Stage A Daily Celebration

Kristen Kieffer Ceramics cake stand for jewelry on vanity : dresser 
. 

I like to think my cake stands aren’t just for cake. While I love cake (mmmm, cake), I like mentioning that cake stands work beautifully for general display in about every room in the home. Pictures do speak better than words, so I shot four of my display stands in four different vignettes in our own home to illustrate their wide-ranging function. Clockwise from top left: for jewelry and bobble boxes on the dresser, dressing table, or vanity in the bedroom; for toiletries and makeup in the bathroom; for a centerpiece, condiment catch-all on the dining table or kitchen; or for plants on a shelf or desk in the living room or office.

It’s fun to offer a stage for our treasured collections or highlight the things we love or use everyday. We think of using a cake stand for celebration, but why not celebrate the everyday? And when not being used daily in every other room, absolutely, put a cake on it!

Start your own celebration with a stand
available in my online shop right here.

  Artist Janice Jakielski makes amazing (and tall) cakes for her stand!

Idées de Design de Montréal

Design ideas from [our trip to] Montreal:

  
  
  
  

We had a lovely, short vacation to Montréal this past week. A city that feels European and is less than six hours from our front door ~Oui! I’m pretty sure we walked every main thoroughfare and rue in Old Port, Le Village, Plateau Mont-Royal, St-Denis, Mile End, Chinatown and more. There is indeed a great and easy metro system, but you can’t see things if you can’t see things, so leisurely walking allowed us to take in the most of this stylish city. I should have many more pictures, but am pleased to share with you these few that give me wonderful ideas for color, line and detail. I see suggestions for cut-outs, color use, lip lines (tops of pots) and there is surely a flower vessel in those amazing tea cakes pour sûr!

Candy, Striped & Quilted

A pictorial montage of some current influences…

  
    
   

…fondant deco, quilted materials (leather, glass and couches), Japanese prints, stripes, candy colors, couture details, tatted shapes, plastic sandwich container form, climbing roses and arched fencing, dots… and stripes.

  
    

Hope to be posting images of some new work that relate to these images (if only in my mind) soon!

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.

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!

Cake as Influence

Thiebaud cake A. Steeter cake Oldenburg floor cake Cake Girls
Couture cake Thiebaud wedding cake M. Braun cake Trend de la Creme blog image
Cupcake color Architecture as cake Julia Jacquette cake painting

From top left: Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Let Them Eat Cake; Painted Bird Cake, (a real cake) by Amanda Streeter; Floor Cake by Claes Oldenburg; and couture wedding cakes. Second row: another couture wedding cake; Wedding Cake by Wayne Thiebaud; a real wedding cake by Margaret Braun; a great blog entry from Trend de la Cremé pairing runway fashion with couture cakes; Third row: cupcakes by Dozen Cupcakes; architecture as cake; and Julia Jacquette’s painting White on White (Thirty-six sections of wedding cake, swans).

I started looking at wedding cakes eight years ago for decoration ideas. It seemed an obvious reference for me as slip-trailing (squeezing liquid clay through a bulb syringe) is the clay equivalent to cake-decorating.

I’m not sure when I first came across Wayne Thiebaud’s pastry paintings from the ’60s, but I love them. If I could paint, that is the style and possibly content I would choose. I enjoy his fantastical and exaggerated use of color (hard shadows of electric pink) and style that reminds me of the vintage ads I like. The paint is thick, and somehow simultaneously gestural and precise. Some of my influences are abstract ideas, and that last sentence would be a good example of something I see [in a Thiebaud painting, for example] that I would like to emulate in my work —a feeling, a presence.

Kieffer tile trioI also just like the word, cake (the title of and text on the left tile, actually). I am drawn to the sound of certain words (Who doesn’t like to say rutabaga?), especially if they can have different meanings and contexts. I don’t know where I picked this up, but I sometimes use it as an expression to mean, “exceedingly lucky”. As in, “He is in a pretty cake situation since he married a millionaire,” for example.

I chose Claus Oldenburg’s Floor Cake to show because it fits today’s theme, and because I am drawn to his sculpture and drawing for making real, hard forms soft and humorous. Both elements I look to capture in my own work. Kieffer Soft Treasure box

It may or may not be obvious from the images I chose above (and from my last post below): many of my influences overlap. In these things, I see hard and soft lines, humor, form, context and content. A couture dress looks like a tiered cake which looks like a Victorian home, which could be a covered jar—or maybe that’s just me. As I’ve said before, we artists are the blenders of the disparate creating the unified.