First row, left to right: Mark Rothko painting No. 22, 1949, 1920s Chicago Transit Authority poster, and Bev Hisey Reflective Folk Cushion; Second row: autumn leaves, Andrew Zuckerman bird photograph and my warm-toned glazes; Third row: Berlin Festival of Lights, Dave Jordano Storefront Church photograph and a Sevres potpourri vase; Fourth row: Andrew Zuckerman Masked Lovebird photograph and my cool-toned glazes; Fifth row: Hindu (Holi) Festival of Colours, JollyBe Chrysanthemums wedding cake, and peacock; Sixth row: Cole & Son Dorset wallpaper, botanical print and Felissimo’s Colored Pencil Set; Last row: KiBiSi chairs and a Viola Frey figure.
Oh, how I love color.
I suppose most everyone enjoys color, but if there were a 1 to 10 rating for color love, I would be at a 9 or 10 on the scale. I envy synesthetes and think about color throughout my day, in and out of the studio. I have a similar response to color that others do when they eat a piece of chocolate—that little butterfly feeling of yum.
These tumbler images (above and below) represent the myriad of ways the nine colors in my palette can be placed together to give a completely different color feel.
One of my grad school (MFA, Ohio U. 2001) professors, Joe Bova, recently commented to me that he believes “color is the most personal element in art”. I certainly took a lot of time considering my color palette when I switched from high-fire soda (a more limited inherently glossy palette) to mid-range electric where the options are delightfully and overwhelmingly limitless.
I spent several months testing glazes to find both the color and quality (“breaking” satin vs. glossy) that best suits my work and me. There were several determining factors. The first and most important is that since I spend more time around my work than anyone else, I wanted colors I enjoy. I also wanted colors that work well together, that compliment each other. Finally, I wanted a palette that gives my collectors options: some people prefer neutrals, some prefer brights, and I have both as well as what’s in between.
Because my work is predominantly monochrome*, I don’t think it’s as recognized for its color because an individual piece isn’t particularly colorful (i.e. having multiple colors). Though I am currently running some new tests to add stripes and dots of patterned color, “colorful” in my pots comes from their proximity to each other. I love seeing which colors my customers pair, mix and match when they buy 2, 4 or 12 pieces.
All of my glaze colors are warm-toned, meaning that even the cool colors (blue, purple and green) have yellow undertones. The names I have given the nine colors are Ivory (an off-white that looks almost like leatherhard porcelain), Frost (the super pale turquoise that looks a bit like a celadon), Honeycomb (a pale, warm yellow), Lime (a fruity yellow-green), Rosa (a salmon-y, mahogany pink), Cornflower blue (a rich lighter blue), Grape (a warm, plum-y purple), Caramel (a very yummy gold brown) and Blackberry (a deep wine, purple-y red).
On most forms, the satin glaze is the most visible, but the interiors are lined with a glossy version of the outside color, so I really work with 18 glazes. Some forms, like my bowls and serving pieces, reveal more of the glossy color. I like the contrast of satin to shine, so in addition to keeping the food surfaces functional with a glossy glaze, it is an aesthetic choice too.
Choosing glaze colors is not like picking out paint (potters will sardonically laugh and nod at that statement) because there is chemistry, elemental change and heat involved. Red and blue does not necessarily make purple in the clay world. My color palette came from having a sense of colors I wanted ( a green, a purple, a red—one of the hardest colors to “get” in ceramics, etc.) and then testing to match that expectation with the possibilities paired with my clay, cost of materials, firing temperature and application, not to mention aesthetic goals. As my husband would say, it’s tricky business.
I gather inspiration for color from everywhere. There are my “usual” sources (period clothing, Art Nouveau prints, Islamic architecture, etc.), but there are also more obscure suggestions for color, like the images at the beginning of this post. Right now I’m liking the blue in the shadows of the snow, the transitional green from light to dark inside an avocado and I keep thinking of that orange that was in a room my husband and I stayed at in Iceland six years ago.
I believe the color in my work is one of several elements which makes my pots unique. I agree with my professor that color is personal, a way to relay an emotion or spark a memory. It’s a fascinating subject.
*I tend to use one color or two similar colors on a piece because I feel this best shows off the form, where multiple colors tend to divide the form. Imagine a woman wearing a purple shirt, blue belt and yellow pants next to one wearing a purple dress.