CM: Can you talk a little bit about how you achieve a colorful-yet-aged-looking surface on some of your pieces? To what extent do you want or encourage viewers to physically interact with your work?
BK: I strive to create surfaces that appear as much to have happened as to have been made. In part, this is because I want the work to allude to age and an object’s history, but also because I am often awe-struck by the complex beauty of patinas I encounter on wood, stone, and metal. To achieve the surfaces in my work, I have gravitated toward a couple of techniques and materials. I use coarse, non-plastic, stiff clay that includes some burnout materials and soluble salts. By pressing this clay into a variety of molds, the forms retain an overall crispness while the surface texture has pits and fissures. Sometimes the color of the fired clay and the scumming from the soluble salts is the final surface. However, in the more colorful pieces I apply commercial underglazes and stains in multiple firings over a white slip. The subtle variations in color are achieved with applied and wiped copper washes and soluble metallic sulfates.
“Is that solid?” is one of the most frequent questions I am asked about my work (the answer is, “sometimes”). I suspect that this question stems from the visual perception of weight—which we ultimately investigate through touch—being at odds with what we know of the technical limitations of ceramic. Engaging the physicality of these objects is an important aspect of the work. In the larger-scale objects, I am content limiting this engagement to an intellectual level, while in work such as The Artist’s Game, I create opportunities for viewers to supplement the experience and meaning of the work by physically interacting with the pieces.