In the Studio with Liz Kinder
Did you know?
Brad and Angelina
From Liz Kinder cups
“On the first morning
of their elicit liaison
unbeknownst to poor Jennifer?
It’s actually not true
but it’s fun to think about.
My cups would never be part
of publicity stunts or torrid affairs.“
This is a Liz Kinder quote from one of her “business cards” that aren’t really business cards because they have no contact information. Each has a funny concept to go with a picture of her colorful pottery.
Our manager Bethany Young, and Co-Owner Patrick Carney, recently attended the Philly art show. They were lucky enough to be invited to Liz’s studio just outside Philadelphia to pick items for Iowa Artisans Gallery! While there, they took pictures and talked with Liz, we wanted to ask her some more questions….
IAG- We are big fans at IAG and love to see what new things you are doing, I hear you are using some new colors?
Liz- My gas kiln needed repairs last year. I didn’t really have time to make them before the Christmas rush, so I just focused my efforts on work that I could make in my electric kilns. I use 8 different clay bodies and literally hundreds of glaze combinations. It was really good for me to have to narrow things down a bit. I got this AMAZING bronze glaze to work well. I have a new red that looks like it has light coming from within it. I’ve discovered a combination that looks and feels like stone. That one is so nice with so many of my glossy, bright glazes. The best thing about the electric kilns is that they provide the same results every time. It’s great to have some repeatable combinations. (Of course, as I write this I’m firing my newly-fixed gas kiln with a bunch of new combinations that will be either ugly or not repeatable, but that’s how I roll, sadly. I’m not the best business woman!)
IAG- Something else new is a sink, have you always made architectural features?
Liz- I am married to an architect. (I’d like to discourage anyone from pursuing architecture, by the way. I’m going to beat it down if I spot and interest in one of our children! You have to be so many things: a designer, a politician, a lawyer, and engineer, and you’ve got to be in front of a computer all the time, and it seems really hard to make money considering that you’re doing 4 peoples’ jobs!)
Anyway, he wanted me to do 44 sinks for a project about 10 years ago. I like a challenge, so I took it on, and they’ve been great. I did the tile backsplashes last summer for his 25 unit project. That was insane. His measurements changed mid-project, and our tile quota multiplied from 10,000 to 15,000 tiles in a single day. It was a lot. I did get this amazing bathroom out of it, though. (That’s Nola contemplating jumping into the tub with me. She’s not the brightest cat, but she’s a less-than-5lb-perma-kitten, and she’s really sweet!
IAG- Can you tell us about how your work has progressed? Have you always done wax resist?
Liz- I am kind of a 1-trick pony. I just love what I can do with wax! I’ve done sculptural work that doesn’t involve wax, but on my functional stuff, I stick with it. My work progresses for the most part, because I have a problem like the kiln problem or a glaze changing and not working well anymore. Or, I want a vase to go with a certain bouquet of zinnias and cornflowers-something really specific and weird like that. I also get most of my clay orders and glazes delivered. Every now and again, though, I go to the ceramic supply shop. I inevitably come back with a bunch of clay I’ve never tried before and a bunch of glazes that I know nothing about. It makes for a lot of problems, but it also keeps things interesting for me.
IAG- How do you make the designs? are most done by hand?
Liz-I just grab a brush and go for it. Brushes are one of my vices as well. I just love one that makes my swirls that much more graceful or one that makes signing my pots more fun. I think the fact that I’ve done the wax resist for so long and that it’s all been by hand creates a snowball effect: the more I do it, the quicker and more graceful the lines are, the nicer they are, the better the pots are, the more I sell and the more I end up wanting to make. It’s not unlike wheel throwing. I always tell young potters to just MAKE MAKE MAKE. In my 20’s, I would sell pots on the street. I would trade pots with chefs for food. I’d do anything to get rid of pots. That way I didn’t feel demoralized and lose my urge to make more. The more I made; the better I got.
