C O L O R

  
  
   
  
  
 

First row, left to right: Mark Rothko painting No. 22, 1949, 1920s Chicago Transit Authority poster, and Bev Hisey Reflective Folk CushionSecond 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 SetLast 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.

Darks.

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.

Lights.

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.

Fruity.

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.

Autumnal.

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.

Neutrals.

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).
Naturals.

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.

Romantic.

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.

Cools.

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.

Festive.

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.

Perennial Influence

I couldn’t think of a subject for a new post, so posed the question (to myself), “What have you been thinking about?” I’m in a making cycle, bisqued last weekend, glazed all week for upcoming deadlines and commissions leading up to another firing, and have some new, big ideas, but what I’m really thinking about is my garden.

Agastache  Allium  Allium_bulgaricum  Astilbe
Baptisia  Crimson_Barberry  Bugbane  Dianthus

First Row: Agastache, Allium, Allium bulgaricum, and Astilbe
Second: Baptisia, Barberry, Bugbane, and Dianthus

I love flowers and trees, learning new things and being outside, but when we bought our home almost four years ago, my thumbs all but turned green. My Great Grandma, Grandpa and Dad were each avid gardeners (veggies and flowers), and I enjoy the feeling that I am continuing a family tradition in some small way. Other than the gorgeous results and insects and birds the perennials attract, my favorite part is the escapism. All I think about when I garden is the activity itself and “Ooooo, pretty, pretty.”

Dogwood_Red_twig  Echinacea  Blue_fescue  Fox_glove
Geranium  Hellebore  Heuchera  Heuchera_Red

First ro: Red-twig Dogwood, Echinacea, Blue Fescue and Fox glove
Second: Geranium, Hellebore, Heuchera bloom and Red-leaf Heuchera

I have discovered that I garden the same way I make pots: research and preparation balanced with a healthy dose of impatience and stubbornness. I wound up having little interest in planning, mostly choosing and placing plants together based on color, contrast and shape. As an artist, I seem to be drawn to unusual colors (loving deep purple and bronzed–leaf plants, for example, next to the chartreuse and limes), odd shapes (alliums and lupines) and rich textures. Gardening is the quintessential 3D design experience for me.

Hostas  Hydrangea_Pee_Gee  Lupine_flowers  Lupine_leaves
Japanese_Maple  Penstemon  Sedum  Switchgrass

First row: Hostas, Pee-gee Hydrangea, Lupine flowers and Lupine leaves
Second: Japanese maple, Pentsemon, Sedum and Switchgrass

One of my goals with the garden—other than mental relaxation—was to attract butterflies and birds.  I become giddy (yes, giddy) as new blooms bring big, clumsy bumblebees, darting ruby-throated hummingbirds, waves of monarchs, lazy tiger swallowtails and lone hummingbird moths (the insect I had never seen before having this garden).  Because the garden is so close to the house, lining the entire front porch, I can stand at the door in the morning when I brush my teeth, or sit out there in the evening with a glass of wine in hand, surveying the scene.

our-garden-808All this happiness certainly feeds my studio time, and I’m definitely aware of wanting my slip-trailed shapes to be outlined like an astilbe leaf, a glaze the color of a penstemon leaf, a stamp the radiating shape of a lupine leaf with droplets of water, a vase shaped like the waterfalling grass…
All images courtesy of my garden.

Bird & Botanical Influences

illustration M.J.Heade Orchids Mckenzie engraving Peacock J.Hnizdovsky woodcut
 Plant Ornament book M.J.Heade passion Nouveau pattern
William Morris Tulip and Rose Vallentin illustration JollyBe cake William Morris lily drawing
Nouveau pattern M.J.Heade magnolia

From top left: an Australian illustration; Orchids & Spray Orchids with Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; coloured engraving by Daniel Mackenzie; peacock and peahen illustration; rooster woodcut by J. Hnizdovsky;  Second row: image plate from the book Plants & Their Application to Ornament; Passion Flowers & Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; Kingfishers, Dragonflies & Flowering Rush and Butterflies & Wood Sorrel illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; Third row: Tulip & Rose fabric by William Morris (1876); illustration by Mrs. Vallentin from the book Women of Flowers: A Tribute to Victorian Women Illustrators (J. Kramer, 1996); “Neoclassical floral design” wedding cake* by JollyBe Bakery; Golden Lily drawing for wallpaper by William Morris; Fourth Row: Bats & Poppies and Butterflies & Bellflowers illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; A Magnolia on Red Velvet painting by Heade.

