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Santa Barbara Ceramics Studio - Black & White Gallery

The following are a series of questions posed to Douglas Kenney from May 29, 2008.

  • You have been a ceramic artist form many years now, how do you keep your work fresh?

    I never do copies of my older work. I take chances trying to make art out of each piece. I am always making new underglaze colors by blending the ones I have with new ones.

  • How has living in Hawaii influenced you?

    In Hawaii nature is a powerful force. I live in a blue house, the sky and ocean are vivid. Botanical gardens, bright flowers and palm fronds have made their way into my work some by imprinting and others by interpretation. I have been covering the earthy sculpture clay with white slip. The result is the underglaze designs become more vivid.

  • Can you inform me about some of your techniques, and why you use them?

    I fire my ceramics to Orton Cone 5, 2185 F because I found a low shrinkage sculpture clay that works perfect with underglazes for big pieces. The finished work is super durable when complete after a clear glaze firing. On some work I use overglazes and metallic lusters. I fire these to 1400 F close to Orton cone 017. I do this type of firing to add another layer of visual information and light. Most of my art is made from slabs and I make the plates on a potters wheel. Occasionally, I like to throw big vases with white clay on the wheel. It's a great tool once you understand how it works. Most of the color on my art comes from underglazes. I am doing more brushing and splashing of underglazes than spraying these days. I spray some underglazes though, and usually the clear glaze afterwards.

  • You make a tremendous volume of work in your studio, what motivates you to maintain that effort?

    I create better work when I am working on many pieces at the same time. In Hawaii we have great light here. I have a lot of windows in the studio. Winning competitions and having museums and galleries show my art are big incentives to keep creating.

  • How do you gain attention for your work?

    Because I make large ceramic objects their size alone makes other pieces seem small in comparison. The scale impresses. I create art for large spaces. My ceramic art stands out. It is important to document your art with good photography. I sell many pieces from email images. Articles in ceramic trade magazines and local newspapers give credibility to your work. I have a brochure and print postcards periodically.

  • Where do you see your vision taking you in the future?

    I would like to create more of the square plate modular walls like my installation at Nuu'anu Gallery, March 2008 Honolulu. The curved plates with the curved wall had a great visual effect. Then, do a series of (8 ft.) totem poles - some with water features, some that will be lights. Eventually, I want to buy a larger kiln and expand the studio. I'd like to create more 1 meter plates the same size as when I was in Shigaraki 13 years ago.

In Hawaii nature is a visceral force. The sky and ocean are vivid shades of blue, as is my house. Botanical gardens, brilliant fiery flowers, textured palm fronds, all make their way into my work either through imprinting or interpretation.

Artist Statement

Kenney says, "My abstract ceramic pieces are experiments in design. Finding balance between geometric and organic is my goal, like the ideal relationship between humankind and the environment. Abstract design welcomes a little chaos, so long as it does not affect the craftsmanship or integrity of the piece." The forms, colors and glazing and firing techniques of Kenney's work have been developed over three decades of working with clay. Living in Hawaii for 11 years has put a little twist of Hawaii into the visual language of the surface decorations.

Kenney's original concept of old and new ceramics (developed in graduate school) is now an abstracted version of the same idea. He uses traditional forms plates and vases along with stack forms, sculpture and tile to display this surface treatment. Kenney say's, "The excitement in ceramics for me comes from the process of making objects and the finished product when displayed. I like bright colors that stand out while the layering of information creates an illusion of depth. The approach is similar to that of abstract paintings but with ceramics the shape of each object and the permanence of firing make a unique statement."

The latest challenge Kenney is faced with is the completion of the 50' X 30' new studio that is to be built next to his new house on a 1.81 acre property in the Mt. Helix area of San Diego County. It is here where Kenney will continue his ceramic art making endeavors. The new state of the art studio is to be nestled among 85 foot pine trees on a 125' X 65' building pad.

Kenney's ceramic art is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, the City of Honolulu, and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park Museum, in Japan. His art has been exhibited in many important cities throughout the United States, Paris, Tokyo, and Seoul

Read More:Douglas Kenney Bio