Artist Spotlight: Karin Kraemer
Karin Kraemer grew up in Minneapolis and received a BFA in glass working with a minor in biology from St. Cloud State University in 1986. After graduation came the very familiar nomadic period many artists travail in pursuit of their goals. Kraemer has been a glass blower in Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. She moved to West Virginia, where she began to work in clay – pit-firing her work in her yard. Then, she worked for a couple of years at the University of West Virginia at a clay studio in a Morgantown craft shop. She moved on to Carbondale, Illinois to pursue graduate work in ceramics and received her MFA in 1996. Kraemer then spent two years Victoria, British Columbia making pots, gardening, and traveling. In 1998 Duluth became her new home and there she has remained.
Kraemer makes functional pots and tiles, meant to celebrate the day. She finishes her work with a Maiolica surface, a technique seen in Italian, Mexican, and Spanish ceramics where a white tin-based glaze coats the surface of the pots and colorful stains are then painted on top to create imagery. Her individual wall pieces and compositions of tiles are hand-built and decorated with colorful, loose brushwork. She draws from everyday scenes and objects to source imagery. Her aim is to capture the color and movement of a moment, whether from the garden, the room, or out in the woods. Kraemer’s pots are often illustrated with animals, vegetables, and patterns inspired by the natural world. The forms are simple and work well in the hand and the kitchen.
Kraemer supports her studio practice in part through teaching workshops at craft schools, colleges, and at her studio, Duluth Pottery. Her work is represented by many galleries and she also sells work through art fairs around the country.
Not too long ago, her studio, Duluth Pottery, moved to 1924 W. Superior Street, smack in the middle of the new Lincoln Park Crafts District in Duluth. Kraemer’s business is in good company and poised to welcome lots of foot traffic as she is on the same block as Frost River, Bent Paddle Brewery, and the new OMC Smokehouse! Duluth Pottery has a fine clay gallery, tile showroom, and more room in their studio for making pots and to host events of all sorts. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in Kraemer and she continues to successfully cultivate multiple revenue streams to support her passion for clay.
To supplement and diversify the pull ceramics has on her life, she also gardens, loves to cook, and enjoys food and music with friends. It’s not that any of these past times are necessary distractions. They are a holistic complement to her life as a maker and they inform her raison d’etre. Kraemer writes, “I enjoy working in pottery and tile, because they bring art to the table and into everyday use. Clay is a great medium for expression. I love that I get to be part of a long line of potters through the history of our culture.”
Kraemer has worked hard to be able to make a living selling pots and tile to folks that come into her shop. This is now the bulk of her income stream. She still supplements with art fairs and gallery representation, but doesn’t have to travel nearly as much as she used to. The team at Duluth Pottery have also secured local commissions and make wares for restaurants and event-related pots for businesses and organizations, like coffee cups for Duluth Grill.
The hardest part, even with her successes, is juggling. Consolidating most of her efforts to Duluth has helped, but she still keeps a viable studio practice alive and markets her wares alongside other artists in her gallery. She says, “It's really stimulating and fun to be part of it all.”
Kraemer is most excited about the new space they are in, “we are in a growing and changing neighborhood that is rocketing along. I look to grow our space into the place to go for pots in Duluth and for our region for tourists and art lovers.”
She is always, even in her own promotional piece, an advocate for other artists. When asked what she looks at for eye-candy, she replied, “I just bought a great Donna Polsano vase for my mantle!”
Kraemer looks forward to exploring more possibilities in clay and continuing to make pots people love to use.
You don’t have to wait until you travel to Duluth to see her work. Northern Clay Center has been proud to represent Kraemer in the Sales Gallery for many years.