Every Vase tells a Story
A fly on the wall of our studio would hear us talk from time to time about old pieces – pieces that are long retired, dust covered, tucked away in the archive room; but very much alive in memory and impacting design years later. One of the most reminisced-about pieces is a waterfall vase, “Water under the Bridge,” made as a showpiece in 2009 by Paul and Kevin. Here is how they remember this pivotal vase:Kevin: “I remember this piece so well for many reasons, but mostly because it arose as a beautiful solution to many technical problems under a tight deadline. We had needed to develop three showpieces – the first two came out beautifully, but the third stubbornly would not come together.

Paul and I realized simultaneously that our initial direction was not going to work and that we needed to abandon that concept. We came together, knowing that we only had one chance to form a successful piece, in this moment of panic and under great time pressure. The crazy part of it was that instead of coming up with a safe solution, we started throwing out complex ideas. We got stuck on the idea of depicting water flowing under a bridge – a theme that had symbolic significance at the time. The plan for this vase was technically complex in every aspect – throwing, sculpting, and glazing, and represented a huge risk. For some reason on that particular day, we were euphorically optimistic and decided to push forward – without a safety net – with our most technically complicated vase to date. Much nervous excitement surrounded this seemingly ridiculous and risky endeavor, so when the waterfall vase came out on the first try as one of our most prized aesthetic and technical accomplishments it was a great relief.”

Paul: “When I think back to this piece, two aspects stand out: The first was the spontaneous nature of the collaboration between Kevin and me. It began as an idea to capture a moving, dynamic scene in nature. We had a photograph of Multnomah Falls in Oregon that we wanted to bring to life on a vase. When two artists work together on a project, there is a fundamental openness that brings out the best in both people, promotes the sharing of ideas, and generates an excitement that fuels the fires of creativity. In a very short amount of time our ideas morphed from conventional solutions to out-of -the-box feats of ceramic engineering.

The second thing I remember about this piece was the technical challenges it presented. From a glazer’s perspective, I was able to communicate with Kevin about the sculpting and we worked out many fine details related to the interaction between the sculpting and the glazing. We could imagine the flowing water that we wished to depict, which was supported by the very nature of our flowing glazes. The glazing itself presented an enormous hurdle, but with determination we were able to achieve exactly what we set out to represent. This piece definitely stands out as one of the best pieces we have created, not just in the beauty of its final form, but in the technical difficulties that we overcame and the magical collaboration involved in its development.”