When Textiles Collide Featuring Lou Lou Pottery
Every once in a while, you discover an artist that simply makes your head spin. This summer, Kathryn Somers of Lou Lou Pottery was that artist. Kathryn’s intricate mixed media ceramics combine weaving, beading, and ceramics into one glorious piece of woven pottery. The results of her efforts are simply stunning.
Why Woven Pottery?
“I first experienced pottery in HS where I fell in love with it. The weaving came much later,” Kathryn explained. After graduating college, Kathryn found herself without the space she needed for her pottery equipment. She may have packed away her studio, but her love of crafting continued to push her forward.
“My parents had instilled a love for the handmade, so for those years when I couldn’t use my pottery equipment, I dabbled in other crafts – crochet, jewelry making, scrapbooking, etc.” Kathryn hadn’t stumbled into weaving just yet, but she continued to build a truly fantastic arsenal of artistic skills and supplies. Eventually, Kathryn moved into her current home, unpacked her studio, and rekindled her love for pottery.
“My sister’s birthday was coming up, and I decided to try to make her something a little different–something that combined clay with some of the other materials I had collected–and that became my first woven piece.”
Mixed-Media Creative Process
When I look at Kathryn’s pieces, my brain swims in a pool of creative process. Where would one even start to plan or work on a piece so intricate? The truth is: there is no secret recipe. “I don’t have an absolute process and each piece is approached differently,” Kathryn admits. “Sometimes it starts with a fully formulated piece in my head. From there I work out what the frame needs to look like, and once it’s made I then move forward with the weaving and beading. Sometimes I get an idea for a new thing to try with making a frame – size, shape, number or placement of weaving holes, etc – and then the weaving becomes an experiment to see how those frame changes push changes in the weaving.”
Too Many Textiles? Never.
As a person who loves craft supplies yet struggles with decision paralysis, I am both thrilled and baffled at how time consuming it must be for Kathryn to simply select all the materials she needs for a single mixed media ceramic project. “The color and textures of the fibers and beads play heavily into the vision I want to express,” Kathryn shared with me. “It takes hours to sift through everything, gradually reducing the choices to hone in on just the right elements.”
Math in Art
If you were under the impression that art is only about feelings and free movement, Lou Lou Pottery‘s woven ceramics are the perfect example of how detailed and precise the planning process can be. “I have developed a method of beading into the center of the piece that creates a fibonacci pattern,” Kathryn beams. She practically radiates as much passion for her planning as she does pride in her finished pieces. “Doing so often requires an excel worksheet that maps out the bead placement,” Kathryn explains. “It’s a challenge that I love, especially when it works the first time I try it!”
Because I had no prior experience with weaving, I was able to play and experiment without any preconceived ideas or instructions. As a result, I have quite unknowingly developed something unique.
Small changes in Kathryn’s process can create big results, allowing her to weave trees, stars, eyes, flowers, crescent moons, firework bursts and other images, all within the format of circle weaving.
Broken but not abandoned
Every artist and every art form has its own unique challenges. Kathryn of Lou Lou Pottery summed hers up in one word: breakage. The ceramic rings that she creates for each piece are a little paradoxical: sturdy and yet fragile. “Sturdy in that they can take a lot of tension that is created by the weaving process, but fragile in that many of them are light and thin so they have to be handled gently,” Kathryn elaborates. “The ceramic ring begins as the loom for the weaving, but it is intended to be a permanent part of the piece, transforming to a frame once the piece is complete. If the frame is broken at any point, then there is no way to recover the piece.”
A break like this sounds absolutely devastating to me, but to Kathryn, it’s just another day at the studio. “I have recently begun to look at broken frames differently, seeing how they can be used differently and have had some interesting results.”
Artistic Identity Crisis
When I was reading up about Lou Lou Pottery, long before Kathryn and I started chatting, I was struck by something she had written in her bio.
If you have read my piece “What is Art? The Chronically Low Confidence of a Crafter,” you already know this subject is near and dear to my heart. Many artists feel displaced, even within their own crafting mediums. When I asked Kathryn if she could expand on why she feels this way, she was quick to respond: “I think this is a common issue with potters. More than any other medium, clay spans a wide spectrum from the creation of functional items, to sculptural and other artwork. I have work on both ends but I’ve spent more time on the functional side so feel more comfortable there.”
It was not difficult to pick my favorite piece from Lou Lou Pottery. It is a mixed media ceramic piece is called “Phoenix,” and it is the artwork that stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw Kathryn’s work. This breathtaking woven pottery blew me away with its intricately placed beadwork and perfectly paired color palette. As it turns out, this is Kathryn’s favorite piece for the moment as well.
Kathryn had picked up and put down this piece many times, planning on using a second, larger frame to go around the outside and weaving the space between using holes from both frames. “To be honest, I’d done another piece that way, and it’s a bit of a pain, so I put it off and put it off,” Kathryn confesses. At some point during the wait, the outer frame was damaged and broke into 2 pieces. “The damage was irreparable so I had to figure out a plan B. It’s amazing how problem solving can lead you to things you’d never have dreamed up before. It freed me up to experiment and play, trying new things.”
Keep pushing boundaries
When I asked Kathryn what advice she had for other artists trying to find their foothold in the art world, she encouraged them to keep experimenting. “I had never seen circle weaving before and just worked it out and played with what I had. Because I’d no prior experience with weaving, I was able to play and experiment without any preconceived ideas or instructions. As a result, I have quite unknowingly developed something unique.”
But it’s not always about pushing the art. Sometimes it’s about pushing the audience as well. “The challenge of coming up with something novel is that people won’t necessarily understand it. I cannot say how many times people have looked at my pieces and said “I like this but what is it?” I have even had gallery owners decline to have my work in their spaces because they had no way to gauge if my work was marketable. I’ve had to work out a way to talk to people about my pieces – to provide context and help them see what I see.”
Kathryn Somers, Artist behind Lou Lou Pottery
Kathryn is a potter and mixed media ceramic artist specializing in weaving, bead work, and–you guessed it–ceramics. You can find and follow her artwork as Lou Lou Pottery across various social media platforms. Kathryn hopes to try her hand at creating her first woven pottery series. She wants to push herself to see how much variety she can achieve within restricted colors and materials. She also hopes to someday accomplish a piece that spans multiple ceramic frames. Her goal as an artist is to keep innovating and experimenting, never slipping into a comfort zone. I cannot wait to see what she creates next!
Originally posted on August 08, 2022.