Interview with Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Brian Kakas is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: There is visible consistency in your creation. What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramic art?

Brian Kakas: The starting for my works comes from the traditional vessel and understanding the primary elements in design. I have taken the elements of the foot, body and lip of a pot and applied them as more structural elements within my sculptural designs. Development of a language within these components has allowed the works to maintain continuity through the progression of forms. The works become more refined as I focus on transitions of lines and volume. Complexity in the structures, are inspired from marine life, geological formations, buildings, bridge design and armor. With the creation of all my works I try to stay true to the inherent properties of the materials. 

Your works reveal a very rigorous methodology. Tell us more about the process of constructing them. Do you make preliminary drawings?

I used to draw blueprints for my pottery and sculptures. But the works always seemed to lose something in the translation from 2D to 3D. I think the spontaneity of the sketch and energy never quite translated. Once I began using slump and drapes molds I began to only sketch gestural drawings with ink. This allowed me take an idea (not a concrete design) and began to find new forms through exploring hidden lines within objects while only maintaining the idea of the gesture. I apply the gestural line I am looking for onto the X, Y and Z axis of the object in order to maintain flow and control of the entire 3 dimensional space it occupies. I am working with a modular mold system, which allows me to create an inventory of parts to pick and choose from freely. This system allows me to maintain being in a “state of art” while exploring new forms. The sculptures are hollow and all have an inherent strength as I complete lines whether circular or elliptical, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Then I construct a lip on the vessels using armature, just like ribs in an airplane wing or in a boat hull. The ribs create a template to be covered with slabs, which accentuates the forms I have already created. The tensile strength of this element keeps the hollow forms from warping or moving during the firing process.

Brian Kakas - Contemporary Ceramic Sculptures

Architectonics – Hull Improv, side view, 2011. White stoneware, slab built, 38”L x 18”W x 17”H, Cone 04 Oxidation - View his works

Tell us more about large scale fabrication. Taking the size into consideration, have you confronted with some particular technological problems?

I found through many accidents, the importance of the foundation you build on.  There were many cracking issues early on in the high arches of the sculptures. I thought it was uneven displacement of weight that could be resolved by building additional supports that were fired with the works. But with continual cracking at the point of the supports I began reviewing the overall movement of the pieces throughout the shrinkage stages, from cone 04 to cone 10 the problems were the same.

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Interview with Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Marianne McGrath is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Before starting a career in ceramics you studied Biology. In relation to your line of work, how would you characterize the relationship between Biology and Ceramics?

Marianne McGrath: I believe my study of biology helped create the artist I am today: one that works by questioning what surrounds me, and by creating objects based on observation in a very systematic manner. Artists, like biologists, work from direct observation and immersion in the environment around them, and are forever attempting to interpret this world.
Both groups employ creative means to achieve this. I grew up on a farm in Southern California, one my family had farmed for four generations, surrounded by this natural world that was under the direct manipulation of the human hand to serve human needs. I believe I was drawn to study biology in college because growing up immersed in this agrarian landscape and was incredibly interested in the idea that we, as humans, have this ability to define, control, and use the natural world that surrounds us, yet we also have an imperative responsibility as a species to maintain this world.

In my final semester in college, I took a ceramics class, the first art class I had ever formally taken. I was immediately overwhelmed by the questions I found artists asking, by the responses that they drew from their audience, and the simple fact that they were using dirt, one of the most basic components of the natural world, to create. This type of communication and way of thinking drew me in and I decide to completely change the direction of my life. I found that my voice was much more attuned to express my concerns of the livelihood of the natural world through the means of art than through my study of biology.

In the studio today, I find myself working in much of the same manner as I used to in the biology lab: trying to find the answer to a particular question. I also recognize my history as a student of biology in my draw to clay’s ability to be manipulated at all levels of its creation, whether its in the mixing and altering of a slip, or in the potential of atmospheric firings. I use this characteristic of clay as the basis of communication in my works.
Marianne McGrath Contemporary Ceramics
What I See, What I Saw II, 2011, unfired earthenware, plywood, steel rod, wax, 4’h x 10’l x 20’x
- View her works

You use unconventional techniques in very interesting ways, like unfired earthenware and wax. Tell us more about these methods and the creation process.

The medium of clay itself creates a very heavy material metaphor. Artists, I believe, are drawn to it for it’s malleability, its ability to record the touch of the human hand, and the sense of permanence it retains once fired. Unfired clay, especially at the bone-dry stage, is incredibly fragile and ephemeral-it can be dissolved or broken down immediately. The impermanence that clay retains at this stage struck me as incredibly meaningful, and I thus employed it to convey the meaning that I wished for in my work.

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Interview with Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Deborah Britt is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are in this field for more than ten years now; when exactly did it all start? Tell us how you discovered the passion for ceramics.

