Xavier Magazine

Crafting Clay

Target sells them for $25. Williams-Sonoma sells them for $100. But when Terri Kern sells a teapot, it goes for as much as $1,800. That’s because her teapots aren’t simple beverage containers. They’re works of art.

Working just a few miles from where Rookwood Pottery set the standard for artistic ceramics, Kern’s stylistic paintings on her hand-crafted pottery have captured the attention of the art world—much to her surprise.

“I took one painting class,” she says, “and the teacher told me I’d never be a painter and to stick to ceramics.”

Fortunately, Kern and ceramics clicked and today the Cincinnati resident creates mugs, vases, bowls and platters decorated with playful, narrative images whose bright colors catch the eye and whose attention to detail is a rarity in today’s world. Some pieces are covered in 15 coats of hand-brushed glaze.

“I like the feel of clay, it’s very elemental,” she says. “I’m working with a substance people have been working with for years. I like that tie with history.”

Kern’s first foray into the commercial aspects of art came when her high school French teacher asked if she could buy the red and gray vase Kern made for the school’s art show.

“I remember her being very stylish, so I thought of it as a compliment that she wanted to buy it.”

After graduating in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree, she earned a master’s degree in art from Ohio University and became an instructor at Morehead State University. She quit to make and sell her work full time, but still returns to college campuses to talk to the next generation of artists.

“I think it’s important for kids in college to know you can make a living at being an artist,” she says. “But you have to pay your dues and work hard.” And it’s Kern’s hard work that gives her a feeling of satisfaction.

“I really like knowing that at the end of the day I have something tangible that I can pick up, drink out of or put a candle in.”

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