Thursday, February 6, 2014

Karen Miller: : Ceramics

Today we are visiting the home studio of Karen Miller, ceramist and owner of Binx Ceramics. Karen is a master at creating all things miniature: woodland creatures, cottages, mushrooms, holiday figures and gnomes (her best seller). She also makes jewelry, hair accessories and miniature vases. (This year she will be releasing a collection of necklaces.)
Seven years ago, Karen began making miniatures with paper clay. She enjoyed this medium, but many of her customers wanted her figures for their terrariums and fairy gardens. The paper clay was not water resistant enough to last, and Karen began experimenting with ceramics. Five years ago, Binx was born. Binx is named after two very loved cats in Karen's life.
Karen started small and fired her work at a local clay studio. As her business and customer base grew, Karen knew she would need to be able to fire from home. Meet Bertha, Karen's kiln.
And here are Karen's beds of nails. Seriously. That's what they're called, and they ensure that Karen's work does not get stuck to anything in the kiln while it is being fired at up to 1945 degrees.
In these trays, you can see Karen's sculptures before they are painted.
Here are some gnomes that are painted, but not fired or glazed.
And here is a finished matryoshka doll. 
By day, Karen works at Webster University. At night, she works at her kitchen table and makes her art. This year, she will do around 16 shows - all in the St. Louis area. Karen is thinking about starting to travel with Binx. She has a following now, and knows that several of her customers come to St. Louis for her shows. 
"If you loved cute, tiny things when you were little," she said, "you will love them when you're older." This evening, Karen was making earrings. These small shapes are going to be birds, or post earrings made from button molds. 
I asked Karen about recycling and upcycling. She reports that she has very little waste in her work. She uses a low fire technique with her kiln, which uses less energy, and her glazes are all non-toxic and food safe.
Here is an example of Karen's art upcycling. She uses vintage buttons to make molds. Then, she makes clay beads and buttons for her accessory pieces. These molds...
helped to make these hair clips...
And this mold was used to make these post earrings. Adorable!
Karen is impeccably organized. She works at her kitchen table and uses one of her bedrooms for storage, display and works in progress. She reuses egg cartons to hold her miniatures safely. She is so organized that I told her I thought she should become best friends with this artist immediately!
Karen is inspired by colors from vintage miniatures. She has an impressive collection of them.
She also tries to focus on more "common" creatures in her art. She calls them "backyard buddies" and purposefully stays away from exotic animals to be true to the aesthetic she is creating.
Fall and the Christmas seasons are her busiest. This winter alone, she participated in 12 shows. 
Her routine is also purposeful and organized.
For this first quarter, she sculpted in January, she will paint and glaze in February and she'll work on presentation and preparation for her shows in March. She also works from large to small so that everything gets enough drying time.
Advice for new artists? "Just make it happen!" Karen said. She recommends finding a local, non-juried show and signing up. Once a person has a spot in a show, s/he has a goal. Karen said you can figure the rest out from there.
This approach certainly has worked for her. Karen loves going to shows - juried and non-juried. And her business is thriving. (This ladybug is new this year.)
She has too much demand right now to stock an online shop and she has enlisted her parents as her "employees." She jokes that her mom (who helps with glazing and firing) is her Vice President and her dad is her General Manager. "I couldn't keep up with the volume of my work without them," Karen said.
This little cottage is one of my very favorite things that Karen makes.
And here is a little bonus look into Karen's life. One of the perks of having a home studio is that you can be surrounded by the things you love most. In addition to vintage figurines, Karen collects garden gazing globes. Did you know that gazing globes date back to the 13th century?  Karen's collection is extensive. The photos below show about half of it.
Karen's next show will be Green with Indie on March 8th. I should have mentioned earlier that Karen is hilarious! She often posts funny anecdotes, photos of her works in progress and show updates on her Facebook page. 

Karen's website:
Thank you Karen!!!

1 comment:

Trini Kim said...

Love, love, love. I live in Trinidad and have started dabbling in making miniatures.Your work is beautiful and inspiring :)