Photo: Micah E. Wood.

Ceramics Monthly: How do you approach translating recurring two-dimensional elements and visual motifs (like figures and florals) into three-dimensional sculptures and functional objects? 

Kiran Joan: I usually start by building the pieces in a way that is explorative, not really thinking about the final outcome. It is the best time to be absolutely present with the clay and play with shapes. This approach comes from working long hours at the computer and wanting to use my hands and feel more connected to the earth (clay). I then work on sketches to create shapes that resonate with the handbuilt figures. Sometimes the figures connect to memories about a friend or a love story about an activist in India. Other times they are more free-flowing forms that capture the essence of my soft, illustrative worlds. 

CM: What inspires the illustration and design prominent in your ceramic work? 

KJ: My ceramic work is centered on creating feelings of softness and sensitivity. I aim to build warm environments that enable a sense of community to bring people together. My style has been influenced by years of editorial design, which I have translated into three-dimensional ceramic work. 

I’m often inspired by unique shapes in nature. A long-term project of mine has been looking at how nature can be a teacher of life lessons. I enjoy the summertime and sharing intimate moments with flowers. It reminds me a lot of my hometown, Mangalore, India—a place abundant in natural beauty and a feeling of close-knit community. After moving to the US, I discovered a new sense of community not only through school, but also through friends in clay. My work tends to blend these influences, celebrating the abundance of nature and community. It serves as a means to bring these aspects into my life. 

Many of my pieces feature figures looking at each other or upward. While I continue to contemplate the deeper meaning behind this, I relish the process of creating shapes and drawing on them as an integral part of my artistic journey. 

Topics: Ceramic Artists