Studio Tour in Philly!

I’m delighted to be one of the participating potters for The Philadelphia Potters 1st Annual Urban Studio Tour this coming weekend! As you can see in the image above, the event is comprised of 18 fantastic potters at 3 nearby studio locations in Philly. We will all be present over the three days with lots of pots for sale. The Clay Studio will also be participating and has a couple pieces by each of us so you can see a sampling as well has a mingle and artist talks Wed eve, 6-9. This is a must-attend event for any pottery lover in the mid-Atlantic!
Tour Dates:
Fri, April 28th 3 – 9
Sat, April 29th 10 – 6
Sun, April 30th 11 – 5

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Most every bit of info you could need is provided in the image above: who, where, and contact details. You can also follow The Philadelphia Potters on Facebook here and Instagram here. Hope to see you!

Remembering A Mentor: John Glick


It was two weeks ago that I learned of the unexpected passing of one of the biggest mentors of my career, John Glick. I had just spent time with him, his wife Susie Symons, and several other of his past assistants last June for his retrospective in Michigan, and was planning on visiting John and Susie at their new community in California. Though retired from his 50 year career in clay in which he made an estimated 300,000 pieces, John was excited about a next phase of life and redirecting his abstract expressionist pottery decoration style onto furniture, which he’d already begun to make and sell before they left Michigan.

I have so much to say, and yet am also at a loss for words. It seems impossible to sum up a year of studio potter education reaffirmed almost daily over the last twenty. As I always remark when I teach workshops, there’s a little bit of John in every part of my studio practice.

In addition to the myriad of practical to poignant tidbits I learned from John over my year as an artist-in-residence and assistant in his studio (1996-97), there are two key notions that resonate continually for me and possibly sum up what he gave to me: Play & Health.

I should actually begin with Health as I would likely not still be working in ceramics if not for John. I began having back problems my senior year in undergrad (a year and half prior to working with him), so his thoughtfulness about ergonomics and back care became crucial to my time with him. Indeed my back “went out” that year, so he connected me with his doctor who helped me with maneuvers for pain management and showed me strengthening exercises. If I hadn’t learned a healthy way to throw and other safe studio practices from John, I’d probably be doing something other than clay.

In all the lovely articles paying tribute to John over the last couple weeks, none of them mention that his career almost ended because of back problems stemming from typical potter activities. To my mind, he originated the necessary discussion on ergonomics in the ceramics studio and standing to throw for good back health. I try to post an annual PSA sharing John’s backrest design and his two must-read articles: To Sciatica and Back” (1987) and “Down the Spinal Canal” (2001). In the former he states, “If I could give a lasting gift to all potters it would not be a wonderful glaze formula or a new tool. Instead I would give the gift of awareness about the wise use of our bodies.”

  

John (with his backrest and Soldner wheel in his MI studio in 1987), and me
(with my backrest and Soldner wheel in my MA studio in 2015).

The other important lesson I learned from John is Play. Even though making pots is a creative pursuit, it is still a job that can feel serious because making a living is the goal. Plus, clay and its processes can be quite temperamental, which can stifle exploration and experimentation. Play was a part of the daily routine that made John’s a positive studio practice, which in turn made a big impression on me. He was always lively,  infectiously so. I remember him dancing around fifty buckets of glaze while he deftly decorated his bisqueware, making eye-rolling puns, and smiling like a kid through his big moustache. I continue to make time to play in my studio, and attribute my overcoming every potter’s eternal fear of glazing to him.

My sketchbook entry, October 23, 1996:
Listened to John speak to some Center for Creative Studies students today.

One thing that he spoke of that stood out was regarding ‘repeating.’ He doesn’t see the need to recreate interesting ideas —beyond a grouping of initial number around +/- 20— because there are so many more good ideas to investigate. He might take an idea further, especially on a very different tangent or with different thoughts, but he won’t remake a specific form or group of forms. They are all truly one-of-a-kind.

He also said he doesn’t buy into the “But I need to make a living.” He’s proven that an artist/potter can make a living without recreating the same pot in the same glaze over and over to be successful. It does take time to come up with new ideas, but John simply works in an always-experimenting mode. He doesn’t take “time off” to investigate new things. He doesn’t do a couple of sample experiments. He is simply always playing with new ideas, or expanding the old.

Many potters may not feel that there is time. For him, that is his time.

“If work cycles are the maps that guide me along the path to finished work, then surely the studio is the place where I make my way using the myriad of methods and work rituals I so enjoy. Work begins here as idea, and then finds voice with technique and experience, trial and error, and . . . playfulness.”  ~ John Glick

I consider working with John to be the paramount experience of my ceramics education. Graduate school was crucial to my evolution as a maker, but working with John is what gave me the foundation for being a studio potter. I chose to work with a studio potter because that’s what I wanted to be. I learned everything from how to pack pots for shipping to gallery dealings, from photography skills to studio basics. There are particular decoration techniques I learned from John that are still a part of my repertoire and shared at every workshop I teach.

