I have two more making days before I begin glazing for my Studio Sale the weekend of May 17 & 18th. Today I finished a bunch of stamped cups, the form I make the most. I have made over 80 in the last six months, and only have two in my studio, both of which will actually be shipped out next week. That doesn’t mean I have sold them all, but does mean many have and the rest are in galleries waiting to be.
These images (which I have posted on another blog before, but thought I’d do so again in this new space) illustrate some of the progression and stages of my cup making process: (1) twenty just thrown, (2) the same cups after stamping waiting to be trimmed, (3) the handle parts just pulled waiting to be applied, and (4 & 5) some finished cups prior to firing.
Making. It looks like more of a production process than it really is. It takes me a solid three days (often four) to throw, stamp, alter, trim, place handles and slip-trail twenty cups. I believe this is a little slower than some. It only takes a few minutes to throw a cup or pull a handle, but I spend quite a bit of time when all is said and done (including glazing) on each cup. Part of the reason is that my handles have two parts, thus some extra work. The rest of the additional time is in the detail…like slip-trailing the bunny tails on the cup above. Though they are stamped, there is still refining of the image at various stages to be done. I fell asleep one night figuring that I touch a single cup over forty times during all the processes of making and glazing. That doesn’t include the post-steps of wrapping to ship out or take to a show.
Stamping. I have over twenty different stamps at any given time. (I try to make new ones when I get a chance, and subtract others over time.) So when I have twenty cups to decorate, I may only use the same stamp once. On the twenty I will finish tomorrow, half will be stamped with a pattern and the other half will be stamped with an animal (bunny, bird, etc.). And since I use nine different glazes, each one will be unique between the color and decoration. I’m not claiming that over the course of a year or so, there aren’t repeats of a stamp and color combo, but I do want to emphasize the one-of-a-kind nature of my work, even within a series. Everything is always changing, so it keeps things interesting for me (and you).
Outside of my “spec” work for shows, I do take commissions for more specific combinations. Last year I had one client desire four cups with four different stamps in the same color. And another want four different colored bunny cups.
Handles. I began making them in two parts during graduate school (at Ohio University) because I thought my work needed an aesthetically different kind of handle, and I was —and continue to be— influenced by metal-working. Early this last summer, I lopped off the curlicue that had long been at the end of the smaller handle section. I needed a change. And that is how things change in my work…a little at a time.
All of my work is signed, “Kieffer”. The cups have an additional chop (signature stamp) at the bottom of the handle of a mirrored “K” for my initials. I have signed all my work since I began with either or both of these.