Senior Thesis Spotlight: Katie Maloney

Katie Maloney Invitation Image

What are you currently working on? What is the main focus of your thesis?

Basically, my pieces are figuring out a way to relate animal forms and some natural forms like leaves into functional vessels.  I guess it’s sort of a statement on how the animate wildness that we’re pretty detached from, currently and especially in my generation, can be integrated with human domestic ritual, and the daily use of these bowls and pitchers and teapots.  These pieces being representative of animals can remind us not only of personal memories we might have with animals, but also that similar feeling or curiosity that children so easily have, and that feeling of tactile imagination with the natural world that we sort of grow more detached from as we get older and more domesticated.

You grew up on a farm, has that experience made an impact on the content you choose to represent?

Yeah, I spent most of my time outside when I was younger, and I was also home schooled so I could do homework outside.  I played in the woods a lot and I worked in the fields and in general interacted with nature a lot.  I was pretty fascinated by animals and bugs and plants and everything, and gained a personal relationships with creatures in the natural world.  And now I’m realizing how much that’s influenced what I want to do with my pottery, and that I also really enjoy the process of sculpting animals.  I’m sure I’d enjoy sculpting other things too, but I especially like the way that creatures like birds and foxes look when they’re in ceramic form.  I’m also basing some of what I do off of ancient pottery, like Peruvian or Pre-Columbian pots, where animals were represented very commonly.  I think a lot of the pottery then was, yes, used for functional purposes, daily use, but also for more ritualistic, sacred purposes.  Daily practice and religion were much more integrated than they are in our modern life.  I feel like now when animals are show in artwork it’s more of this sort of cheesy cutesy thing.  It’s not really upholding the sacredness of the animate form.  So, right now, I’m firing pieces in the wood kiln, and letting things take on this natural form or look.  Although they are painted and detailed, they’re not pristine.  I want them to look old and more similar to ancient pottery.

So would you say you derive more inspiration from modern ceramicists, or the unknowns who made these ancient artifacts?

Well, I think it’s both.  I think my forms and my style are way more modern.  I prefer things that have really smooth clean lines and things that have really detailed mark-making and carving, but I guess the way that the animals are integrated with the pot is based on ancient pottery more than it is with modern pottery.  [Ancient pottery] acts as more of a driving inspiration more so than actually copying forms.

How much of a role does the planning stage have?  Do you idealize the outcome and know what you want before you start, or does improvisation play a bigger role?

Yeah, I mean, I think both.  Some pieces I have a very clear idea and I execute that idea.  Those usually end up being my most successful pieces.  I have this one teapot that’s also sort of a swan and I feel like that’s one of my most successful.  I had that moment of, “Oh! I’m gonna do this,” and the image was totally in my brain, so I sat down and drew it, and made it relatively quickly.  Those moments are always really nice, but they don’t always happen.  Then, sometimes the level of inspiration sometimes come from what animals I want to represent, what type of piece I want to make.  So, sometimes I’ll have that idea and not really know what it will look like until I start making it.  I haven’t really drawn as much as I thought I would.  With pottery, I think it comes together best when I just start making it.

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