Kiriko's Kuma section features meticulously picked homewares and tablewares for a den that could only belong to someone who believes that home is where the heart is, but more than that, home is where personal style shines its brightest. The pottery featured on the Kiriko site is both new and old, tablewares range from vintage mashiko spoons straight from Japan, to modern mugs hand-made in Portland, OR. However, one thing remains consistent, Kuma fits the aesthetic of a homeowner who appreciates craftsmanship.
Steve Kelly of Kelly Pottery is one of Kiriko's carefully selected contemporary potters. His work samples a classic aesthetic while utilizing modern shapes and details to produce unique table top essentials. A craftsman with a deep respect for the trade, Kelly's work speaks for itself. Kiriko had the pleasure of getting to know the artist behind the art:
Kiriko Made: When did you first discover you had a talent for making pottery?
Steve Kelly: I threw my first pots in my uncle's studio when I was 10, but I don't think I felt certain that I had talent until my apprenticeship in my twenties.
KM: It seems like theres a rebirth of the "apprenticeship" happening right now for young creatives in the form of an internship. So many twenty somethings search for an internship that will open huge doors for them, but the learning process is often over looked and rushed, it's a race to be famous now, and the internet only indulges this. However, for many neophytes that internship with a big name brand is a lot of monotonous busy work, and its with the small brands that a true apprenticeship is found. What about your apprenticeship illuminated the fact that you had talent?
SK: I think I found my talent in the hard work I did during the apprenticeship. While working to help make someone else's work I began to understand my own. I began to find my own voice during my apprenticeship and I learned the discipline and hard work it takes to run a pottery. My apprenticeship was was a big battle with my own ego. I had to learn to follow someone else's vision and orders. This is something I think many "artists" miss out on. It used to be that both artisan and artist apprenticed because there was no difference between an artisan and an artist. Modernism changed all that and separated the "artists" from the artisans. That was a loss for the artists and a gain for their egos. To truly learn a craft, one must first learn humility.
KM: Is there any advice you would give to a young creative searching for a mentor?
SK: My advice for a younger creative is to find someone who's work you admire and who you respect to be your mentor. Someone you can listen to and who you know has a vast amount of experience, in life and work.
KM: Your artwork, and the art of pottery in general, is unique in the fact that once it's finished, it lives a new life, in the hand of the owner, integrated into a kitchen; it becomes a vital piece of a household. How does this premise affect the way you craft your pieces?
SK: To me that is the best part of what I do. I love that my work gets used. I love that my customers develop a physical relationship to the work. When I make pieces I always consider what it's like to hold the piece, how it feels to drink from the lip of the piece, what a spoon will do inside the bowl. These are such intimate things, and they really effect the way a person related to the object.
KM: Who/what is your greatest influence?
SK: I'm deeply inspired by the Japanese Mingei movement. While I create very contemporary forms, they are strongly rooted in those folk traditions. I love the work of Shoji Hamada and Fukami Sueharu. Mingei is a folk movement that was founded by Yanagi Soetsu a Japanese philosopher. The core of Mingei centers around the ordinary object. Objects that we use everyday. Yanagi believed that the truest test of the aesthetics of a culture is that culture's folk crafts. He said that Art is made by a few for a few and lives outside of individual cultures, while craft or artisan objects are made by many for many and better articulate the nature and aesthetics of a culture. He was fascinated by simple, very pure and strong forms, simple bowls, humble fabrics and other objects that were made by the hands of master makers. He is famous for hid treats on the subject, a book called The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, a must read for any artisan.
Shoji Hamada exemplifies the Mingei potter, his beautiful forms that are both humble and striking are superb. His loose glaze applications and strong utilitarian designs are inspiring as vessels and as expressions of wisdom. They are usually not signed and are not overly embellished. There is a humility to everything he make. Its as if the pot made its self.
As for Fukami his work is very sculptural, but also refined and humble. He doesn't try to do too much in one piece. His work is strongly rooted in form, using celadon glazes he is able to really draw attention to the subtle and powerful abstractions he executes on each piece. His pieces are breath taking in person and I'm always amazed at how clear his ideas are. He's the reason I use celadon so much.
KM: Are there any local artists that inspire you?
SK: As for local artists, there are so many talented makers in this town. I've been lucky enough to share space with some amazing makers: Liza Rietz, Hazel Cox, Emily Bixler, Hsin Yi Haung. I love the sculpture and installation work of Dana Louis. I think Lillith Rocket is an incredible potter. Oregon is blessed with some of our country's best wood fire potters, Stephen Mickey, Richard Brandt, Frank Boyden, Ron Lynn--the list goes on and on.
KM: You're based out of Portland, OR, a haven for creatives, what about this city helps you create?
SK: Portland is a great place for makers. I think it has a lot to do with the ethos of this town. People are always looking for experiences and objects they can't find anywhere else. Portlanders love finding new restaurants, they love supporting new ideas, there is a real emphasis on buying locally made goods, and in this town there are so many great makers, chefs, musicians it's hard to go wrong.
But for me it's just such a beautiful city. I love it here. I love that it's always green. Things are always blooming both literally and figuratively. I love that I rarely have a week where I don't find some new amazing food, store, flower, art, music, trail or person.
When I want to think I walk up the staircases and streets to the top of the hill above my house and then I wander down the Wildwood trail through Balch Gulch in Forest park until it spills back out at my studio. This is the perfect hour and a half walk to get my head screwed on straight.
KM: What do you indulge in, what should we all indulge in more?
SK: I try to surround myself in beautiful hand-made objects, eat good food and travel. I just got back from Santa Fe and while there I picked up an amazing Acoma Seed Pot on the Mesa it was made on. I met the artist, walked his pueblo. I hiked the desert and ate mounds of New Mexican green chile in traditional New Mexican dishes.
I think we should all seek out authentic experiences. I always try to connect with the maker, the place the object is made. I try to avoid chains, malls, cookie cutter culture. It's really important to me to know who made it, where it was made and how.
To shop kelly's work, click here.