It is some sort of weird personality glitch that I still love doing it. My dad is a much more cerebral person. He would watch me and get so bored after a few minutes. He’s say things like, “Can’t you hire someone to do that for you????” Or “Your production rivals that of most 3rd world countries!” I’m glad that my shoulders and wrists have held up, and that it still feels like Christmas when I go to open a kiln!
IAG- Have your children shown an interest in following in your potter footsteps?
Not really. They loved helping out with the crazy tile project last summer, though. I have a niece who is into it. I always think that my brother somehow got my kids. His son is the only one of our offspring who looks like me (I’m happy to report that the pointy chin and bigger nose look much better on a boy.) and his daughter is an easy-going pleaser who LOVES anything artistic. My brother attributes the fact that his kids mind better than mine do to his superior parenting skills. He’s much more of a disciplinarian. What he’s forgetting is that HE was such a pain in the ass when we were young. He got my kids and I got his. It’s got 0 to do with parenting! Gillian was actually better than I was when I first sat down to the wheel. She was one of those annoying people who just gets it! 💚 (and we’re both green people)
IAG- Here is another Liz musing-
You’re that thinking that
This card is going to say that this:
“Piece of pottery
Was made with
Loving hands by some
I don’t want to disappoint you
But it was actually made by
An over educated girl in Philly
Who will probably blow the
money on some
IAG-You are in the literal sense over educated! Kinder has a BA in Fine Arts from Amherst College in Amherst, MA and a master’s from the Ceramics and Glass department at the Royal Albert Hall in London. How did your choices in schools come about?
Liz-I was just telling my kids that at 17 I made a silly choice in colleges. After spending every free minute of my Andover boarding school experience at the pottery studio, I chose a college with a conservative art department that had no ceramics. Amherst, actually, ended up being the right place for me. I took advantage of the 5-college system and took ceramics at UMass and other art courses at Smith and Hampshire. (We are moving our kids from their Philadelphia charter school to a private Quaker school this year. I’m sad that we are going to have to spend so much and that we are abandoning the public option that I, rationally, want to support, but I’m excited for them to have access to such a great education. My girls liked the non-Quaker school instead. I was trying to explain to them that at 8 and 10 they cannot make this decision for themselves as well as their father and I can. Their retort was that if I made a bad decision at 17, I have a proven track record, and they know better. They will probably both be lawyers 😳🔫)
In San Francisco, I had an English roommate for most of my 20’s. She told me I HAD to go to the Royal College of Art. I didn’t really think much about it, but then I had a boyfriend who left California for Cambridge University in the UK. I went to visit him, and he was, frankly, a bore. So, instead of wasting a trip to the UK with him, I went to London, checked out the RCA, loved it, and proceeded to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to pay my way through it. (I’ve discovered that overseas tuition, real estate, and now private school for my kids amounts to A LOT OF CUPS AND BOWLS! It’s a good thing I still love what I do!)
IAG- What will your next projects be looking forward?
Liz-Part of me wants to teach a ceramics/visual literacy course at the above-mentioned school. It would help pay my kids’ way, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about how I would structure a course. (I do all of my thinking on my 6.8 mile bicycle commute to work). Two important people in my life died last year, Audrey Bensley, the ceramic teacher at Andover who changed my life in such a profound way. The other is my Aunt Mimi Bravar. She was my choral teacher at Andover and moved to be the head of the music department at Exeter. I’m wondering if I could be the Audrey Bensley or Mimi Bravar for a kid who is a little lost right now.
The other part of me wants to throw myself wholeheartedly into making pottery to pay for this school. I’ve been continuing to wholesale and make pots, but I’ve not done any shows in a while. I just make stuff, take images of it, and somehow sell it. As I said before, I’ve got some really great glazes going on right now that are RELIABLE. I’m poised to aggressively put myself out there again, take orders and sell a ton of work. I’m just not sure which path will make the most sense. Either way, I’ll feel so lucky to be able to do what I love to do.
I’ll keep you posted.