Playfully Macabre Potter: Kristin Morris of KL Morris Studios

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Another rad member of CAW (Creative Arts of Women)Kristin Morris, has been on my radar for an interview ever since I saw some of her amazingly crafted sculptures…such a great sense of humor and creativity comes through every piece she makes and I just had to learn more about her, her process and her art. She graciously allowed me to visit her at her home aka studio where we discussed art, creepy tv shows and she gave me a tour of her two, yes, two!, studios and introduced me to her cutie pie dog, Charlie.

Charlie, my new friend!!
Charlie, my new friend!!
Springfield OH is her hometown and although she has traveled the world, Ohio has always been her home. She comes by her artistic passions honestly as there have been artists on both sides of her family. Her father did scientific illustrations of his work as a geologist, her great uncles were painters, her mom is a potter and her brother is also an artist (when he’s not being a doctor)!  Her artistic career began when she was a mere child (age 6) because she would accompany her folks to art shows and she wanted to sell something, too.  So…’I made little snakes out of coils of clay and sold them for 25 cents each and that was my start!’
Caterpillar:Alice In Wonderland at Cultural Arts Center Loft gallery December 2013
Caterpillar:Alice In Wonderland at Cultural Arts Center Loft gallery December 2013
Ever since she can remember, she has been drawing and sculpting, especially.  Whenever there was a project in school, and she could incorporate art into it,  she did.  Then when she was around 11 or 12 at an art show,  another vendor introduced her to Sculpey and, guess what?  She got hooked! That hook has only expanded with time and now she uses Super Sculpey, Apoxie Sculpt, and stoneware clay in a lot of her work.
Silverfish
Silverfish
 She loves the medium of Apoxie Sculpt because  she can attach things with it.  For example:
 When I was making one of my fish (which was made out of stoneware clay), I wanted to attach pop tabs to the surface to make scales. I couldn’t just glue them on because the pop tabs wouldn’t stick to the curved surface with regular glue.  So, I made little balls of Apoxie Sculpt and embedded them in it and it worked great!  Then I stuck little balls on top and made a pattern and it went perfectly with the design! I love using Apoxie Sculpt.  The great thing about it is that it is self- hardening so no kiln or oven is needed!
That sounds like fun doesn’t it? I guess I have to preface that with I LOVE playing with clay and anything that resembles it!
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Oh, and wait till you hear this…now I know why I love her work so much….she is inspired by Tim Burton and his many eerie characters such as those in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and Frankenweenie!!!  His style of artwork along with Chris Mars, Mark Ryden, Gary Basemen, Brom, American McGee, Brian and Wendy Froud, Jim Henson, and many of the pop surrealists, always gets the juices flowing for her. And, guess what else?  She loves dark art that is bordering on creepy and especially all of the detail in Oaxacan wood carvings and Day of the dead folk art.  Boy, she IS my kinda girl!  (Halloween and all being my fav holiday and the creepier the better all year round!) But she isn’t entirely into the creepshow, she  also enjoys  children’s literature and enjoys creating  characters from fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhymes as can be seen in her work for the Alice in Wonderland Show.  As she puts it:  My artwork tends to be more off-the-wall so I enjoy things that challenge the imagination!
Mock Turtle
Mock Turtle
First, she attended The College of Wooster for an undergrad degree in Studio Art. Later attended the Columbus College of Art And Design full and part- time for 3 years as an Illustration major, taking 3D Illustration and mold making courses while there.
Over the ensuing years, she worked a variety of jobs and eventually, co-workers and friends encouraged her to return to academia to pursue a degree in social work.  In 2003 she received her master’s in Social Work from Ohio State but after working for a while in this field, she decided it wasn’t for her.  What she would really like to do is combine her art with helping others as an art therapist.  However, that would mean another degree…yikes!…and that was just not something she wanted.  That led her to return to her true passion, sculpting. So, she made a real commitment to her art and, luckily for us, made it her profession.
When asked to categorize her art she views it as a combination of 3D illustration and pop surrealism, leaning towards folk art at times, and  “dark art” at others. However, one of her teachers described it more succinctly as “playfully macabre”  and I would totally agree!
Clownfish
Clownfish
What’s also really cool about her work, as with many artists, is that it isn’t stagnant. It keeps evolving as she tries new media.  When she started years ago,  she sold cement garden art, but  it got too labor intensive so she switched to just doing tiles. Although she still makes the tiles, they are now made out of clay instead of cement. Another example was  making latex hand puppets- but those didn’t sell very well, so she moved to another medium.  Over the years, she has had jobs sculpting for haunted houses- making props, and corpses, skeletons, etc., and that was a lot of fun- however it was more seasonal. So once again, she recreated herself! Now, she’s focusing on (and enjoying!)  found object sculptures out of clay, wood, and metal “bits,” and stoneware clay sculptures. With all of that evolution, she thinks that she is starting to find a niche for herself- and, hopefully, more places to exhibit her work.
Two of her artful dolls
Two of her artful dolls
Of course, like most artists I have interviewed, she loves continuing to improve her skills and has taken numerous classes at the Cultural Arts Center. Currently, she is taking a ceramics class with Eric Rausch from whom she has learned some new techniques in clay and finds him to be a “great teacher.”  She also credits Walter Herrmann– another one of her ceramics instructors- with teaching her a tremendous amount about clay. With their encouragement, she hopes to begin exploring the use of under glazes in her clay work.
What was really cool about being in her studios (one upstairs where she works with sculpey and Apoxie Sculpt and downstairs where she does her clay work and stores her found objects) was seeing her works in progress. Currently, she is sculpting her own faces,etc. on wooden nutcrackers, making funky plant holders, little clay snowmen and fun faces.  I was totally fascinated by everything!!!  No joke; everything she is preparing for upcoming shows is just beyond belief, quirky and unique. “Sometimes I start with a drawing to get a basic idea of what I want it to look like so I have some sense of a starting point- and then I just go from there.  Other times I start sculpting and it just evolves on its own. I may start sculpting one type of thing and then it quickly turns into something totally different.  Often times these turn out to be the best pieces!”
I just loved that she uses things like the nutcrackers, popsicle sticks, clothespins and so many other found objects as foundations for her creations.
 works in process
works in process