I was one of thirty-three studio assistants —later referred to as artists-in-residence— who worked with John. I assisted him not by performing part of his process or routine, but by working side-by-side with him on whatever needed to be done to make it easier for us both. When we needed clay, we mixed it together. When glaze kilns were ready to be loaded, we each took an end of the shelf. We shared the weight, literally. It made it more fun, and was the healthy way to work. When he was throwing his pots, I was at my wheel throwing mine. We worked together, and shared together. I greatly admire that John took on so many assistants/residents over his career; indeed, sharing his creative and emotional space on a daily basis for decades.

John is always with me in my studio. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every day I use a technique, skill, strength, or mindset I learned from John Glick.

My first day working at John Glick’s Plum Tree Pottery in Farmington Hills, MI
was August 5th, 1996, and Magdalene Odundo dropped by!


Out of the blue in 2014, John sent me this image of an extruder die he made for a tray design that coincided with my first month working with him, so he labeled it “Kristen tray.”

“It is not enough to merely throw a particular form, I must make that certain throwing rib that adds a special, unique touch, or develop an entire “world” of extrusion dies, all of which are lovingly used over time, only to discover that I have physically outgrown my manual extruders and must design and build not one, but two hydraulic extruders which then greatly expand my working potential. This is love of process!” ~ John Glick


I happened to be there in 1996 when Farmington Hills, MI designated
John’s Plum Tree Pottery a historic landmark.


If I was having a bad day and took a break, I’d return to a mini thrown pot, hand-built cat, or smiley flower made by John. This is one of those delightful tokens, which he later glazed for me.

 
Ginormous 24″ platter we own by John from his special Upper Gallery, which hangs
above our stove like the sun, casting its warm rays and bidding us a greeting and
goodnight everyday. This was a gift and secret plan between John and my Dad
as a wedding gift for Trevor and me in 2006.


The constant state of my throwing tools, which reside in a tea bowl I made
while working with John so encrusted with slip and clay, no glaze is visible.


John and me at his retrospective at Cranbrook in Michigan, June 2016.

“When we are alone with our innermost thoughts about why it is we need to make things from clay we will hopefully come to know a private truth that tells each of us a very personal answer, woven of the same threads of mystery that has captured the spirits of artists through times past.”

John Parker Glick
July 1, 1938 – April 6, 2017

NCECA Portland

If you live in or are headed to Portland, OR for the annual NCECA conference next week, I wanted to let you know where you can find my work throughout the city. Just my pots will be there this year, but I do plan to attend next year in Pittsburgh.

I’ll have work at four different exhibition venues this year, none of which require a conference pass. At the Oregon Convention Center (the main conference site), I’ll have almost 40 pots available at the EXPO with 18 Hands Gallery, which opens Tues eve, March 21st and is open daily through Fri afternoon, March 24th. Again, visiting this section of the conference does not require a pass and is free and open to the public.

Already open in store as well as online (link below) and just a 7 minute walk south of the convention center is Progression: 25 years of Functional Form at Butters Gallery celebrating “the lineage of potters Brad Schwieger has influenced in his 25 years at Ohio University.” This exhibition is open through March 25th.

At Redux Gallery (12 min walk SE of the convention center), I’ll have six yunomi for Put A Bird On It, curated by Birdie Boone, which is open March 22 – 25.

And lastly, I’ll have a place setting for Santa Fe Clay’s annual invitational La Mesa exhibition at Exchange Ballroom, also open March 22 -25 and is a 7 min walk north from the convention center.

I don’t often have work on the west coast, so this is a great chance to see pots in person and of course, purchase! Enjoy!

 

Workshops 2017

Kristen Kieffer stamped mug demo 2016

We are in the midst of blizzard season up here in Massachusetts, so the warmer weather of workshop season can’t come fast enough! Below is what I currently have booked to teach this year, so get your playtime scheduled:

I’ll be heading to the way western part of North Carolina to teach a five-day hands-on at Cullowee Mountain Arts in Sylva, June 26 – 30.

The next month I’ll be heading to Canada to teach a four-day hands-on workshop at the Rozynski Arts Center in Québec, July 27 – 30.

Then to the mid-Atlantic for a three-day demo alongside Michael Kline and Ben Carter at Baltimore Clayworks in Maryland, September 8 -10.

And lastly (so far), I’ll be heading west to teach a two-day hands-on workshop at Belvedere Ceramic Arts in Pagosa Springs, CO, October 20-21.

All my workshops and most techniques are equally suitable for both throwers and hand-builders with basic skills required. Click the links above and contact the venues for pricing and availability. (Not all info may be available just yet, but you can let them know your interest.)

