Ceramic artist Sarah Kaye shows off some of her work that will be on display during her solo show, which opens Friday, Aug. 7, at Pottery Northwest (226 First Ave. N.). Photo by Kevand Topping
Ceramic artist Sarah Kaye shows off some of her work that will be on display during her solo show, which opens Friday, Aug. 7, at Pottery Northwest (226 First Ave. N.). Photo by Kevand Topping

Amazon’s rapid growth over the last few years has been responsible for many things: startling growth in the South Lake Union and Queen Anne neighborhoods, more restaurants than you can count, the never-ending “Mercer Mess” and now, one more unique result: artist Sarah Kaye.

You can see Kaye’s work at her first solo show, “welcome, more than a feeling,” at Pottery Northwest (226 First Ave. N.) in Queen Anne, beginning Friday, Aug. 7.

Kaye is a ceramic artist who found herself in Seattle when her husband accepted a job with Amazon. Using the slipcasting method of producing ceramics and pottery, she creates functional pieces, such as cups and bowls, which allow a user to have a daily experience (like drinking their coffee) with a piece of art.

Kaye will also include in her show other work that displays some of her whimsical side, such as small teddy bears that have been “cremated” in a kiln and painted.

You likely may have already seen some of Kaye’s work; one of her cups was featured in an in-store advertisement for Starbucks’ Flat White coffee introduction. Thousands of posters with the cup were displayed all over the country.

Kaye likes making objects that are functional.

“This stuff is for use — the pleasure of having your breakfast moment with a beautiful object sets you up for the day,” she said. “There is something nice about that.”

A student of the world

A native of Great Britain, Kaye lived around the world with her family as her father traveled the world for his career. Paris, Tokyo, Singapore and New York were some of the cities where young Kaye grew up and soaked in the atmosphere.

She was first introduced to pottery at age 7. Kaye studied art, design and ceramics in college in New York City, but after completing her education, she found herself working in advertising. Finding some success in this field, she stayed with it, eventually marrying and moving to Melbourne, Australia.

After three years in Melbourne, Kaye’s husband accepted a job in Seattle with Amazon. Like many spouses of Amazon employees, Kaye found that it would be difficult to find work in her field (many Amazon spouses that come from other places or countries find a number of stumbling blocks in trying to pursue employment for themselves, among them can be visa issues, differing license or education requirements for their profession or a lack of a particular industry sector).

With not-so subtle encouragement from her husband, “he told me I needed to get out of the house,” Kaye said. So she decided to pursue her first love of ceramic art.

In investigating the local ceramic scene, she quickly realized that Pottery Northwest, a Queen Anne nonprofit ceramic art facility, would be the best fit for her. Kaye applied for an artist residency with Pottery Northwest and was accepted two years ago.

Having lived all over the world, Seattle now feels like home, and she likes what she sees in the Seattle art and creative scene: “There is a thing that is bubbling up here in Seattle for the creative culture.”

Kaye’s solo show is the culmination of her residency, and she has been working nonstop to get all the items through the multi-step production process and ready for the show. To encourage the interaction with the functional pieces, Kaye is creating a “room” in the display area that features pieces from furniture maker Plank & Grain, a local company that designs and builds furniture using reclaimed lumber.

‘Nature showing itself’

While many people think of pottery and ceramics being created on a potter’s wheel, Kaye uses a different technique, known as slipcasting. This method is often used in industrial production because it allows for creating forms that would be difficult or impossible to create on a potter’s wheel.

Using a plaster cast, clay slurry is added to the mold and allowed to form into the shape created by the mold. It is a “drier” technique than “throwing clay” on a wheel because the casting wicks away moisture. This allows for a faster turnaround for a piece, too. Everything from a cup to a sink can be created with this method.  

“In college, I was designing toilets,” among other things, Kaye said.

She likes letting her work “facilitate nature showing itself,” especially in her larger pieces in which she allows the weight of the plaster poured over latex to create the form used to shape the clay.

Kaye’s solo show, “welcome, more than a feeling,” opens on Friday, Aug. 7, and runs through Aug. 28 at Pottery Northwest. An opening reception will take place from 6 to 8 pm on Aug. 7. For more information on the show, visit PotteryNorthwest.org.

For more on Sarah Kaye, visit her website and blog at sarahkaye.net.

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