Kate Lewis

an artist in pursuit of beauty and optimism

Painted Vases Series: A Mother-Daughter Collaboration

Kate Lewis
 The finished vases in Kate's studio

The finished vases in Kate's studio

My mother set up a pottery studio years ago. Over the years I’ve seen her grow and expand not only her physical studio but also her practice. She makes and sells her own work and opens her studio weekly so others can learn how to build and throw.

 My mother, Donna Ewell, throwing a vase at Ewell Farm Studio in Halls, Tennessee

My mother, Donna Ewell, throwing a vase at Ewell Farm Studio in Halls, Tennessee

 Crocheted doilies hanging at Ewell Farm Studio ready to be pressed into clay.

Crocheted doilies hanging at Ewell Farm Studio ready to be pressed into clay.

My father’s woodworking shop is supposed to be half of the studio; however, more often than not his space is overrun by drying plates, pots and serving platters. I overtook it while painting.

 The table where I painted all of the vases. You can see my father's woodworking shop in the background. He creates beautiful wooden bowls and spoons. I hope to collaborate with him in the future. 

The table where I painted all of the vases. You can see my father's woodworking shop in the background. He creates beautiful wooden bowls and spoons. I hope to collaborate with him in the future. 

About 5 years ago I attempted to paint on her work (see below). It was done on a whim during one of our visits and you can also see that my mother was still experimenting with how to get the perfect plate. Since then she has mastered dinnerware, and I’m fortunate to have a full set that we use daily. When a plate or mug breaks, I know who to call to “order” a replacement— a huge benefit to having a potter-mom.

 Plates, Bowls and Cups made by Ewell Farm Studio and painted by Kate in 2013

Plates, Bowls and Cups made by Ewell Farm Studio and painted by Kate in 2013

At the end of 2017, I proposed a collaborative series with my mom. She’s always up for new challenges so I wasn’t surprised when she said yes. Over the following weeks and months we discussed color, shapes, sizes, process and timing. I got a crash course in underglaze, types of clay and bisque firing. 

Once we had the initial plan in place, she diligently created a variety of vases based on sketches I created for her. I looked through my previous paintings to capture the shapes of vases I’ve been painting over the years. 

Before I arrived in Tennessee to paint the vases, I spent several weeks researching ceramic designs and started sketching in my sketchbook then moved to practicing painting on paper cups. Initially I thought I would use lots of colors similar to my paintings; however, as time neared to paint, I decided to limit the unknowns and embrace working with the classic color combo of blue and white. 

 Pencil sketch and watercolor painting on paper cup

Pencil sketch and watercolor painting on paper cup

 Pencil sketch for pitcher

Pencil sketch for pitcher

 Pencil sketch for small vase

Pencil sketch for small vase

My inspiration came from many places; however, three of my greatest sources of inspiration came from the paintings on ceramics by Vanessa Bell (did you know she and Virginia Woolf were sisters?!) and Henri Matisse, the patterns of the French Domino papers, the beautifully crafted and designed works of Royal Copenhagen and Iznik pottery

 Vanessa Bell, British (1879-1961)

Vanessa Bell, British (1879-1961)

 Domino paper. You can read more about this  here

Domino paper. You can read more about this here

 Royal Copenhagen  Jug

Royal Copenhagen Jug

  Inznik , Jar with Tulips

Inznik, Jar with Tulips

The week leading up to our visit, Mom bisque fired the vases. All 25 vases were waiting for me when I arrived in Tennessee with my family for spring break. After the 8 hour car drive from Chicago, I jumped right in and started painting. We fired the first vase that night to see how colors turned out. We had to make a few adjustments and cross our fingers along the way. In the end, our collaboration was a success and I hope this is the first of many. 

 Vases drying at Ewell Farm Studio

Vases drying at Ewell Farm Studio

 Vases being bisque fired at Ewell Farm Studio

Vases being bisque fired at Ewell Farm Studio

Below you will find images from our week together:

 Sketchbook open and midway through painting this whimsical vase. I enjoyed working with the big studio door open. 

Sketchbook open and midway through painting this whimsical vase. I enjoyed working with the big studio door open. 

 Painting one of my favorite designs

Painting one of my favorite designs

 A look at my sketchbook and vases being painted at Ewell Farm Studio

A look at my sketchbook and vases being painted at Ewell Farm Studio

 The last three vases I painted were done with wax resist then dipped in blue glaze. We are thrilled with how these came out. More of these to come, I hope!

The last three vases I painted were done with wax resist then dipped in blue glaze. We are thrilled with how these came out. More of these to come, I hope!

 My daughter painting her own vase alongside me at Ewell Farm Studio. Perhaps this is foreshadowing of a future collaboration. 

My daughter painting her own vase alongside me at Ewell Farm Studio. Perhaps this is foreshadowing of a future collaboration. 

The completed vases in my Chicago studio:

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All of the vases will be available soon for purchase on this web site. Please join my email list below if you would like to be the first to know!