Artist Interviews

Meet James Kelly

James Kelly - Tea Pot
James Kelly – Tea Pot
Please introduce yourself:

I’m James Kelly and I’m a potter living in Denver CO. I’ve had a love for ceramics since I took my first class in high school in Michigan. Working with clay is a like working with no other medium, there are endless possibilities. I moved to Colorado after college with a friend looking for a new adventure. The reality of life set in and I ended working all sorts of jobs and clay took a back seat to life for about 10 years. I finally got my nerve up to apply to the Potter’s Guild and was accepted in 2010. Shortly after that I met my beautiful wife and we were married in 2013. We then bought a house and converted the garage into my studio. Since then I have been working to create work that I feel is good enough to share with the world.

How many years have you been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I’ve been a member for 7 years.

James Kelly - Vase Trio
James Kelly – Vase Trio
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

For me being a member means being part of a community of like-minded individuals. We all share the same desire to create, and the guild provides us that opportunity.  It’s gratifying being a part of a group of peers that all have a passion for clay.

How many years have your been working with clay?

I’ve been working with clay off and on since 1991. 

James Kelly - Ewer
James Kelly – Ewer
Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?  

I have a BFA in Ceramics from Northern Michigan University and first fell in love with clay in high school where we had a fully functional ceramics studio. 

James Kelly - Soda Fired Bud Vases
James Kelly – Soda Fired Bud Vases
How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

Most of my work is either wheel thrown, hand built, or a combination of those two processes. I primarily work with porcelain and fire my work in the soda kiln. I spray my work with various combinations of slips and glazes to create flowing surfaces that are enhanced by the soda firing process. Soda firing is where soda ash is dissolved in water and sprayed through ports in the kiln near the hottest point of the firing and the soda ash is vaporized and swirls throughout the kiln reacting with the glazes, slips, and raw clay to create unique surfaces that capture the essence of the firing. 

What does “being creative” mean to you?

For me “being creative” means taking the time to get lost in something. It can be anything as long as it’s getting my full attention. The act of making can take you so many different directions and it’s that exploration of ideas and possibilities that fuels creativity. 

James Kelly - Tea Pot and Cup
James Kelly – Tea Pot and Cup
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I wish I had some routines that I followed on regular basis. I often struggle to follow any normal work pattern. Each time I sit down in my studio I am somewhat starting from scratch. I certainly have physical processes I follow for making certain things every time, but my end result each time evolves at least a little from the time before. That evolution is what keeps it interesting for me.

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

There are always new obstacles when working with clay. There are so many factors that effect the final result. I could spend a lifetime experimenting and still not scratch the surface of possibilities with this material. For me the biggest challenge has always been how to finish my work. That final step of the glaze firing cements your idea for eternity. Finding a pallete of glazes and surfaces is an ongoing challenge that I doubt I’ll ever fully master. Certainly trial and error is the best way I learn and overcome certain challenges. 

James Kelly - Soda Fired Bud Vases
James Kelly – Soda Fired Bud Vases
Do you pursue any themes in your art work?

The only real theme of my work is the consistency of the clay I use and the way I fire my work. Themes change with each batch of work to some extent, depending what I’m making. I think developing a consistent theme is something I’m striving for but have yet to achieve.

Who or what inspires you?

I draw inspiration from all sorts of places. Certainly my college professor Sam Chung has had a lasting impression on me. I am inspired by the simple clean lines of mid century modern architecture and furniture, as well as the random organic shapes found in nature. 

Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

Over the next year I hope to see my work progress into a more cohesive style that helps define me as a ceramist. 

Where can people find your work?

Instagram @redbeardceramics 
Other than the two annual shows put on by the Colorado Potters Guild I try to participate in a few local craft fairs throughout the year as well as trying to get into a few gallery shows. 

2 thoughts on “Meet James Kelly

Comments are closed.