Kalamazoo Lively Arts – Michael Kifer’s Clay Studio

Kalamazoo Lively Arts – Michael Kifer’s Clay Studio


– Michael Kifer is known
for his unique pottery, and the vibrant colors he’s
been incorporating into his work over the years. You may have seen him
at the Signature Artist Annual Holiday Sale, or
maybe teaching a class. Let’s learn more
about his process now. – So Michael, what
is your art form? – I’m a ceramic artist. I think of the clay more as
a canvas than I do as a pot. It’s always been that way. I started as a painter and
made the transition into clay while I was still in school, and then went to
an apprenticeship. – And on the website you
have a sign you’re holding that says “Art is Fun!” – That’s the way I think of
art, I think it should be. I think that some people can
explain what their art is, and I’ve kind of always
been more of a visual person and thought if art was
fun and you liked it and it was nice to look at, that was the
important part for me. So I use this, this is a tool. – Oh, it’s got a pattern on it! – And it’s a dole, and so
what I use to do with this is take this. – Oh man. Beautiful. – And then I have a
pattern like that. And what I do is … Lay it down. And take my handle maker, which is ominous, but … About there. And I would roll this
up until it meets. And then I would take
my tool and cut that. Again, this is a
speeded up TV version. – Is this tool specifically
for this purpose? – Yes. Yeah, it’s called
a handle maker. This is a business end
of a pencil sharpener. – Right!
– Yeah. And I use that to
seal the pieces and leave another texture. – I was wondering how you
were going to do that. Make that look all pretty. – But then that would be the
handle, the top and the spout. – Your art is very, the
pottery is very vibrant, the colors are really bright. When did you first become
attracted to pottery? What was it about pottery? – It was the media at
first, it wasn’t the color. And then I made the transition
to a temperature in pottery that’s called “low fire”. And that was a way
of getting the color. And I’ve always loved the color, I’ve always loved things
that were brighter. Fiesta ware and
those kind of pieces have always intrigued me, and I do still like
things that are brown, but I find that my work
is more about color. – When you decide that you’re
going to create a piece, where does the inspiration come? How does the whole
process begin? – I think if you are visual, which I see myself as, it comes from a lot
of different places. And I think it’s
not just a source, I think it’s a
combination of sources that you combine to create one piece. And that’s done in
a sketchbook for me. – And you talk also about maybe going through some
magazines as well, right? – Yeah, I like
fashion magazines, because of the color. And I think that
that also inspires me to come up with ideas for
the forms to put them on. And then this part
of the material, I do a Finnish technique
called “metallic patina”. And that is a
non-fired material. It is similar to shoe polish. – Oh, how interesting.
– In consistency. But that’s what gives
it that unusual, sort of metallic look. – Yeah, well that’s
what I was telling you when I was on your website looking at the beautiful
art pieces, I’m thinking, “Is there some way that he fused “a metal handle to
this, or something?” It really did look like metal. How important is it for artists to have a relationship within
the community that they live? – For a lot of us
it’s very important, because we work alone. And I think for us that is
the professional camaraderie that we need. There are some certain
artists that I know that really aren’t
part of any group, and I’m not sure why that is, but I think that there’s
a lot of strength that comes from that. Here’s another one,
you’ll love that one. Pushing in right
on the top of it. – Like that?
– Just roll, yep. Keep going, there you go. And you can move
your hand again. – [Interviewer] Oh, wow,
that’s so beautiful. – [Michael] Okay, and
that’s the pattern. – [Interviewer] Oh,
that’s so beautiful. – And then this
should be able to be, you can lift it
right up and see it. – It’s beautiful,
it’s interesting. – [Michael] Mm hm, yeah. – And that looks kind of,
almost Victorian-like. With the scroll.
– With the scroll. Yeah, and these actually
remind me of computer boards. – Yes, right!
– Yeah! Yeah, and this is the
starburst, and yeah. So I have a lot of tools
that I use for texturing, including something as
simple as a pencil sharpener. – [Interviewer] Wow. – [Michael] See how
much fun clay is? – [Interviewer] Oh, yeah. – [Michael] And then
you just listen to music and you’re all set. – You’re lost! I bet hours go by, right? – Oh, that’s why I
come to work every day. It is, there’s no reason not to. – You probably come down
here when it’s light out and leave when it’s dark. – Yeah, I do! And even sometimes in the
middle of the night I’m working. – Yeah, I believe
it, I believe it, it’s a peaceful place. Creating art, like
you said, art is fun! – It should be!
– Yeah! – Yeah, you should enjoy it. – My piece! (laughing) So Michael, when you
create your pieces, are they created to be
functional, artistic? – I create them more as visual, and as presentation pieces, serving things that
are collectable. I find that to be more my
function in the clay world than to do functional
casseroles. – Well Michael, I wanted
to thank you so much for inviting me into
your gorgeous studio where all the magic is
made here in Richland. And, you’re living the dream,
man, you’re living the dream. – It is a lot easier
than driving to work. – [Narrator] Support for
Kalamazoo Lively Arts is provided by the Irving
S. Gilmore Foundation, helping to build and
enrich the cultural life

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