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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Fearless color

"Fruit Bowl" by Michael Kifer
Courtesy of the artist
/
Michael Kifer
"Fruit Bowl" by Michael Kifer

There is a vibrant rainbow of colors – bright reds, fiery oranges, lush greens, buttery yellows. And there’s the trademark black line that shoots across the bowl or the vase or the mug. You know right away that it is the work of ceramicist Michael Kifer. The Richland resident has spent his entire adult life devoted to creating his unique pottery.

A conversation with ceramicist Michael Kifer

“The color is inspired by the music I listen to in the studio,” Kifer says. “I’ve always been a student of music. I started out in a rock ‘n roll band and have continued on with jazz and blues and rock ‘n roll. I don’t think about what I’m doing. I turn it off and listen to the music. I’m inspired by what’s going on, and when I see something starting to develop, I just follow that line and keep going.”

Michael Kifer at work in his studio
Courtesy of the artist
/
Michael Kifer
Michael Kifer at work in his studio

Along with the bright colors of his pottery, Kifer has also started to add a distinctive black line across his bowls and vases and mugs. He says he started to add that just in the last couple of years.

“I stayed away from black for quite a while,” Kifer says. “And then I decided that I needed something to add more punch, more drama. I make that line with a handmade brush that I make out a skunk tail. I don’t kill skunks. I re-use roadkill. They have a soft, fuzzy part of the tail and then there’s a stiff, bristly part of it at the tip. That’s what makes the line more unique.”

Kifer’s ceramics are often on sale in area farmers markets, various galleries, and shops. On February 24, 2024, his artwork will be available at the Kalamazoo Garage Sale Art Fair, held at the Kalamazoo Expo Center, 2900 Lake Street. There is a five-dollar entry fee, and the fair is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with food available. The fair features more than 160 artists selling their overstock and seconds at bargain prices.

“And it’s not just local artists,” Kifer says. “There are people who come from Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, from all over.”

Kifer ran the show for many years with another artist friend but sold it recently to the Michigan Guild of Art and Artisans, which runs the summer Ann Arbor Art Fair. The Kalamazoo Garage Sale Art Fair is in its 26th year.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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