Sunday, March 15, 2009

Inspired To Make Beautiful Objects ~ Kristen Kieffer

Sometimes you see something that is so precious and beautiful that you aren't sure if you should use it. Kristen Kieffer's work is just that, beautiful objects to be treasured as well as a part of your daily life. I am in awe of the delicate detail and patience it represents. Be sure to check out her Etsy page for great gift items, or a little indulgence for yourself.
Why clay?
If I had walked into the metalsmithing room first, it might not have been. Clay can be touched and manipulated directly; many (most?) materials cannot (glass, wood, metal, fabric). That appeals to me. It can be any color, precise or gestural, emulate anything including itself and it’s cheap.
If not for clay what would you be doing?
I have nooo idea. I walked into the clay studio at the community college I was attending for a summer class in 1991, and never left. I would tend to think I might have done something else creative. I didn’t know about the field of design when I was nineteen. Sociology intrigues me. I have wanted to be everything from a hairdresser to an interior designer. It’s easier to say what I wouldn’t be doing, and sitting at a desk in a cubicle would be among them.
Do you listen to music when you work?
I’m kind of an NPR addict. I stream a Boston station, which has different segments about the news, culture and everything else but music. It’s important to me to know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t make time to read a paper or check the news online. Too, I think there is something about news radio that takes away the isolation that can come from working by myself everyday; someone is talking to me (and sometimes I talk back) and virtually hanging out with me all day. When I do listen to music, it tends to be…well, loud. I like the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, Tom Waits, Les Claypool, etc. which some see as a contradiction to my work.
What motivates, inspires you?
Paying the bills is a big motivator. I think being a self-employed anything requires a certain kind of personality, an inner drive. I strive to continue to be a studio artist, so how to do that is an on-going motivation. Many things inspire what I make; artistically, I am inspired to make objects that appeal to my sense of enjoyment aesthetically and technically.
Who are your favorite artists and why?
Wayne Thiebaud (painter) for his use of color, content and exaggeration. Martin Puryear (sculptor) for his forms, minimalism and craftsmanship. Martin Johnson Heade (painter) for his use of romanticism, atmosphere and textures. John Galliano (designer, Haute Couture) for his use of eccentricity, femininity and textures. Tord Boontje (industrial designer) for his use of materials and again for textures and romanticism. *I’m realizing these are all men…hmmm.* Alphonse Mucha (decorative artist) for his use of line, allure and text. Claus Oldenburg (sculptor) for his humor and subject matter. Chuck Close (painter) for his tenacity, creativity and insight.
I love texture. The more the merrier. You work has some incredible textures and patterns. I love the quilted effect that you get, where do you go for inspiration for new surface textures?
Happily, that continues to evolve. I love animals, so began making stamps with birds and bunnies a couple years ago derived from interest in Nouveau. I enjoy words, odd phrases and fonts so began to incorporate those in different ways by looking at old fruit crate ads. The ideas tend to be way ahead of the actual, but begin through research based on what makes me happy. I am drawn to Art Nouveau patterning, Couture clothing textures and vintage signs, for example, so will pour over books and websites about those, do some drawings or jot down ideas and go from there. More people mention the surfaces on my pots, but the forms tend to come first in conception.
I read on your blog that you are going to be making an instructional dvd, when is that going to be available?
Since it is the first, it is hard to know the timing. We will shoot at the beginning of May and imagine it will take at least 6-8 weeks for editing and all the behind the scenes polishing. I’m hoping for August.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
I tend to avoid this question. It has become a kind of moral dilemma for me. I think art is one of the subjects in higher education that does not teach how to make a living. There are several paths for a ceramic artist to pursue, so I would inquire about the newbie’s goal. My advice is always to talk to as many people as possible, and work hard. It’s not an easy way to make a living. And teaching is just as competitive as making; it would be naïve to consider it a fall back.
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the “handmade” movement?
I appreciate that there are artists who voice their beliefs or call attention to issues with their artwork. It has a long tradition, and I think is an important role the artist can play in the world. (I don’t believe it should include destruction of property, however.) I’m not sure what to make of the handmade/diy movement. If it can call attention back to the importance of the handmade object, and gain community support for working artists and craftspeople, great. If it spirals into the premise that anyone can be a maker and seller of art and craft thereby diminishing our role, then I think it missed its goal.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I have never been asked this, and am not sure I should answer. I think my husband would say mine is a long-voweled “f—k”.
What’s your favorite quote?
I am a quote accumulator. If I hear something I like, I jot it down on the closest piece of paper or in my sketchbook. I don’t have one, I enjoy many. Here are two from my last sketchbook that seem appropriate:
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” –Anaïs Nin
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” –William Arthur Ward, educator (1921-94)

Thank you Kristen, Good luck with your DVD!


Kristen Kieffer said...

Thank you, Chris! Best wishes, Kristen

Anonymous said...

chris... i came here from Kristen Kieffer's blog because she is great and i couldn't believe that you had jeff campana on the same page. his pots are great too and the technical virtuosity of both is off the charts.