Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Karin Kraemer Talks About Pottery and the Upcoming Empty Bowl Fundraiser

Karin Kraemer has been a fixture of the Twin Ports arts scene since I first arrived on these shores in 1986. A long time friend of the Duluth Arts Institute (DAI), she is also a lover of music and has played in a number of area jugbands along the way. She's an active player in the DAI's annual Empty Bowl fundraiser, helping to promote it and making bowls that others can paint, it seemed like a good time to feature Karin here because Empty Bowl is just around the corner.

Ennyman: When did you first take an interest in the arts?
Karin Kraemer: I've been making things since I was gluing things to my Mom's carpet in the living room. I started getting serious about it in college.

E: How did you get into pottery as your chosen field?
KK: Well, I was a glassblower for the first 10 years of working as an artist, and then switched to clay in West Virginia. I had worked in clay, and got to take it again at Pigeon Lake Art Camp. Doug Johnson and Kurt Wild taught us to make a kiln out of anything, and be experimental. When I moved to West Virginia and didn't have a glass studio to work in, I started pit firing clay in the back yard, and haven't stopped playing with it since.

E: What's the name of your studio and how long have you been in operation?
KK: My studio is the Duluth Pottery, Superior Division. I have been here for 10 years, and worked at the Duluth Art Institute for three years before that. What a great place to work. I taught classes, worked on clay, and got a leg up in the incubator of the clay studio.

E: You sell a fair amount of work which means you have a sense of what "the audience" wants. Do you see a significant difference between functional art (pottery for example) and "fine art"?
KK: They are both "art" and both "functional". A Bowl has the job of holding your food in a beautiful way, and allows you to interact with living, eating and sharing food with others in a beautiful way. A Painting allows you to interact in the world, and have a conversation about beauty, content, and our interpretations.

E: Where do you get your inspiration from?
KK: I love being outside, seeing the flowers, architecture, the garden growing, the lake.

E: Who have been your biggest influences?
KK: Many people. I love the painters of the beginning of the 20th century. Monet, Manet, Matisse. For Clay, I love the potters and sculptures that I see as devoting their lives to clay and art and the exploration of it all. Warren McKenzie is amazing. He made it possible for folks like me to have a life as a studio potter. Local heroes: Bob and Cheryl Husby, Dick Cooter, Jim Grittner.

E: Tell us about the Empty Bowl event...
KK: Empty Bowl, (like others around the country) is a collaborative event benefiting the Second Harvest Food Bank. Many bowls are made at the schools, the Duluth Art Institute, Lake Superior College, Duluth Pottery and through many individual donors. (Bowl makers.) I wanted to see the Superior side of the River get involved, since both Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota's food shelves are fed by Second Harvest. So, we make many bowls and invite folks to come in and paint them with colorful Majolica glazes to contribute to the fund raiser. Wednesdays, 12:00pm til early evening, come on in and decorate bowls! 715-399-0921

E: How did it start and who can participate?
KK: Empty Bowl was the Brainchild of Dave Lynas and Linda Hebenstreit at the Duluth Art Institute 18 years ago.

E: When is the actual day of the event and where?
KK: This year the Sea of Bowls (preview of the bowls when they are priced according to market value) is on April 25, 5-7pm. The main event is Tuesday the 26th, 10am - 6:30 pm. There is a silent auction of the areas most wonderful artists. All the rest of the bowls are $15 all day. Soup is on, and lots of entertainment.

Duluth Pottery, Superior Division is located at 916 Hammond in the Trade and Commerce Marketplace (the actual National register name of the historic bldg.)
You can see more of her pottery at

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