Virginia studio artist and educator, Kristen Swanson, has had her hands in clay since her sophomore year at Virginia Tech while earning her Bachelor of Science in Education. Upon graduation Kristen taught elementary school for two years and continued to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics in 1998. Kristen has been raising her 3 sons, making pots, and teaching ceramic art to children and adults in her community through her personal studio and classroom, White House Ceramics Studios, ever since. Kristen exhibits her unique porcelain art locally and nationally and participates annually in two regional studio art tours.
Kristen works with a mid-range porcelain grolleg clay body and fires to cone 7 in an electric kiln. Her original designs are all hand painted and carved using a technique called sgraffito, meaning to scratch. She applies pigmented clay slip, or underglaze, to the unfired clay body with a variety of brushes and slip trail bottles to develop the surface of her traditional forms. Once surface work is complete, pieces are bisque fired, clear glazed, and fired a second time to vitrification.
I am committed to making art that is useful and enjoyable. I approach each piece as a problem to solve and an opportunity to communicate my own sense of beauty and order. I am interested in creating visual tension and balance on the surface of my pottery. I enjoy manipulating the elements of line, pattern and color to achieve a surface that is both controlled and spontaneous, graphic and soft. The use of black is visually grounding, balances the femininity of my patterns, and offers the highest contrast to my porcelain clay body. I use a variety of brushes, slip trail bottles and carving tools to create patterns on unfired ware. The use of sgraffito through black slip connects the surface decoration to the porcelain body. The process of working with a creative material, over time, reveals a maker’s true impulses and true sources of inspiration and influence. Only time and the steady pursuit of making will provide this type of knowledge. After 30 years of knowing clay, I remain committed to my work and the slow and steady process of discovery. Every day this strikes me as an enormous gift and an extraordinary way to spend a life.