big part of the point of Retro Month was to bring my new palette (color and pattern) and accumulated experience to familiar, loved forms.

Next, I made Double-walled Baskets (only three; the one pictured above is my fave). I made these the latter part of graduate school at Ohio University over 10 years ago. I LOVE this form—pouffy walls, upholstered-looking surface, voluminous shape, elegant yet jovial attitude—but it is truly a technical nightmare, basically everything that clay doesn’t like or want to do, particularly in porcelain. While this image was the most “liked” pic I’ve ever posted on Facebook, and part of my style has always been to partially ignore the personality of clay, these lovelies may not be coming to an online shop of mine near you soon. They may have mostly served as a wistful reminder of why I stopped making them last time. We’ll see, but I’m not holding my breath as much as they appear to be.

Lastly, I made sets of Screen vases, which haven’t happened for a handful of years for no particular reason, not since my stripy/dotty phase began anyway. I love how these zig zag together in pairs and trios, pattern flowing from one to the other. These were supposed to be the less laborious end to my month…which made my hubby laugh (with love, of course).

Studio Cycles Pictorial 2011

I’m certainly in no rush for 2011 to end, though as the holidays approach and attentions (mine) get divided, now seems as good a time as any to post some of my studio and in-progress shots for the year. Ceramics is very much *make, fire, glaze, fire, repeat,* so these images aren’t in order, but rather the repetition is the order. Most all these pictures I’ve shared throughout 2011 on my Facebook Ceramics page (my favored place to post a quick pic, musing or update in between blog posts), but seeing them all in one place is a reminder of my productivity and progress over the last eleven months. 2012, I’m ready for more!
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Studio Glimpse

  

Coming up this weekend is my Holiday Studio Sale (November 5th & 6th), and while I would love for every single one of you to visit me here in north central Massachusetts, I realize that’s just not possible. Part of visiting an artist in their studio is to buy unique items and support handmade, but the other part is to see where the artist works every day. Those of you living beyond New England’s driving distance can always shop directly from my studio online in my Gallery Store and Pottery Shop. While it’s not exactly dropping by and sifting through pots on my shelves in person, it is the next best thing. For everyone (those who live within shipping range and those who live way beyond), I decided to circle my studio and shoot some of the tools and objects that surround me everyday to help fulfill in some small way the “glimpse behind the scenes” reason to visit.

Pictured above: The doormat that welcomes visitors to my space features big flowers, which remind me that spring will eventually come when there’s two feet of snow on the ground. An old tumbler of mine and three-tiered candy dish (from Ikea) hold my most-used tools and reside on a lazy susan in the right corner of my seven-foot work table. And, the large buckets of glaze, which live under my work table and are rolled out when I’m ready to pour and dip the glazes I mix.

  

My test tile board (test tiles are the ceramic artist’s paint chip) displays my current palette of satin and glossy glazes both alone and over stripes of underglaze colors, and new test colors. The chest-high foundation wall of my studio is a great shelf and keeper of many tools, including this decorative tea tin for my pens and markers, and collaborative ceramic basket by my grad professor Brad Schwieger and me for my brushes. A pound scale is a pretty typical tool in a potter’s studio (even of this era) for weighing amounts of clay, like the cups in the background that started as a pound and an eighth ball. I bought my scale at a re-sale shop when I lived in Detroit two years before having a studio in which to use it!

  

On my potter’s wheel sit my throwing tools in a bowl I made while working with studio potter John Glick (1997-98), and have used in multiple studios since. Also visible is the backrest I lean against while I stand to throw to keep my back healthy. Behind my wheel, à la laundry-hung-to-dry style, are lots of influence images. I couldn’t bring myself to tape or push-pin into my new walls yet, so this works and is fun for easy adding and subtracting. Other than me, the workhorse(s) of my studio are my ware boards. These 1″ x 12″ x 36″ boards are my shelves and allow me to tote pots (12 cups fit on one board, for example) from my wheel, to my studio shelving unit, to my kiln shelving unit and back again with relative ease, as well as make the shelving units themselves flexible for holding short items to tall.

Lastly, pictured left is a partial collection of influence objects I’ve picked up at antique stores, resale shops, and apparently anywhere else (like the plastic sandwich “triangle container” I think would make a great flower brick form).

That’s my studio at a glance! I hope some of you can swing by to see it in person and shop elegant for the holidays on Nov. 5th & 6th!

Eve Day

I spent my Christmas eve morning doing some glazing, and caught this small vignette in the crisp sun. Sometimes working on a day that is supposed to be one of leisure or vacation reminds me how much I enjoy the little things about being a maker, like the curve of my cup handle in shadow on my work table. I am now off the rest of the day and a few more, but will return before the New Year to finish glazing. I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a happy holiday. I hope you seek out and find those small, special moments in the New Year.
A Happy & Healthy 2011 to you and yours. XX KK

In Progress—Corset Vessels

Corset In Progress I Corset In Progress II

Left: Altered, darted and footed.  Right: Cut and defined lip/neckline.

