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!

Home as Sketch & Vase

I first made a small house form (little, 4″h maybe) almost four years ago when we bought our home. It currently sits in a windowsill near our front door, reminding me of its idea. Though this little guy was not a vase, vase forms in general have interested me for years because I like the idea of beauty holding beauty, and there are so many possibilities for shape, form and scale. Our house purchase and accompanying sense of Home, gave me the idea to pair my interest in flower display with the new feeling of place, and that first little house sculpture was the beginning.

House_forms_SketchIII kristen_kieffer_house_vases

Three years later (!), when I was at Watershed in June of ’08, I worked out an idea for a slab-built house form as a vase for three flower stems. It was related to both the tile forms I’ve been making, but a free-standing version with openings, and the flower bricks. The drawings, above left, are from Watershed (with the addition of a collaged-on bungalow illustration I found and liked). This last year I made more (above right; a detail of this grouping is also my current website header), and have been drawing new ideas since: salt-box and cottage style vases, different “door” and “window” decoration, various “roof” shapes and size concepts in relation to different flower types.

I’ve written before about how important my sketchbook is to my development of new forms. The sketches are like bookmarks for ideas, like the little house in my windowsill. I have one place where I record my brainstorms (even if I draw on random pieces of paper, they ultimately get taped into my latest sketchbook), and so can easily flip back through a current or older sketchbook to re-work or tackle an idea.

House_Forms_SketchI House_Forms_SketchII
House_vases_In_Progress

Though not all ideas become pots, my tendency is to draw, then make the form and then draw again to reassess what I learned from the first round. There could be a 24-hour or 4 year gap between those stages, but that’s a typical progression. So the  drawings above are from the last six months after that first round.  I still haven’t made the “compound” house form (above right), but did complete the pictured  grouping of small (7″h) house forms yesterday that incorporate some of the different architectural styles I had been contemplating in the above image, left.

I will post these again after they have been glaze-fired, hopefully outfitted with some approriate posies.  This round of houses was thrown on the potter’s wheel instead of slab-built which gave them a natural fuller form (kind of marshmallowy).  I had to laugh when I finished the second or third.  I scaled these down by a couple of inches and also experimented with a square “footprint” in addition to rectangular.  The result for one in particular was a bit more outhouse than house, especially with the little window slit in the door.  I do laugh a lot in my studio, but this is a good example of the unexpectedness that can materialize from translating two to three-dimensions (though I do 3-D paper and/or clay “sketches” too), how improvisation and scale can impact an idea, and that fun is really important to my making.

Artist Favorites

Shepard_Fairey_Mujer_Fatal_mural Martin_Puryear_Bower_80
Alphonse_Mucha_Summer_1896 Wayne_Thiebaud_Boston_Cremes_69 Claes_Oldenburg_Dropped_Cone_2001
Charley_Harper_Shadow_Dancers_1969 Chuck_Close_Lorna_Simpson_2006 Shepard_Fairey_flowervine_red_2009 
Charley_Harper_upside_downy_1988 Kehinde_Wiley_Encourage_2007 Anish_Kapoor_sky_mirror_2006 Piet_Mondrian_Composition_1936

From top left: Shepard Fairey, Mujer Fatal mural; Martin Puryear, Bower, 1980; Second row: Alphonse Mucha, Summer, 1896;  Wayne Thiebaud, Boston Cremes, 1969; Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Dropped Cone, 2001; Third row: Charley Harper, Shadow Dancers, 1969;  Chuck Close, Lorna Simpson, 2006;  Shepard Fairey, Flowervine Red, 2009; Fourth row: Martin Johnson Heade, Brazilian Orchid, 1875;  Charley Harper, Upside Downy, 1988;  Kehinde Wiley, Encourage good manners and politeness; brighten up your surroundings with plants, 2007; Last row: Anish Kapoor, Sky Mirror, 2006; and Piet Mondrian, Composition, 1936.

These are some of my favorite artists: disparate and similar, spanning over 100 years.  The culminating traits I see here are: formal investigations of line, space and contrast; decoration; beauty; minimalism; poignancy; humor; attention to detail; and a desire for viewer attention and/or participation.  There is overlap of two or more of these elements I enjoy, and hope to have in my own work, in the work by each of these artists.  Good stuff.

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.