If I’m not coming where you’d like me to be, please do pass along the Workshops page of my website to your favorite venue as that’s frequently how they come about. As always on that page, you can see the full list of where I’ve taught in the past (scroll to bottom), more info on what’s offered, as well as new venues as they’re booked (like CA for 2018!). Hope to see you!

PS: If you just can’t make a workshop, I do have a DVD on Surface deco available right here.

Studio Cycles Pictorial 2016

Bud vase by Kristen Kieffer  Andrea Gill and Kristen Kieffer, Alfred, NY summer 2016Covered Jars by Kristen Kieffer  Compote in process and sketchbook drawing by Kristen KiefferPierced basket by Kristen Kieffer with Hannah doxie for scale  Tudor rose stamp in process by Kristen KiefferBisqueware mugs and cups by Kristen Kieffer ready to be glazed  Matching visitor at Michael Kline's studio sale, Cousins in Clay, 2016, NCKristen Kieffer Ceramics floral yunomi  Deco stamped mugs by Kristen KiefferJohn Glick and Kristen Kieffer and John's Cranbrook retrospective, MI June 2016  Pierced fruit basket by Kristen KiefferThrowing Deluxe Clover cups  Colorized stamped mugs in processStamped mugs by Kristen Kieffer  Kristen Kieffer Ceramics compote pedetal bowlKristen Kieffer Ceramics studio  Michael Kline and Kristen Kieffer stamp collabJohn Gill demonstrating at Alfred summer school, July 2016  Kristen Kieffer demonstrating at Alfred summer school, July 2016Bowl in process with slip-sponge, underglaze, and slip-trail deco  Batter bowls in process by Kristen KiefferBud vase by Kristen Kieffer  Colorized stamped mug with honey bees by Kristen KiefferDotty Deluxe Clover cup and cake stand by Kristen Kieffer  Handled vase in Aqua by Kristen KiefferBud vases in process  Workshop demos by Kristen KiefferCupcake stand by Kristen Kieffer  Deco Deluxe Clover cup by Kristen Kieffer

This is my sixth, year-end roundup of in-progress and in-action images from my studio and of my pots, plus several from workshop adventures and other outtings. It’s fun for me to look back on the collection of images I’ve shared (lots of flowers!), and reflect on what’s continued from past years and what was new in 2016 for me as a maker. These are just a selection of favorites I posted throughout the year on my Facebook and Instagram. As with past years, it’s not an order, it’s a cycle.

As always, thank you for your continued support of my work and studio.
A happy, healthy New Year to you and yours!

Cup Family Portraits

Stamped mugs by Kristen Kieffer
I recently unloaded a kiln load of work that included bunches of handled cups and mugs with varying and new decoration, and decided to group them for pix, which immediately and delightfully felt like family portraits. I like the idea of capturing my current cup designs and glaze color palette at this arbitrary point in time. Meet my cup family!

Above are my Stamped mugs decorated with slip-trail and stamps I design and make. Because my ongoing goal is to make pots that are “ornately elegant for everyday,” I refer to these as mugs because it addresses their durability, utility, and size in one word. These are not Grandma’s teacups! This portrait also pictures two from my ongoing Colorized series (the blue flowers and dogwood blossoms) in which I completely fill two to four of the stamps with hand-brushed underglaze color creating lovely focal points. I explain more about my stamped cup making process as well as two-piece handle origin in this old blog post here.

Deco stamped mugs by Kristen Kieffer
Late this summer I began a new mug series combining my stamping with the inlay line work and polka dots I have been incorporating on other pots. The result feels very Art Deco, so I’ve been mentally referring to these as Deco Stamped mugs.

dotty-deluxe-clovers
The other style of handled drinking vessel I make is a Clover cup, which became Deluxe Clover cup when the decoration went from minimal slip-trail to lots of everything! I explain the full origin of this cup in a blog post from last year here. I refer to this as a cup vs. mug because the inward alteration makes the volume it holds less than my stamped mugs. Above are my Polka Dot Deluxe Clover cups.

super-stripes-deluxe
Polka dots led to stripes, and lots of stripes equals Super Stripes Deluxe Clover cups!

cutie-deluxe-clovers
Around this time last year, I began adding inlay lines (and this year, circles) to my slip-trail and underglaze deco which lead to these multi-layered cuties. And since that is exactly what I thought when I made them, I still refer to them as Cutie Deluxe Clover cups.

deco-deluxe-clover-cups
At the same time I started the Deco Stamped mugs, I started drawing similar arched line work into these cups too, and the Deco Deluxe Clover cups were born.

Kieffer Cup Family Portrait
So here’s the handled-cup family! This group shot illustrates most of the cup styles and the range of my current glaze and underglaze color palette. I’m in the midst of eliminating a couple colors (Cornflower blue and Violet) so that despite a wide range of designs, my colors relate to each other and feel collectively vibrant when viewed as a group… like in my online shop! Which is exactly where you can find all these lovely ladies right now.