sculpted clay vessels in bright colors

Color: to fear or not to fear

“I love color.” I heard the words coming out of my mouth as I simultaneously looked around my studio. Almost every piece in my studio was finished in muted neutral/ earthy tones, black, or plain white porcelain. My boldest colors so far has been teal blue combined with a pale light green. Though it may not visually appear so, I truly do have an appreciation for colors. I have several books paged through and earmarked in my library about color and color theory. I’ve often felt my heart skip a beat when I see harmonious colors stand side by side. I am awestruck when I see vibrant color combinations in nature. I want to emulate these color combinations on everything I make but somehow I revert back to safety. I tell myself that it’s all about the form and color would distract from it. I have not been bold enough to take a leap on my own.

The client for this project is a collector of brightly primary colored art. As you may conclude, not only was using color making me a little nervous but bright, primary colors was pushing me right into my uncomfortable zone. I put those worries aside and started this as I would any other project: a list of criteria and a design concept.

The client wanted a simple form in her home to compliment her modern aesthetic. We started with oblong round form and ended with simple orb. She wanted 4 large, carved, brightly colored orbs to sit above her kitchen cabinets where there was a dark spot of emptiness. The colors were to reference a painting on an adjacent wall. The idea was to bring a pops of color to the all-grey kitchen. The other request was to have a small opening at the top so the orbs can be used as sculpture or vessel. With the criteria list, I set to work on a design concept proposal.

Design sketches

With 4 blank canvases, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to display each of my signature carved patterns: the inverted bevel cut which can be seen on my Twisted lamps, the Lattice which was first inspired by seahorse skeletons, the swirl pattern that came about when I first started carving at the time when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, and the Crenelated which references old castle ruins that I find full of mystery.

I delved in by first constructing the orbs. I rolled out large slabs and draped them over a plaster hemisphere mold. Because the plaster molds were a little short of a full hemisphere, I added a couple of coils to the shape. Then, the two halves are attached to create the orbs. I cut an opening at the top big enough to fit my hand through (like carving a lid on a pumpkin) so that I could smooth out the seam from the inside and continue to shape the orb both inside and out.

process shaping and carving

I started with the inverted bevel cut. The most difficult part was the first cut into the very smooth, very round forms I had made. Once the blade made its first timid cut around, I went at it in a slightly maniacal fashion, with curly clay trimmings flying around me, stopping now and then to check the spacing of the cuts. The next patterns, lattice and swirl, required carving then adding clay then carving again. After the third was completed, I stopped to reconsider the last pattern. I sent progress images to the client and she loved the Lattice pattern so much, she asked for another one. I was thrilled but I also wanted to change it up so the two orbs weren’t the same.

color sample tiles

Finally, time to face my fear and work on color samples while the clay orbs were drying. I gathered various color of underglaze and made sample tiles. Most underglazes come in a variety of colors and are mixable to develop unique colors. I have also been wanting to try colored slips and transfers to create a layered, weathered look. In the end, we decided bright, solid colors was the way to complement her modern interior. Upon reviewing the sample tiles, we decided on a bright red, a lime green, a sunny yellow, and a rich orange without any glazes over top, but just in the interior of the vessel. Instead, I would allow the raw, matte vibrancy of the color to show and use a sealer to close up the pores for easy cleaning.

Opening the kiln after their final firing at 2232 degrees Fahrenheit was delightful. The orbs were so bright and incredibly vibrant!

finished sculptures bright colors

I have been designing and creating bespoke furniture, objects, lighting, and artwork for nearly 2 decades. If you have any ideas you'd love to see come to life that can predominantly be created out of ceramic or you see something from my current designs but need in a custom size, get in touch with me by sending me an inquiry in the Contacts page. Custom design and working with you closely is my specialty.

modern kitchen with sculptures







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