Corset In Progress III Corsets in progress IV

Left: All four in-progress.  Right: Handles and further definition.

Corsets In Progress V

The first two ladies complete with their slip-trailed deco.

I began this Corset series around six years ago (a story I’ll delve into at a different time) and though I don’t actually make them often, they have become somewhat of a signature form. This vessel idea began as corset-like, becoming more literal before morphing into something I think of now as more akin to upholstered furniture than vintage undergarment.

It was gratifying to spend the last week and a half (not at my computer) making some pots I just felt like making. The four are now complete and drying slowly in anticipation of joining other smaller pots yet to be made for a bisque firing.

The images above show some of the stages in the making process, minus the most dramatic image (because it didn’t occur to me till later to document it). These begin as straight-sided cylinders…subsequently altered, darted, built, added on, refined, defined, slip-trailed, slip-sponged and carved.

My Home to Your Home

KK Stamped cup groupingMy Holiday Studio Sale is coming up (10/24-25), the third since I’ve set up shop in our home. This is probably the most enjoyable and easily the most intimate way that I sell my work. A small number of people from our community drive to our home in the boonies, walk through our kitchen and down to my basement studio—trying not to bump their heads in the low-ceilinged, c. 1920 stairwell— to chat, snack on local cheeses and purchase my pots.

KKHouse_form_sm_blueOne couple arrives promptly at 10 am on Saturday every time to have first pick. Some ask questions, but many are very focused, shuffling through the shelves of work to gather their finds, eager to make sure no one will take from their cluster of chosen pieces while they go back for more.  From the next town over to two hours away (which could be any of five different states!), they come to my home to buy my work to take back to their homes or, equally exciting, to give to someone else for their home.  This both amazes and pleases me to no end.

KK_blbjarIIIn my Studio Sale flyer and email, I use a sentence adopted and adapted from a sign I placed in a street-facing window in my last studio, a rental space in an old factory building in Worcester (MA).  The original sign, Sponsor Creativity & Community — Support Your Local Artists, was intended to speak to the passers-by about our presence. The phrasing has since morphed into an expression of appreciation to those who venture out to my current studio and share their interest in my work with others:

Thank you for sponsoring creativity and community,
and supporting local artists by buying and giving handmade.

kk_yunomisI realize in this format, I am mostly preaching to the choir about buying and giving handmade.  But the importance of spreading the love for owning handmade is just that, important.  It’s a ripple effect.  Fellow MA potter, Arthur Halvorsen came up with a project called Operation C.U.P. (Citizens Using Pottery). His idea and goal is for buying-handmade supporters to give a handmade cup to a friend or family member who wouldn’t normally buy handmade, such a simple idea with only positive and potentially reverberating repercussions.

I hope to see some of you Saturday, October 24th 10Studio Full Shelves Vert-5, and Sunday, the 25th 11-4,  for my Holiday Studio Sale.  (You can begin your C.U.P. mission in my studio!)  Bring your friends, friends of friends and family.  Children are welcome, and can even be potential customers.  Last year, one seven-year-old promised her Mom that she [the little girl] would definitely drink her milk, even though she hated it, if the milk were in one of my little cordial cups with bunnies.  (A true-story sale.)  If you can’t make it, I hope you will let friends and family in New England know they can come to my home to Buy to give, elegant and handmade.  And everyone can buy here from me any time!

“Surface” DVD Progress

Kristen_Kieffer_video_I

As some of you know, in May I spent about five days demonstrating in my studio for my first how-to dvd: Surface Decoration, Suede to Leatherhard.  I thought I’d let you know that I’ve seen the rough cut, and am pretty excited about it (especially after I got over the weirdness of watching myself).  Videos have as many steps as ceramics, so for this big first foray, it’s not surprising to report we are a bit off schedule.

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This dvd will include techniques I use and some I enjoy but don’t currently incorporate in my own work. All are “suede” to leatherhard decoration techniques mostly using slip, including stamp-making and stamping, slip-trailing, sponging, paper resist, water-etching, sgraffito, mishima, carving and sprigging. My goal is to show techniques with which you may not be familiar, offer a new take on the traditional and generally excite interest in the potential of the ceramic surface.

Kristen KiefferI strongly feel that in-person instruction is best, and a video by anyone is no substitution for classroom interaction, workshop question-and-answer or one-on-one discussion. I know not everyone is able to take a workshop or class, and I realize that many of those who are able to attend one of my workshops may like a video to review some learned techniques.

I will continue to keep you all posted!

My New Studio Space!

kk-studio-i

My new studio is mostly complete (just needs a ceiling). Definitely ready for someone to get to work! Now I have heat and light after three years of cold and dark.  What you are seeing is a small (15 x 15′) addition to our basement, where I used to be.  A small move, but a BIG improvement!

kk-studio-iiikk-studio-ii

(Special thanks to my darlin’ hubby for all his hard work to give me a warm work space.  Thank you, Sweetheart.)