Teaching Workshops Article for SP

Before and after my Workshop Logistics article for CM came out last month, I heard from folks who wanted to know more about actually teaching workshops. In 2008, I wrote Thoughts from the Road: Learning to Teach Workshops for The Studio Potter journal, and they’ve recently made it available online. It was enjoyable for me to re-read after so many years, and reflect on what’s changed or is the same. Btw and per the article, I have now taught several No Fear Clay! workshops!

“A fear of trying is really a fear of failing.”


You can read the article here, and purchase this particular issue (Teaching & Learning, Vol. 36 No. 1, Winter/Spring 2008) here. I also contributed an article to an SP issue devoted to Starting Out (Vol. 33 No. 1 Winter/Sping 2004) which is available here.

I served on the Board of The Studio Potter for 3 years, and believe it offers a unique voice in the ceramics community, and found it paramount in my education as a young potter. For 47 years it was a print publication, and is now solely online. Peruse their site to learn more.

Standing to Throw & CM Spotlight

Kristen Kieffer Spotlight Ceramics Monthly Summer Working Potter issue 2015

Ceramics Monthly summer issue 2015 Steven Rolf coverThanks to Ceramics Monthly for posing a question to me for the Spotlight page of the summer issue on the Working Potter. It was interesting to reflect on the last 12 years (and in only 300 words!), which is when I declared myself a full-time studio potter. Cover potter Steve Rolf was a grad when I was an undergrad at Alfred (’93-95), and super helpful and supportive of my beginnings, making this extra special on thinking back and change. Thank you, CM!

Thank you to my hubby for taking this much requested but never till now fulfilled shot for CM, which gives me another opportunity to discuss what’s pictured. I’ve been standing to throw for TWENTY years. I began in ’95 when I threw pots at Greenfield Village for a year, and then with a backrest like this designed after John Glick‘s in ’96 when I worked with him for a year. Standing saved my back. I can’t recommend enough for my fellow potters to check out these two articles John wrote for the Studio Potter journal: “To Sciatica and Back” (1987) and “Down the Spinal Canal” (2001). Everything from his backrest design I adopted to a ‘checklist for longevity’ is addressed in the former article. Both have excellent and thoughtful reflections on adapting to change for body health and are must reads! Thank you, John!

PS: Below is an image of me at my worktable stamping pots. Note how I stack several bats on my banding wheel (my parting gift from my assistantship/residency with John!) so that I’m working about chest high, not hunched over.

Kristen Kieffer stamping in her Massachusetts studio



Thinking of Japan: Influence, Exhibition & Auction

Here are my five yunomis made specially for AKAR Design’s Annual Yunomi Invitational. These are the first cups to have my new polka dot and striped color accents paired with my stamped and slip-trailed patterns ~ lots’o layers!

The nature of the show (200 potters sending five cups each) means the invite was extended last summer, and the cups were made in December and shipped in January so they could be photographed by AKAR to post online now. The coincidental timing of this exhibition’s opening —almost two weeks to the day since the tsunami disaster in Japan— for a show which celebrates a specific style of Japanese tea bowl used for daily, informal tea drinking is one of poignancy. That the surface decoration of my yunomis was influenced by Japanese Oribe style Mino ware is another layer of reflection for me as well as reminder of our connection to past and present for even those on the other side of the globe.

This online-only exhibition also supports The Studio Potter non-profit journal, and opens this Friday, 3/25 at 10 AM CST right here. This show almost sold out in less than 48 hours last year, so open your account with AKAR now and enjoy the beautiful celebration of yunomis!


Also opening this week is the amazing Handmade for Japan’s auction of artists’ donated works (pots, sculpture and more) to raise relief funds for victims of the catastrophes in Japan. Preview the auction items on Handmade for Japan’s facebook page here and calendar to buy outright or bid 3/24 at 8 PM EST through 3/27 8 PM EST on eBay right here. More info is available in my blog post below (previous) and on their FB page. Thank you for sharing the auction info and bidding.

UPDATE! See auction results and link to give directly
in the blog post below or go here.

Workshop Season Begins

Kristen Kieffer workshop demonstration Kristen Kieffer workshop demonstration

I returned from NCECA and Pittsburgh late last night (3.22) and was greeted by a cd of images (100s I might add) of the workshop I taught at the Armory in FL two weeks ago. Some of the more serious images are already posted on my Workshops page. (Thanks so much, Dianne!) I thought the pics above illustrated the finer points: 1. we laugh a lot (especially me apparently), 2. we work hard, 3. men do take my workshops, and 4. the workshops are always great, but ending the preceding days with a casual and quiet time with participants and host is good too (the beach in March is a bonus).
Workshops are about learning new techniques, and hopefully, ways of thinking to apply to ones own work. I recently wrote Thoughts from the Road: Learning to Teach Workshops for Studio Potter where I wrote my evolving perspective–with insights and foibles–of teaching two and five-day workshops.

I have scheduled quite a few workshops beginning next month through the fall. The weekend after next (4.3-6), I will go to the U.P. (That’s the Upper Peninsula for you folks not acquainted with the far north of MI.) to spend some time with Jane Shellenbarger‘s students at Northern Michigan University. The following weekend (4.13), I will participate in Extravagance and Drama, a day of lectures and demos with Harvard’s Ceramics Program which also includes Nicole Peters and Gala Sorkina.

Then, after hopefully having my own respite for experimentation in the Artists-Invite-Artists Residency at Watershed hosted by Bryan Hively in June, the workshop-per-month schedule begins. In July, I will be in San Antonio, TX at the Southwest School of Art (7.18-20, over my 36th birthday, making it a doubly fun workshop weekend). August will be at Greenwich House Pottery (8.1-3) in New York City. In September, I travel to IL to teach at Terra Incognito Studios’ (9.26-28) LaGrange location outside of Chicago. October is the last, but good as the first, at Baltimore Clayworks (10.4-5) in MD.

I receive a lot of queries about where I will be teaching next. If the above workshops are too far from home, or don’t click with your schedule, do pass along this website address to your local or favored workshop venue so they can contact me for details and scheduling. (I have already begun for 2009.)

Throwing Standing

I just returned from beautiful West Palm Beach, FL yesterday after teaching a weekend workshop with a lovely group at the Armory Art Center hosted by Helen Otterson. The topic of back health came up during the couple days (as happens when you have a bunch of ceramic artists together for a short time) because I stand to throw.

I have thrown standing since 1995 when I held an internship throwing historical pots at the Henry Ford Museum’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. That same year prior to the move to Detroit, as I was making work and firing for my BFA show, my back “went out” leaving me in bed for several weeks on pain medication. So learning to stand at that point was a nice coincidence. But then the year after my internship, when I became the assistant and artist-in-residence with John Glick, I realized how important my standing was to keep my back healthy. John has written a couple of excellent articles for Studio Potter about back health which can be found here on his site. (And one of them is here on Studio Potter’s site.) He outlines how to take care of your back, his ultimate need for surgery and recovery–which we would all like to avoid– and drawings/pictures of his backrest to lean against while standing to throw.

Above is a picture of my wheel set-up and backrest that my husband made, modifying John’s set-up. (I have moved the same cement blocks and bricks to four different studios.) I have now been standing to throw for 13 years, and credit that and John for assisting me in better back health. Now if we could all figure out the other bad things…lifting kiln shelves and 50 lb. bags of materials…