Studio Cycles Pictorial 2013

      
   
      
          

It’s enjoyable to put together this annual, year end pictorial of images from my studio of in-progress and new work, as well as artist goings-on, and reflect back on both 2013’s newness and continuations. These are just a selection of images I posted throughout the year on my Facebook page and now Instagram too. As with last year’s, 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!

Studio Cycles Pictorial 2011

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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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Batter bowl light and shadow 
 
 
 
 

The Color Odyssey

I could assert that the first characteristic most people notice when laying eyes on most anything, including a handmade piece of pottery, is its color. The color can compel you to stop and note the form, drawing you in to glimpse the details, or drive you to keep on walking if its hue doesn’t strike your fancy. Color is important to us. Whether it’s the first feature we notice or the fourth, and whether we like less or love more, it can be the deciding factor towards a purchase.

Over five years ago (when I switched from cone 10 soda reduction to cone 7 electric, which means everything from my clay to glaze color to surface quality changed), I did months of testing to create my current palette pictured above (clockwise from top right): Ivory, Frost, Honeycomb, Lime, Rosa, Blackberry/Garnet, Grape, Caramel and Cornflower blue. Because of necessity and aesthetic interest, I’m in the exciting (and exhausting) throws of testing once again to re-vamp my entire glaze palette.

I began this new round of testing with specific colors in mind, but since glaze is nothing like paint (i.e. what you see is not necessarily, even rarely, what you get), allowed process and discovery to sway those expectations. There are a variety of thoughts that swirl through my head as I make the elaborate test tiles that mimic my pottery surfaces, weigh materials while donning my Darth Vader-sounding respirator, and stare at the resulting tests willing a small segment of tiles to call my name the loudest. See photos from my studio in the “Glaze testing” photo album on my Facebook Ceramics page here.

First, as I am the person who by far spends the most time with my work, I need to like the colors I choose. Sounds obvious, but if I didn’t need to like the color, my palette (and pots for that matter) would be quite different. (All potters are aware of a handful of colors that have a higher probability of sale, thus the name Cash Flow Blue for a particular cobalt glaze.) However, salability doesn’t win over likability for me as the maker.

So as a lover of color, it won’t be in my palette if I don’t love it, but the close second in my decision-making is needing you —my collectors, buyers and supporters— to also love one or many in my palette. This point also plays into the reason I have, and will continue to have, so many colors. I would be bored to tears if I was surrounded by only one, two or even three colors, finding it impossible to pick so few anyway, but variety is a way of broadening my audience-base while also attaining my first criteria above. Converse to my ruling out colors of which I’m quite fond because their audience-interest would be too narrow, by increasing the kinds of color (lights to darks spanning the color wheel) I offer, I can potentially garner more clientele than if I only sold green pots, for example. So, I do recognize and appreciate the need for balance between my taste and that of my customers.

There are many more important considerations in choosing color, but their rank is indecipherable to me after those first two key criterions. So in no particular order, I also consider:

The color should compliment the style, content and vision of my work, which of late means a lean toward “light-hearted,” infusing some modern merriment into my Victorian modern style.

The individual colors should work together as a whole (including underglaze stripe and dot colors) to create a pleasing palette when the work is grouped in my online stores and brick-and-mortar galleries.

I like there to be a balance of lights and darks, softs and brights, and colors on the wheel for variety as well as photogenic potential. (I’d say it’s a truth that images are more broadly “consumed” than product.)

There are colors (like purple and gold, and more recently, blue) that I’ve used for a while that feel like “signature” colors (i.e. colors my audience expects and enjoys on my work), so I like to continue those in some way for, well, continuity.

I try to be thoughtful of colors that suit the function. From food to flowers, I want to have colors that feel suitable to the use I put forth in the pots. (Not all the colors will work for both tortellini and tulips, but I like all to work for some.)

So! The image above illustrates a grouping of potential new colors in the front row (also in swatches below), and most of my current palette in the second row of tiles. I included some of my finished pieces with the stripes of Red, Lime, Light blue and Tangerine in the background to show how those warm bits of color will continue, and play with the new colors.

  
  
 

In addition to deciding on the colors themselves is the need to name the colors! Since everyone conjures up a different mental picture for the simply named “blue,” for example, I seek to find short names (usually relating to fruit, flowers or nature in general) to conjure the right “color flavor.” Here are some names I’m leaning towards for now, and may ask for your help with in the future!
First row: A. Honeydew, B. Gold or Golden, and C. Kiwi/Dark Celadon/?. Second row: D. Apple green/Citron green/?, E. Aqua, and F. Sky/?. Third row: G. Ocean/?, and F. Violet/?. There are more tests to do (I have the glossies to tackle next!), decisions to be made, and several months to pass before new colors begin to appear, but stay tuned as the odyssey continues!

P.S. My humble take on color trends. It’s not very feasible for most potters to change colors seasonally or according to trends put forth by Pantone (a company I love) or other color moneymakers. (Should color trends apply to art unless it’s a commentary about color trends anyway?) Some ceramic artists use brushable glazes, which would actually make both change in color as well as vast numbers of color possible. All my pieces, however, are dipped in 5 and 10 gallon buckets of glaze. This volume of material means that there is both a physical (or rather spatial) and financial restriction to change as well as numbers of glaze. (I mentioned earlier that my current glaze palette began with nine, but all of my glazes have a glossy counterpart that I use on the interiors and as accents, so the number is actually double!) This is in addition to the length of time required to test and find new colors. So, I’m aware of trends and their potential but they’re too finicky and fleeting for me to follow with my current techniques and logistics.

