Art Beat: Nature In Clay

Sep 19, 2019

Ceramic art by Catherine Stasevich
Credit Dawn Soltysiak

To ceramic artist Catherine Stasevich, creating a pot is a long and involved process. She must choose the plants and animals she wants to represent. Then she draws a few preliminary sketches, researching habits and habitat, and finally creates the piece that’s fired in the kiln. The Richland, Michigan, potter mainly uses a Japanese-style wood-fired kiln known as an anagama.

“I started getting pretty serious about getting into ceramics when I was in middle school,” Stasevich says. “Artists all seem to say, ‘I’ve been doing art forever.’ Well, I’ve always been drawing. I figured I’d be one of those people who illustrated science textbooks.”

Stasevich enjoyed creating detailed sketches of plants and animals, inspired by the famous drawings of John James Audubon, an ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. As her interest in pottery grew, she transferred her interest in the natural world to clay rather than paper. By high school, Stasevich says she knew she wanted to be a potter.

Catherine Stasevich
Credit Dawn Soltysiak

“Instead of just making beautiful glazed pottery, I started painting on the pottery and turning the pieces into sculptures instead,” Stasevich says. “I drew a lot of inspiration from old Audubon prints, but also old Japanese wood-block prints, Chinese ink-wash paintings where they were doing those intimate little studies of a little insect on a cherry blossom or something like that. I brought a lot of that influence into my work.”

The wood-fired kiln Stasevich prefers requires a community of people to run it properly.

“You have to tend that fire for 24 hours,” she says. “Most wood-fired kilns will fire for more than one day. You might be putting wood in every five minutes. The potters take shifts. It’s a 2,400-degree fire.”

Catherine Stasevich received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Western Michigan University in 2008 and her Master of Fine Arts from East Carolina University in 2013. She paints functional vessels with a combination of slips, glazes, and commercial products, and sculptural techniques.

Stasevich’s work can be found in the Kalamazoo ARTisans gallery, of which she is the president and founder, in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo, or at Fernwood 1891 and Khnemu Studio in Fennville. Stasevich also features her work at art fairs and juried shows each year. Her work will be on exhibit as part of the annual "Arts and Eats" tour on October 19 and 20 at her Richland studio.

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