Carol Long is an extremely talented artist working in St. John, Kansas. Her work is lyrical, playful and stunningly well-executed. Carol’s elaborate forms and surface details reflect her childhood experiences growing up around plants and animals on a family farm. Her technical proficiency reflects years as a working potter as well as countless hours she puts into each of her individual pieces.
Below is one of Carol’s sculptural vases called “Lidded Butterfly”. Following the first photo is a close up of one section of the piece showcasing Carol’s skills at slip trailing, glazing and overall design. I love the palette, too.
JTW: Will you describe your creative process more fully?
CL: Throwing, extruding, slab, and casting are the main methods.
Although it took years get over the fact that I could use a thrown form as a starting point instead of an ending, I am intrigued by the manipulation of an existing form. Producing a harmony between the visual and the structural is a thrill.
On the other hand, casting bypasses forming pieces. In some projects that is preferable. For instance, construction of a lidded box may not expand my clay experience but having the box to start with allows more time for surface design. Even so I am tempted to alter them.
JTW: Do you plan out your pieces (for example, sketching or prototyping in some way) or work more intuitively and just start building?
CL: Intuitively. A plan may suggest that I know the ending to the story. Plans are quickly changed with a push here and a squeeze there.
JTW: What are your sources of inspiration? (You mention “botanical life and hidden aspects of nature” – can you expand on that?
CL: I like to make pieces that have a visual flow of growth. Like it could change shape when you look away. Handles that reach out into negative space like a vine or a squiggle on a page, animals that are in motion, the foot of a vase that may have flapped in the wind are ways to evoke nature.
The extruded chrysalis forms take the idea of a tiny hiding place to a large vessel.
JTW: I see some references to Art Nouveau in some of your tile on IG. Almost Tiffany-glass-like. Am I off base here?
CL: You are correct. I strive for the gracefulness of Art Nouveau.
Slip trailing is the white lines between different colored glazes. It is like cake decorating and has the visual effect of stained glass, cloisonne, cartoons, and coloring books.
JTW: You also mention that your work continues to evolve. Can you sketch out that evolution for us?
CL: Through the years my style has changed from obvious thrown pieces with geometric surface designs to free and flowing forms and surface designs. I don’t mean to suggest that the later has come about by accident, like the work starts perfect and then I mess it up and call it art. It has been intentional changes to forms that I want to look effortless.
The joy in making the piece and the delight of the viewer is my goal. I look forward to my time working in clay because there is always something to discover. Clay is limitless.
JTW: What first attracted you to ceramics?
CL: It could have been little tikes electric wheel I had when I was a kid or the cattle syringe I used as a slip trailer in the mud of our driveway. I grew up on a farm and there is no end to finding ways to create in the country with no one looking over your shoulder. High school art class was the first serious experience. I had great instructors in college and I spent all my time in the ceramics lab. I’m glad I passed my other courses. I married a farmer and moved to another farm. Guess what I thought about all day driving the tractor. We had three kids. No more tractor driving. I had clay projects on top of the washing machine where little hands couldn’t reach them. When the kids went to school I became more serious and demanded more time in the studio. When I thought I saw the light at the end of the motherhood tunnel, I built a bigger studio and declared it my full-time job. Thus, thwarting any future tractor driving ideas. I got lucky when I hired a couple of wonderful employees. Then the rapidity of exploration and growth really took off. They have since gotten real jobs. Teachers! I am very proud of them. Now my daughter has taken a lot of the tedious responsibilities over in the studio so I can get back to work. She is a gem to work with. That brings us up to date. That rambled and went off topic.
JTW: Will you tell me about your use of scale? (Sometimes I think I’m looking at large vessels and tiles, in other photos it looks like the objects may be tiny.)
CL: My work ranges from a couple of inches to 26”. That just fits in my kiln.
Slip trailing designs have to be simplified on small pieces. They can get messy and crowded leaving little room for the glazes. The slip trailing designs can get very complicated on larger work. Tiles are almost always 6”x 6”. I put several tiles together for larger pieces.