Growing in a new direction |

Growing in a new direction

Artist diverts 'gardening' energy to creating ceramic watering cans

Autumn Phillips

Yampa Valley residents start itching to garden in March, but the first seed can’t go in the ground until sometime in late April or May.

Artist Annie Chrietzberg found herself looking out the window, wishing she could plant.

Instead of packing her bags and moving to a decent climate, she decided to use that “gardening” energy in the studio.

For months now, Chrietz–berg has been building ceramic watering cans.

The idea was generated and then transformed after a workshop last November given by artist Richard Notkin in conjunction with the Slipcast Object exhibit at the Depot Art Center. Notkin is best known for using the teapot form as a canvas to make aesthetic and political statements.

Chrietzberg had done some similar work during graduate school but hadn’t touched the teapot idea since — nearly six years.

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She chose to make watering cans instead of teapots to free herself from certain shape and size concerns.

“With a teapot, you have to worry about a shape that will help the tea steep,” she said. “That obviously isn’t the case with the watering can.”

She also liked the idea of taking a form that typically isn’t explored by ceramic artists.

The teapot has become a very popular form among artists, but the watering can still is exiled to the world under the sink or the gardening shed.

“Watering cans are usually these big plastic things that people hide once they are done watering their plants,” Chrietzberg said. “I am making (vessels) that are fun to use, that you don’t have to hide. They still work as sculptures and can be left out as something that’s nice to look at.”

Her first watering cans were small and shaped like potbelly stoves. She fired five in that series before deciding to make her pieces bigger and more interesting, she said.

The idea for the next series of watering cans came when she helped teach one of Jonathan Kaplan’s ceramics classes while he was sick.

“I wanted them to get out of throwing round shapes,” she said. She showed the students how to throw a ring, then change its shape and set it on its side. “Changing the orientation opened up all kinds of creativity. It sent the energy in the studio out of the roof.”

This new shape — thrown and then changed — became the walls of her new watering cans. Hand-built slabs closed the can.

With the shelves at the Ceramic Design Group studios filling with watering cans, Chrietzberg plans to continue working with the form well into the future.

Her most recent watering can is a hint of where it can take her.

The piece is titled “The Cellar.” The walls of the can are textured to look like the brick and stone walls leading into her grandmother’s cellar. On the bottom of the can, Chrietzberg made small dragon feet clutching balls to support the piece.

“This is the first narrative piece I have ever made,” she said. “I’ve always admired narrative work and been inspired by it, but I’ve never really done it myself.”

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