Dolls are another media that fascinate her, leading her to join a local group of nontraditional doll makers called the Guilded Lilies. Through this group,she learned of the Artistic Figures in Cloth and Clay Conference Every other year, she attends 3 days of classes where artists and dollmakers from across the country learn techniques from nationally prominent instructors -held in Columbus, OH.  Artists from as far away as Israel have participated in this and Kristin has not only  created some pretty amazing dolls over the last 6 years but has also had some of them featured in the Show and Tell section of Art Doll Quarterly magazine a few years back.

Dolls made with clothespins and popsicle sticks
Dolls made with clothespins and popsicle sticks

Her work is available in several venues.  Her business is KL Morris Studios and she has an Etsy.com shop called klmorrisstudios which she uses sporadically.  For over 10 years, she has sold in shops, galleries and art shows, too.  At the present times, it is available at:  The Cultural Arts Center Gift Shop (Columbus, OH), Clash- Consignment and Art Gallery (Dayton, Ohio), and Oakland Nursery Gift Shop (New Albany, Johnstown Rd.- tiles and seasonal work). Last weekend, she participated in the nursery’s fall festivities where she demonstrated her sculpting for customers.  She will also be participating in Cultural Arts Center’s Studio Sale on November 20 -21.

Kristin with one of her latex puppets
Kristin with one of her latex puppets
In addition to that, she had a phenomenal collection of fish at the Remnants Show held at Urban Arts Space from May- July with other members of CAW.  She also had a booth at The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Fest and will be participating in the Craftin’ Outlaws Holiday Show at the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the first time Sat. November 14th as well as selling her work with other members of Ohio Designer Craftsmen during the Gifts of the Craftsman exhibition at Ohio Craft Museum on Fifth Avenue November 8-December 23. In addition, she will be part of the upcoming CAW show, a little bit closer,  at The Vanderelli Room beginning November 13th.  Then in October of 2016, Kristin, Kate Morgan and Debbie Loffing will have their own show at The Vanderelli Room.  Her long term goal, however, is to find a venue for a solo show.
Whew!
More latex puppets
More latex puppets
I am so happy that I got a chance to know this lady (and, of course, her sweet pup!) a little better and to see so much more of what and where she creates!!  I certainly cannot wait to see what she presents in her upcoming shows!!
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3 thoughts on “Playfully Macabre Potter: Kristin Morris of KL Morris Studios

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