Art is a wonderful, mysterious creation. However, art takes up space. lot’s and lots of space, and isn’t really useful besides feeding the soul and being, well, a wall hanging. So, what says equestrian, art, stylish (but fun!) and useful all in one? Why, a customized tea pot in the shape and color of your horse, of course.
Yes, fellow horse enthusiasts, equine artist and high school art teacher, Kristin Livingston, creates one-of-a-kind tea pots, depicting all breeds and colors in the equine world. Each one is hand made, starting with a lump of clay and ends with a whimsical, functional and personal piece of art!
Location: Bell City, Missouri
After graduating from college in 1992, Kristin began her career as a high school art teacher teaching drawing and sculpture to her students. Between teaching, spending time with her horses and family, it wasn’t until 2012 when Kristin took a hold of her talent and started producing her own art to sell.
“I made art for my home and gifts for others but I vicariously lived through my student’s success.” Kristin said. “I had been through a few major upheavals in my life which tend to change one’s philosophy. I used the time creating art to heal, reflect, and redirect my life. Being an art teacher you have to know a little about everything and I dabbled with many mediums and ironically fell in love with sculpting. I say ironically because I hated it in college, it was too hard I thought, everything has to come from your brain to your hands and all sides of a sculpture had to be correct and interesting.
One day while watching a food program I heard some advice that was being given to a restaurant owner, stick to a couple things and make them great. I thought a lot about that and decided to narrow down my subject matter to horses. I loved working with clay and the potter’s wheel. One of my college professors said to become a successful potter you must master the teapot. It composes all the elements of pottery. Throwing on the potter’s wheel, creating a lid, handle, spout, and proper construction techniques, then a flattering form to function, proportion, and surface decoration. I searched online and did not find anyone doing horse teapots. I wanted to make something unique, fun, personal, whimsical but yet artistically rendered.”
Now that Kristin is starting to focus on her own art, she has started entering art competitions and will be represented by a gallery. With her tea pots becoming a raging success, she will be experimenting with new ideas and techniques. “I am very pleased with the success of the teapots.” Kristin said. “Now, I am going to expand on that and do other pieces that incorporate the essence of the horse. In fact, next week I am going to try the horse hair pottery technique.”
Newly remarried and working on building their house, as well as making her dream of having her own studio a reality, Kristin has a lot to look forward to. A custom tea pot is $75.00 USD and a tea set is $125.00 USD.
MAKING A TEA POT:
Making a teapot: wedge wet recycled/new clay,(I use low fire clay), let it sit for a couple of days in rolled balls wrapped in plastic. I like my clay to “rest”. I throw all the components, the body, spout and neck. I roll out slabs to create the mane a tail with. The rough pots need to stiffen up a couple of days slowly and then I trim them to the size and shape I want.
I hand sculpt the neck and head to the look or horse I am creating. I don’t look at pictures during the creation, everything comes from my mind’s eye of what picture I already looked at, I try to capture the essence of what I saw. Sometimes I sit in front of my piece and shut my eyes tight and have to make it in my head first. It probably looks weird if someone was to watch me but hey, whatever works! A completed teapot in green ware takes about 4 to 5 days to dry, I like to have them dry slowly to prevent cracking. Green ware must be bone dry to go into the kiln.
Firings last about 2 days for start to finish, it is good to let the kiln cool down on its own slowly. After the first firing the piece is now called bisqueware and is ready to glaze. For sure, make test tiles of glaze, all that work constructing can be ruined by glaze. Make sure you use glaze that is food safe for pieces that will be functional. It usually take about 2 weeks to make one teapot from start to finish.
Do you work in any other mediums and are there any you would like to try?
KL: As an art teacher I have tried a variety of different mediums over the years. Some with success and some not so much. I recently purchased some beautiful materials to make fashionably artistic cantle saddle bags. I see these beautiful cowhide purses with beading and lots of bling and leather work and I think why can’t we have those for cantle bags or saddle bags. So I’m going to work with a friend of mine and who is leather crafter and try my hand at it.
I also would love to learn how to do glass fusing and digital painting.
How do you promote your art? Any advice for other artists?
KL: Since I have a full-time job teaching I don’t advertise too much. I have a Facebook page which keeps me busy in a nice steady stream of customers. I have gone to a couple of art shows. Sometimes they’re a bust and sometimes I get clients.
People love pictures. Post lots of pictures of your artwork, post pictures of artwork getting worked on in different stages. That’s always interesting to me to see how it’s done. Promote yourself as an artist don’t sell yourself short. If you have a website or a Facebook page, keep active on it, post things and comment on your posts to respond to potential clients questions. It also bumps your post up to the top so new prospective customers can see it. Also respond to messages in a timely fashion and keep abreast of the situation with a customer, let them know where you are on their peice of art. Send them pictures of your progress. Make your customer feel like the most important customer you’ve ever had. Word of mouth is still a powerful tool. If your customer is happy they will tell people. Just because a customer might be kicking the tires now doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. keeping in touch with them to see if they may be ready to purchase encourages them to do so. I learned that while designing kitchens. You can really influence people with positive powerful suggestions. If they like your work and they really want it they’ll save up for it don’t dismiss those people just because they’re not going to purchase your work at that moment. Keep in touch with them.
TFS: Are there any artists who inspire you?
KL: When I was a kid I was mesmerized by watching Bob Ross on Saturday afternoons after the cartoons went off. I wanted to be able to paint like that. He was a prime example of an artist who was never recognized by the art critiques but the people loved him. His quotes are awesome too.
I think I was most enamored by the romanticism art,especially all the sea paintings. I could stare at them for a long time mesmerized by the beautiful way the water was painted so frozen and translucent, and yet so full of movement, especially with the rough seas paintings.
One last thing I would like to mention, just because one person has a full portfolio of shows, galleries, or awards; which is wonderful, don’t let that intimidate you as an artist. Your art will speak for itself and it will speak to those who are moved by it. Now that I am older my education and credentials matter less to me and what I produce matters more. Ultimately we should create art because it is inside of us to create. I will leave you with these quotes:
“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse
“Go out on a limb — that’s where the fruit is.” Bob Ross
Thanks you for letting me interview you, Kristin!