Kieffer corset detailsFloral, or at least curlicue, imagery has been a part of (i.e. handles) or on the surfaces of my work for a while. But it was a more general reference. In the last two years, I have begun to place some of the botanical and animal (especially birds) imagery I enjoy, more literally into the surfaces. (I purposefully wrote “into” instead of “onto” because I hope the way that I apply slip, stamp and carve the surface makes the imagery feel a bit more a part of the form rather than flat.)

When I look at the illustrations above, what I like are the soft, repetitive lines that resolve themselves into symmetrical, organic pattern iced with color. The botanicals are easy to come by at antique shops, and I own a few. These drawings appeal to me more than a photograph would; they have a different kind of detail, slightly stylized and romantic. The Nouveau drawings and prints appeal to my sense of pattern and layering—a bird disappeared into a thickness of leaves.

I’m pretty sure the first Martin Johnson Heade painting I saw was at the National Gallery in D.C. a few years ago. They are striking in person, especially for their modest size. They have a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere and depth I would like to capture in some of my own bigger pieces.

Kieffer cups w. animalsMy favorite class as a kid —other than art— was my fifth grade science class with Mr. Morton in Louisville. He could imitate the sound of every bird in the field and trees behind the school, and describe their peculiar behaviors. I thought that was really cool. Between him and my parents, my interest (that curiosity and admiration) in nature, has been there for awhile, but I’ve only just now figured out how I might include it in my work. I think too, in our current culture, we need to reconnect with what’s outside.

Briefly, the peacock and rooster images have popped up in my work lately as an amusing way to quietly question the gender of decoration. If a decorative male bird is featured on work that is perceived as feminine because it is decorative, is it [the work] feminine or masculine? (Did ya catch that?)

Kieffer covered jars I just completed the two greenware covered jars pictured here (not a great image, sorry). This is a new form for me, and bigger too. The one on the left (15″h) has lilacs, and the other (13″h) reminds me of wallpaper.

On a different note, I am off for two weeks to play in clay with a group of other artists during a residency at Watershed called Artists-Invite-Artists. So I’m signing off for that time. May I suggest, while I am stepping away from my computer, that we all spend some of the summer reading real words on paper, like the imminent issue of SP hitting theoretical newsstands post haste!!

*Another cake, I know, I couldn’t resist. I also forgot to mention in the post below that I listen to CAKE all the time. These cakes from JollyBe are amazing, and will probably be featured here every time I mention an influence because she has one for everything! The one I pictured above stated with the image, “…design derived from a mattress cover chosen by the bride who uses mattress design as a source of inspiration for her own art.” How perfect is that for what I’ve been writing about?!

Back in July!

Influences: A Pictorial

Oribe ware George Nelson bubble lamps Martin Johnson Heade
Bombe highboy Vintage playing cards Mucha Job Tord Boontje
W.Thiebaud Cakes Fruit crate ad 
Haute couture KleinReid birdcages Vintage wallpaper Louis Majorelle Botanical drawing

From top left: Oribe/Mino ware, George Nelson bubble lamps, Martin Johnson Heade paintings; (2nd row) bombé chests, imagery from vintage playing cards, Alphonse Mucha illustrations, Tord Boontje design, architecture and Victorian homes; (3rd row) Wayne Thiebaud pastry paintings, early 1900s fruit crate labels, Islamic brass forms and patterns; (4th row) haute couture, KleinReid design, vintage wallpaper patterns and textures, art nouveau design, lines and patterns –like Louis Marjorelle, and botanical drawings.