Fresh From the Kiln: Blocks and Pots

All three alphabet blocks finished and glazed.  (In progress post here.)  I love ’em.
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This is the only word these three can spell.  A next series will purposefully blend imagery with the letters to spell…something. True alphabet blocks are a learning tool for children; a minor intent for these was to do the same and familiarize the viewer with little known or at-risk animals. So, I kind of like the blend of “Oh.” or “OH?” or “OH!” in this beautiful format paired with these even more beautiful animals.

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This view shows my versions of all six real animals (all birds except one): left to right, Boreal owl, Red fox, Finch (I unfortunately didn’t write down what kind), Hoopoe, Huet-huet and Bee-eater.  (You can use GoogleImages, to see photographs of the real things.)  It’s subtle, but this view also shows that three sides of each block are satin and two are glossy versions of the same color for each.
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The bottom two blocks show a top view (left), and bottom view (right, signed and unglazed).
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One more view.  The letter for each animal is on the opposite side of that image, following real children’s blocks.  As I wrote before, the primary goal for these was to have fun incorporating elements I enjoy (fonts, text, vintage toys, animals and decoration) into a small format of 3 1/2″.

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I chose one of the four pitcher forms I “tried out” a few months ago (see this post), and made this small series with my favorite. Each between 7-8″h.

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Two new, large pear jars. The left is the glazed script jar in the post below. The right is a big purple mama with the lilac pattern.

In Progress—‘Script’ Pear Jar

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This is a large pear jar I finished last week that features some script letters as decoration ((two views, unfired). The letters are primarily flipped and reversed to fit and compliment the shape of the jar.  This is a new take on my interest in incorporating text/lettering into the surfaces: probably an appreciation of Islamic calligraphy too.

In Progress—Alphabet Blocks & Teapots

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The alphabet blocks are an idea that has been on my mental back-burner for awhile, but an invitation to be in The Clay Studio’s show, Small Favors IV, brought them to life this week. Unfinished (green), each is approximately a 3 1/2″ cube. I needed to do something fun, tangential and for me…and they were.  I would love to do the whole alphabet.  I have some plans for some, well, not for kids blocks too.  These exquisitely blend my recent favorite forays: text, animals and play.

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The fourth image is of two of the six teapots I completed this week for upcoming shows and a commission (each between 10-11″h, green –unglazed and unfired).

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.

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.

In Progress—New Tile forms

Kieffer greenware tilesKieffer greenware tiles detailThough only two shown are complete, today I finished five new sized and shaped tile forms: three are larger rectangles, and two are a new arched form. (They currently measure 11″h x 7 1/2″w x 2″d in this leatherhard stage, but have some shrinking to do.) I continue to be very excited about these wall/mantel pieces. They are one of the most enjoyable forms I make.

The tiles are more than just canvases for pattern. The forms themselves are intriguing to me; soft with edges, like a torte. I enjoy how they poof out from the wall, or belly out on a tabletop. I particularly like them in groupings. Most are made in a series intended to work together, though they rarely stay together. The ones I finished today are intended to alternate between the two shapes. The palette has already been determined (even before the surfaces were complete), so that all five will be a different color.

I treat the surfaces more like collage than clay decoration. Each one has four to five layers that overlap and intermingle, including content. Three of the new tiles have animals (rabbits and bunnies, chubby birds, and owls), and text (“THICKLY SETTLED”*, “SQUEEZE RIGHT”* and “CRYSTALLIZE”). There is really too much going on with these for one post, so I will have to discuss my interest in words and text, and animals in another at some point.

By the way, three of the rectangle tile forms on the Wall/Mantel Pieces page are available and in need of a loving home: (Untitled) (ivory), SHY/Owl (lime) and CAKE (frost). Clerestory on the New Work page is also available. Drop me an email if you have questions and would like to purchase one. The vault form, HEAVY-DUTY and small square tiles are currently on exhibition and for sale at the “Made In Clay” show at Greenwich House Pottery in NYC through 4/30.

*These amusing phrases are from street signs that seem to be particular to Massachusetts (or New England) where I have lived since 2001. When I first saw a sign reading, “THICKLY SETTLED”, I thought it meant something about the pavement. It refers to areas that are densely populated, so you need to watch your speed. “SQUEEZE RIGHT” (or left) means “merge”. (I’ve used them here in my work to signify other meanings, however.)