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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Begin with two pounds of wedged stoneware clay, formed into a pyramid or other geometric shape. Let the clay rest for two hours.
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.
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.
The top is the last part to shave off. Holes are then poked into the clay to accommodate flower and leaf stems.
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.
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.
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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