Ceramic artist Kristen Keiffer shares her process during a workshop at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Saturday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Inside the ceramics studio at Roswell’s Museum and Art Center Saturday, pottery students watched as one of the country’s more revered ceramic artists stood before them and shaped a piece of clay.
Master Studio Potter Kristen Kieffer dipped her hand in water and smoothed it over the inverted cone of clay, stretching out the medium as she lectured.
“I’m very aware it’s a constant battle for me, wanting things to be functional,” Kieffer told them. “I have a mission statement: to bring the ornate to the everyday.”
With the cost of her wheel-thrown, hand-stamped and satin-glazed coffee cup at $60, the 22-year veteran artist has managed to succeed in her mission. Her work has been featured in several mainstream magazines, sold throughout the country and online, and the five workshops she teaches each year are in high demand.
“It’s nice to experience other cultures in the country every state has its own personality,” Kieffer said. “I’m married but I work alone a lot so its nice to socialize and get out and hang out with other people.”
Roswell’s class took a turn when one of the handles Kieffer worked with began to take a familiar shape.
“She’s making a UFO!” said one of the students.
“Obviously that’s never come up in another workshop before,” she said.
Stylistically, Kieffer said her work is unique. She uses stamping and complex surfaces, which include taking a thinned layer of pottery to paint finishing designs before using a specialized glaze. Roswell students were able to get insight into these techniques at the two-day class.
“I’m showing them how I do specific techniques, but it’s very much about as an artists, wanting to share how I came to the decisions of making what I do, where my influences come from, and how I bring those together to create the uniqueness,” Kieffer said.
Crystal Allison of Roswell attended the weekend course. A 25-year pottery enthusiast, Allison said she is always interested in learning other ideas.
“I’m really into the texture and stamps and stuff,” Allison said. “She has a different way of doing that. We all felt really lucky that she was going to come.”
Two years of work to convince the ceramic superstar to bring her workshop to Roswell paid off for the local Potter’s Guild. Megan Heil, the guild’s president, became infatuated with Kieffer’s work when she first saw it on the cover of “Ceramics Monthly.”
“I was smitten with everything about her art,” Heil said during a break Saturday. “It was like a new technique, a new shape than what I was seeing come out of studios.”
Kieffer’s delicate, feminine pottery is described as Victorian modern luxury. One line features a vase in the shape of a woman’s corset.
“We’re always wanting to see new techniques, new styles, new methods,” Heil said. “By bringing in nationally known artists, we can build a repertoire of techniques.”
Kieffer’s work will be added to the studio’s touch library, a collection of artwork left by visiting artists, where students can revisit her pieces, feel and see the construction and surmise how they were made.
Workshop students included people from El Paso, Las Cruces and other areas besides Roswell, Heil said. Hopefully the workshops open minds about the area’s art scene, she said.
“There is more to art than just Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico,” she said. “People in this area don’t know how much art is down here.”