Deborah Britt: My passion for ceramics came rather late. Having been born and raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri, far away from big city influences, exposure to the arts was minimal. Art classes in my small-town school were non-existent past grade school—with a student body of 60 students in grades 1 through 12, resources were focused on the practical skills and knowledge essential to a farming community.

My interest in the arts began in college, where I was first exposed to fine arts through an Art Appreciation course. After earning a degree in Business, and subsequently a Masters Degree, I was firmly entrenched in the corporate world. The spark that ignited my interest in art, however, continued to smolder, but it wasn’t until I witnessed a wheel-throwing demonstration at a local art fair that my desire to delve into clay became real. After 13 years in business, I returned to school with a whole-hearted desire to master the art and craft of clay, ultimately earning a BFA degree in Ceramics. I have never looked back.


Deborah Britt Pottery -Ceramics

Blue Pitcher Set, 8” x 13”, Wheel-Thrown and Altered, Salt-Fired Porcelain with Slip and Glaze Decoration, Cone Ten, 2011 - View Deborah Britt’s works

You are mostly creating pottery pieces. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

I was initially attracted to the wheel. Learning to throw basic utilitarian forms was a joy to me.  The tactile sensation of wet clay is so seductive! However, there are some ideas that cannot be conveyed by functional pots, thus I also do sculptural work. I like the idea of making work that is approachable both on an intimate and intellectual level.
Making functional work appeals to the part of me that wants to connect personally with the user. I love the idea that the work will be handled, and I strive to make work that goes beyond the basic utilitarian form. In other words, I strive to make the work “special” for the user, in an effort to elevate the mundane, e.g., drinking a cup of tea, into the conscious enjoyment of the daily ritual, rather than a routine act.

I love to play with form, so even in my functional work I like to bring in a sculptural sensibility. The functional and sculptural forms play off each other—one idea leads to the next—so for me, the back and forth of sculptural vs. functional is essential.

—- The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.


There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

I am intrigued by the fact that we as humans are so connected to the earth, from the food we eat to the ceramic cup we drink from. I am drawn to relatively matte surfaces, perhaps because of their tactile nature or maybe because of their relationship to nature itself.

I want the clay to look like clay, and have been drawn to the salt firing process because of the ability to let the beauty of the clay body speak for itself as it fuses with salt. The element of surprise that arises from firing to firing with the phenomenon of flashing and variation of salt distribution has always held great interest for me.

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Interview with Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Kathy Pallie will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

Kathy Pallie: Growing up, I was always the artsy-craftsy one, making things out of all different kinds of materials, using lots of different techniques. I loved going to my Dad’s office in New York City where they produced display products/props used in retail store windows and interior displays. To me, it was a magical, fantasy industry.
Though I never had art classes in high school, I decided that art would be my major in college. As a first year art student, I was introduced to clay. I immediately loved the tactile sense of working with clay and creating 3-dimensional objects.

My interest in clay took a back seat to advertising design which was my major within the art curriculum. This was followed by a very exciting career in commercial art designing decorative and functional display products for the retail stores, exhibit world and point-of-purchase industries. Most of these products were 3-dimensional, large scale and fabricated from a variety of materials. It was always exciting and challenging to work with materials that had totally different commercial uses and to create products from them that were applicable to the display field. Much of this was done in foreign countries working with cottage industries, sometimes sitting on the ground outdoors with chickens and roosters strutting by.  

Years later, when I retired and put my hands back into clay, I realized that this was a material that really excited and intrigued me, and one I had to explore in depth. I was hooked! My “clay play days” took over. Now instead of designing products that had to be marketable or meet a client’s design criteria, this was just me, the clay, and the creative process and didn’t need anyone else’s approval. I played with clay with a childlike approach, investigating, experimenting, and learning, as much and as fast as I could.  

Kathy Pallie Ceramics

The 4 Elements – Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, Earthenware, glazes, 18”H x 14” Diameter, 2011 - View Kathy Pallie’s works

Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you get inspiration from and how do you find the journey towards the final outcome?

My inspiration comes from just living and observing and being receptive to what is going on around me. I’ve always been inspired by the unlimited variety of textures, patterns, and energy found in nature. I love to be outdoors skiing, hiking, swimming, watching the changing light patterns from dawn to sunset, seeing flowers bloom and leaves unfurl. I’ll often take photos for reference, pick up pieces of bark to experience the sensation of the surface texture, and closely observe different patterns and details. I interpret my reaction to these things in clay. Though many of my artworks have a trompe l’oeil effect, I am not trying to mimic Nature. Rather, I try to bring the essence of what I have experienced in the outdoors into interior spaces.

Once in the studio, the clay often seems to have a life of its own as it leads me, morphing from one form and concept to another. On other occasions, I can envision the completed piece before even touching the clay.

— The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

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