If you’re on Facebook, I regularly post a pic, link or blurb here on a weekly basis —like images in the “Glaze testing” album— if you’d like to keep up with my work and studio in between my blog post musings. You can also subscribe to this blog in the upper right column under the heading Blog Subscription so that new blog posts go directly to your email inbox and you won’t miss a thing!

“Veys,” “Veyz,” “Vahz”

Spring means it is finally warming up here in north, central MA. For me, this primarily means things will start to bud and bloom which gets me all excited to sit on our porch and observe my gardenwhich makes me want to make vases.

Last summer (July ’10) during a two-week residency at the Watershed Center for the Arts in Maine, I made a new prototype vase (finished right). As is not uncommon for me, play and design are waylaid by deadlines, so I’ve just gotten around to making a next and improved version now (in-progress left).

Vase forms are a perennial (the pun that had to happen) favorite for me because they can be any shape, size and color, but are equally challenging in the balance between function and beauty (i.e. the potential to elegantly arrange flowers matched with a form that doesn’t overpower the display, but looks attractive and interesting sans posies). “Vase” is such a vague term though because it can be any size, shape and color. I wish there were more specific names for vases intended for certain flowers (like the “tulipiere”) or names that designate a certain size or shape (like the “flower brick”). This Vase In Floral Design page I found gives something close to what I’m craving, giving nice summations on various vase shapes and how they’re used best with tips and notes.

My new, large (15″ h) wire lattice vase is intended, however, to be more sculptural than functional, and is a slight mash-up of form inspiration between a small, cobalt blue glass vase of my Great Grandma’s (similar to the first image below) and a brass antique find that sits in my studio. The wire creates an airy finish to the top of the vase, appearing a bit like a blue-print drawing, a crinoline framework or the unfinished, underlying architecture of the clay part itself. The wire is a way for me to draw in three-dimensions and is a nice contrast material to the clay. (I enjoy working with the wire, but the humbling nature of clay and its shrinkage does not always cooperate with my master plans for elaborate wirework, so we’ll see how it fairs in the firings). I, of course, finished this muscular form off with suggestions of Victorian wallpaper layered over mod candy stripes.

Below are a selection of vases, from antique to contemporary, in a variety of sizes and materials that caught my eye for this post. (You can see the trend that I tend to like pedestal or footed vases.) There are more of my favorites in this post here too. Enjoy!

   
   
 
   

From top right: Laced-edge glass vase c. 1920; Vintage trumpet milk glass vase; Antique brass vase; and “Eva” solitaire glass vase. Second row: Etched vintage glass vase; Vintage ruby and gold glass vase; Vintage 1950s Hull vase; and antique Louis Majorelle glass and iron vase. Third row: Anika Engelbrecht ceramic, and balloon Swell vases and Petite Friture Ikebana vases. Last row are all KleinReid: Cyril vase, Chateau bud vase, Upright vases by Eva Zeisel for KleinReid, and Peep vase.

Suede Soft

kk_dartsuede (swād) n. 1. Leather with a soft napped surface. 2. Fabric made to resemble suede. —adj. 1. The state of clay for a slab or thrown vessel just after “wet,” when the surface is no longer sticky, but still very flexible. 2. A stage of formed clay closer to wet than leather hard. 3. Earlier than “early leather”. 4. The only stage at which I stamp, alter, and dart. [Eng. Kieffer 2003]

In Progress—New Tile forms

Kieffer greenware tilesKieffer greenware tiles detailThough only two shown are complete, today I finished five new sized and shaped tile forms: three are larger rectangles, and two are a new arched form. (They currently measure 11″h x 7 1/2″w x 2″d in this leatherhard stage, but have some shrinking to do.) I continue to be very excited about these wall/mantel pieces. They are one of the most enjoyable forms I make.

The tiles are more than just canvases for pattern. The forms themselves are intriguing to me; soft with edges, like a torte. I enjoy how they poof out from the wall, or belly out on a tabletop. I particularly like them in groupings. Most are made in a series intended to work together, though they rarely stay together. The ones I finished today are intended to alternate between the two shapes. The palette has already been determined (even before the surfaces were complete), so that all five will be a different color.

I treat the surfaces more like collage than clay decoration. Each one has four to five layers that overlap and intermingle, including content. Three of the new tiles have animals (rabbits and bunnies, chubby birds, and owls), and text (“THICKLY SETTLED”*, “SQUEEZE RIGHT”* and “CRYSTALLIZE”). There is really too much going on with these for one post, so I will have to discuss my interest in words and text, and animals in another at some point.

By the way, three of the rectangle tile forms on the Wall/Mantel Pieces page are available and in need of a loving home: (Untitled) (ivory), SHY/Owl (lime) and CAKE (frost). Clerestory on the New Work page is also available. Drop me an email if you have questions and would like to purchase one. The vault form, HEAVY-DUTY and small square tiles are currently on exhibition and for sale at the “Made In Clay” show at Greenwich House Pottery in NYC through 4/30.

*These amusing phrases are from street signs that seem to be particular to Massachusetts (or New England) where I have lived since 2001. When I first saw a sign reading, “THICKLY SETTLED”, I thought it meant something about the pavement. It refers to areas that are densely populated, so you need to watch your speed. “SQUEEZE RIGHT” (or left) means “merge”. (I’ve used them here in my work to signify other meanings, however.)