Studio Cycles Pictorial 2012

                  

I enjoyed putting together this second annual, end of the year group of images from my studio of in progress and new work. These are just a selection of images I posted throughout the year on my Facebook page. As with last year’s, it’s not an order, it’s a cycle. I just completed two glaze firings, so more to come —immediately!— for 2013 here and in my online stores. Keepin’ on, keepin’ on!

Thank you very much for your continued support of my work and studio.
A happy, healthy New Year to you and yours!

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!

Happy (International) 1st Year!

Valentine’s Day happens to mark the one-year anniversary of my surface deco DVD release, and what a great year! Dozens of DVDs have sold to folks from as close to me as Worcester, MA and as far as Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa and Sweden! DVDs have gone to 47 of the 50 U.S. states and 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces. WOW! (So a special shout-out to the clay folks in North and South Dakota, P.E.I. and Newfoundland! Maybe it’s just too cold to deco? And, where ya at, Oklahoma?!)

Those of you who have seen the DVD and the “about” chapter know that this was a father-daughter project. This anniversary gives me another opportunity to give a big, huge thank you to my Dad. This project was his idea, and he was indeed the man behind the camera. The DVD could not have been done at all, let alone in such high quality, without his patience, superb directing eye, and tenacity in the editing process.  Thank you, Dad!

If you have yet to see the trailer for the video, have more questions, or would like to read comments by fans (like the wonderful ones by two very talented and well-respected ceramic artists below!), please visit my DVD page right here to see what it’s all about! Thank you to everyone for your amazing support and comments this last year!

“This DVD shows that Kristen is not only a talented potter, but also a gifted teacher. It is a great resource for both students and teachers alike. Kristen demonstrates a wide range of decorating techniques for soft to leather hard clay, in a friendly and articulate manner. If you have ever stood before a row of freshly made pots wondering how to enhance the surface, this DVD is a must. You come away feeling that the possibilities for surface decoration are endless”. ~ Sandi Pierantozzi, Studio Potter and Ceramics Instructor, Philadelphia, PA

“The video suggests that a workshop with Kristen would be informative and fun. Technically clear and focused, the video is well made: lighting and sound are professionally done and filming supports the demos to give a clear view of the processes being demonstrated. Tips are insightful and practical, and include aesthetic as well as technical advice. Kristen shows how she uses these methods in her work, and offers suggestions about how other people may find somewhat different uses of the tools and methods helpful for their own works. She generously and clearly shares the methods she’s developed over time in her own studio. Her discussion of line, design, and pattern concerns offer an understanding of her working thoughts and the potential for personal application by the viewer. Kristen’s video shows a variety of well-illustrated decoration techniques that make me want to get to my studio and try them as soon as possible.”  ~ Linda Arbuckle, Studio Potter and Professor, University of Florida

*Cake* Cake Stands

  
  
  
  

As a lover of cake (as influence as well as treat), it makes sense that I would make cake stands. Several years ago, I did make a couple, but lost interest (and apparently didn’t even photograph them).  However!  My new venture into polka dots and stripes in general, and stripe-y plates specifically, has gotten me jazzed to wrap ribbons of striped color down and around to accentuate this fun form.  Above are two recently completed cake stands I photographed from various angles.  Both are about 4″ h x 10″ diameter (able to display an 8 & 9″ cake respectively) with glossy tops and satin-glazed sides.

This summer, I finally got around to making a more substantial cake display form based on my drawings and metal-working influence.  I am humorously referring to it as a “cake throne”.  At some point, I hope to post a pic after the glaze fire, as well as make more. Pictured: Cake Throne detail at leatherhard

It seemed fun and appropriate to share some other cake stands (with and without cakes, functional and not) in this post, kind of a sideways follow-up of favorites to my Cake as Influence post.  I sometimes use the word “cake” as an adjective to mean “great,” “lucky” or “awesome”.  So, below is a range of very *cake* cake stands (and other peripherally related images) I found in my searches, yielding a range of handmade to manufactured, new to vintage and ceramic to, well, oil. Enjoy!

