Louisville Clay Members Gather for an Evening with Kristian Stephens

Kristian Stephens, as a ceramic artist and floral designer in Louisville, creates compositions that are sensitive gestures of calmness, space, balance and love of nature.

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The basis of Kristian’s floral arrangement is the practice of Ikebana, a refined expression of an artist’s personal philosophy. Add to this the unique sculpted vases she makes to interact sublimely with leaves and flowers, and we have one art form influencing another.

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Kristian explained that Ikebana is a form of flower arranging developed in Japan; was prominent in the 14th century; and is popular today, with over 3000 schools teaching the art form.

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Ikebana is a three-pronged process based on: simplistic design; a minimal number of flowers; and meditating while designing. The designer’s state of mind is actually more important than the flowers. As Kristian said; “Ikebana is all about the love and need of the artist.”

Using a highly systematic method of floral arrangement, the mind is freed to become integrated with nature and self. Only 2 or 3 flowers are used in which each flower occupies a specific space. The tallest flower represents the sky; the middle sized flower represents the human; the lowest plant, the earth.

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Integral to this meditative approach are the beautiful unglazed clays of Kristian’s vases. Here’s how she creates the natural forms that hold her floral arrangements.

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Begin with two pounds of wedged stoneware clay, formed into a pyramid or other geometric shape. Let the clay rest for two hours.

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In order to lighten the lower portion of the form, press a hole in the bottom of the clay that only reaches a few inches into the clay.

Take time to press the clay walls out to widen the opening and smooth out any air bubbles, leaving thick walls.

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When the clay form has dried to the “just right” consistency, begin shaving the outside walls. Kristian exclaimed that this is real fun and relaxing for the artist.

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The top is the last part to shave off. Holes are then poked into the clay to accommodate flower and leaf stems.

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The vases are bisque fired then fired to cone six with no glaze. For a vase to hold water, a clear glaze is added to the opening where the stems reside.

“It’s all about the way that the space is used. Every flower placement, every slice of clay, has a huge meaning and presence.” We all felt the importance of Kristian’s words.

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Following Kristian’s demonstration, the group’s energy level exploded. Our exuberance came from our understanding that our own art can be a successful expression of appreciation for nature, space, and raw clay. Thanks Kristian for creating vases that express Ikebana so well.

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And to make our evening more wonderful we joined Elmer Lucile Allen in celebration of her 88th birthday. She is a great friend to many of us at Louisville Clay.

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The work of Kristian Stephens can be seen at:
Lady Made Pottery
ladymadepottery@gmail.com

Shop Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ladymadepattery

Kristian Meade

Floral Design and Event Styling
Kristian Meade Florisrty@gmail.com

Artist Matt Mitros at I.U.S. Ceramic Department – 3D Printer Technology

It takes a lot of skill and attention to be both a focused artist and teacher. Brian Harper, ceramic teacher at I.U.S., made this evident by bringing Matt Mitros to campus to work with students.

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Matt Mitros demonstrates 3D printing at I.U.S. Ceramic Department

If you read our previous blog you know about Matt’s innovative art. Let’s now take a look at his presentation about ceramic 3D printing.

Matt began by demonstrating Rhinoceros, a 3D graphics and computer-aided design (CAD) application. Using this software, Matt designs objects and molds for objects in his art practice. He uses Rhino to operate a CNC router to carve molds from solid blocks of plaster.

Aware that students learn best through hands-on involvement, Mitros facilitated group design of a ceramic vessel using Potter Draw software. Laughter ensued as students created a fanciful vessel on  screen.

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Students create design for 3D printing using Potter Draw

Next, Matt shot the design to a program, called Slic3r, located on a computer attached to a 3D printer. Slicer programs put designs into layers;  create codes that determine scale and wall thickness; and can design inside and outside walls of a pot differently. These aspects of 3D printing alone distinguish this technology from wheel-throwing, even hand building, with clay.

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3D printer before attaching clay extruder

As Matt worked with the hand-made 3D printer that he brought to class, we were able to watch the pressure extruder, mounted on the printer, as it emitted clay through a nozzle to create a vessel and a honeycomb relief pattern that Matt uses in his sculpture.

 

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Mitros operating the 3D printer

 

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Students watching exruder in action

Mitros made the point that he works with printers in order to be innovative with the technology and to add to the conceptual framework of his sculpture. Furthermore, Matt loves textural qualities of clay that physically show the process of creation. For example, he casts clay into plaster molds and doesn’t remove the seam lines. He often produces objects on printers that show each layer produced by the nozzle.

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Cup extruded from 3D printer

 

As a grand finale, Matt Mitros demonstrated a specific use of the printer that he uses extensively: one object, such as a clay-printed toy, can be attached directly on top of another, such as a clay-printed potato.

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Bio Rad #13, 2017, mixed media, showing printed honeycomb pattern

 

It’s all about having fun with machines to create new ideas and new art objects.