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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Designing in Porcelain

English author Andrew Davenport said, "One of the things we admire about porcelain is its delicate fragility. We should learn to appreciate the same in people." Artist Kimberly Curry-Pieper embraces the same spirit of appreciation in how she reimagines the physical world in new ways. She explains the undercurrent of her work, "Flowers are beautiful, but they make me sneeze; bugs have a purpose, but they make me cringe. In my pieces, I take those uncomfortable things and make them beautiful in a comfortable, exotic, and elegant way."

Kimberly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Utica and New Hartford, New York. Her parents celebrated and encouraged her creativity; her mom taught Kimberly to sew and crochet, a chance for her to learn the intricate patterns of the handwork and a skill with room to express herself. The foundation in handcrafting from fabrics paid off; Kimberly attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City after high school. However, she left before completing her associate's degree in apparel design when she received a lucrative opportunity with a bridal manufacturer. The decision launched Kimberly into a career in the fashion industry, where she worked for fifteen years. In 2001, Kimberly closed her bridal design business and relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. She says, "My brother lived here then, and I loved the weather. The move would be a good time to relaunch my clothing business in a new format.

In 2005, she signed up for classes with Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC), where she discovered her love of ceramics. The stage set, Kimberly transferred to Arizona State University (ASU) to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics in 2010 at fifty years old. Proof positive it’s never too late to reimagine yourself. Following graduation, Kimberly continued to perfect her studio practice and expand her skills. Her work is partly wheel-thrown and partially altered. She describes her glazing process as "Glazing is an integral part of the finishing process; I use several underglazes and glazes in combination before firing the pieces in a soda kiln." Kimberly explains, "Soda firing introduces a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and water into the kiln at peak temperature. The resulting vapor mixes with the molten glazes to create a spontaneous change in the work with often surprising results."

"The application of the glazes and how they react in the atmosphere of the soda kiln are a key consideration for finishing the work."

Kimberly works from her home studio in Mesa, Arizona; some pieces are created there, and some are constructed at the Mesa Art Center, where she fires all her work in the center's large soda kiln. Asked where she finds inspiration, she says in everything! "In my figurative work, I tend to draw on modern ideas of beauty and ancient anthropology. However, my vessels and functional work are inspired by botanical themes. In both cases, there is usually a story to be told."

The uniqueness of form is just the starting point for Kimberly. Over the last few years, she has spent much time testing glazes. She explains, "The application of the glazes and how they react in the atmosphere of the soda kiln are a key consideration for finishing the work." Kimberly is meticulous in applying glazes, with the full realization that they will do something entirely different during the firing process. The element of spontaneity is what she loves about her work.

Artist Kimberly Curry-Pieper is a member of the Arizona Clay Association, the International Ceramic Art Network (ICAN), and the Sonoran Arts League (SAL). On the Edge Gallery in

Old Town Scottsdale exhibits Kimberly's latest collection of imaginatively constructed porcelain and beautifully painted pieces, perfect for a conversation piece for your space or a cherished gift for a particular person. Kimberly's work carries the beauty of history in the modern spirit of imagination, just as porcelain has always informed the history of humankind.


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