  
    
    
    
    
    
    

If you hover your cursor over the pics above, you can get most of the info below too. From top left: Vintage glass cake stands with cakes; Esther Coombs’ 3-tier Rose Cake Stand, EstherCoombs on Etsy; and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel dress paired with wedding cakes, Trend de la Creme blog post; Second row: Blaue Blume cake stand by Tina Tsang; The Husband Catcher Cake, oil painting by Janet Hill; and Art Deco cake stencil wrapper from Fancy Flours; Third row: Silver cake stand;and Maren Kloppmann’s Ledge Platter; Fourth row: Whitney Smith’s Bird Cupcake Stand, WhitneySmith on Etsy; Lemon cake with blue icing and dots, Country Living photo shoot; and Iacolli & Mcalllister cake stands on Big Cartel; Fifth row: Kari Radasch’s cake stand with confetti cake, Redware on Etsy; Lazy Daisy skirts by Made With Love By Hannah (cake stands have skirts, and these are super cute!); and w2products Willow cake stand; Sixth row:  Jeanette Zeis’ Lace cake plate, vesselsandwares on Etsy; 4 Layer Cake, oil painting by Paul Ferney; and antique three-tier cake stand;  Seventh row:  reproduction of 1930s-era glass cake stand; D’lovely cake stand, fergusonpottery on Etsy; and Elle cake stand by Clara French; Last row:  cake stand from The Tea Pot Shoppe; striped cake by The Yummy Cake Company; and Black Lace Cake Stand from the MoMA store.

Signature Style

 

There are a handful of questions that I am asked at every workshop: “How do you know when to dart?”, “How do you make your feet?”, and “How do you get the stamping to line up?!”, for example. The answers to those are fairly straightforward: practice, carving, and practice.

I’m teasing with the one-word answers, but alongside those simpler, technical how-to questions are toughies like, “How did you find/get/develop your style?” I love deep questions in workshops, the ones that are about being an artist. Those conversations are a big part of why I enjoy teaching. Workshops are a great forum for learning techniques and discussing quandaries like personal style, not for picking up “style tricks.” There is no sincere short answer to the style question during a workshop or in this blog (though “practice” is part of the answer).

 

A few years ago, while attending NCECA, I attended a lecture* that essentially encouraged the current generation of makers to look not to the former generations’ work for ideas, but rather to their influences. He stated that the prior generation, the WWII-era makers, looked at things (nature, gesture, history, architecture) not other people’s pots.  He expressed wonderment at a potential future in ceramics with artists referencing only the preceding generation.  This observation was profound to me.

To oversimplify with an example, if I like Linda Sikora’s work, rather than imitating her forms and surfaces, I could begin to develop my own voice by researching what has influenced her work. By delving into the handfuls of objects, cultures, and periods that have defined her style, my own work could become unique rather than simply referential. Who I am as a person and maker will affect how I respond to the exact same historic European porcelain pitcher that inspired her. That’s not to say I can’t appreciate, admire, and buy her work, but I am more likely to find my own voice by looking at what is behind her pots rather than just looking at her pots.

 

So that is one of the anecdotes I tell in a workshop to begin to explain how one might develop a style. I honestly think if an artist sets out with style as the goal rather than as a byproduct of making what he enjoys based on what inspires him, he will fail. (Though I’m sure there are artists who receive recognition this way, I don’t think they are happy, respected artists.)

Style is the amazing culmination of everything an artist has experienced, loves and is, manifested in an object. I touch on the wide range of things that have shaped my own work (and style) throughout this blog, and also discuss them in my Bio and Statement.

 

The images in this post represent some of the details—based directly on my influences and interests—I feel make my work unique, my style signatures: slip-trailed shapes that look like rolled fondant; ornate stamping; two-part cup handles;  and Kanthal wire as form. Vessels like my Corset series, surfaces like my satin color palette, and even an actual signature, like my name stamp (below) are also part of that design “signature”.  The best compliment I receive about my work is, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”  What I bring to the pots is something no one else has: my touch, my eye, my mish-mash of interests and my passion. That’s style.

* I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the speaker for that 1998 Dallas/Ft. Worth NCECA slide lecture.  If someone knows, please drop me a note.

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!