I first met Kate Lewis in Michigan at Dinderbeck, an art collective and now print studio in Grand Rapids. I was drawn in by her calming use of colors and glazes contrasting the raw organic texture of the clay. Over the years my wife and I have collected her work, from mugs and dishes to plant pots and tiny hearts delicately shaped. I enjoy many cups of coffee from her beautiful mugs, with friends and family or in reflective solitude. The philosophy behind her work intrigued me and I approached her with the idea of a short documentary to explore her process, motivation and inspiration.
The shoot day began with the same intention Kate puts into her work. As the small crew arrived, Kate began burning sage as a way of cleansing the space to create an open environment for collaboration. She starts at the wheel and creates a handful of bowls and plates as we document her process. The way she molds the clay is mesmerizing to watch, creating movement so fluid it reminds me of water.
I brought a small crew together, working with Cinematographer John Hanson, First AC and Soundie Joe Ashi and Art Director Loralee Grace. Having a small crew is helpful in creating a comfortable space for people to open up and share their story. This is amplified by building a relationship beforehand and having clear communication about what the shoot entails.
After finishing several new pieces, Kate moves to the drying rack where she signs her work by etching her signature into the dried clay. She then loads the kiln with as many pieces as she can fit. She jokingly calls it “Adult Tetris” as she stacks layers upon layers of work. Once the kiln is fired up, we move outside for an interview. She sits down at a small table with a tray of mugs and handles, attaching them seamlessly as we go into more depth about her journey as an artist.
These ceramic pieces were made as part of an installation, Kate said a mantra as she formed each piece with her hands, infusing them with spiritual energy. The pieces are placed whimsically around her studio, when picked up they feel smooth and polished in your hands, as if you found them on a beach, tumbled by the sea.
Watch the full film below.
I love how Kate’s deeper understanding of her process sheds light on intrinsic truths of the human experience. The process of making art itself is powerful when you are open to what it teaches you. It’s a challenging path but well worth it.
You can learn more about Kate and by her work online at www.katelewisceramics.com
Music by Ejnar Videbæk of Red Head Recordings