Chronicle 002 - Kelsie Rudolph

Chronicle 002 - Kelsie Rudolph

This month we’re at Kelsie Rudolph’s studio in Helena where she’s just back from Spain: “I was obsessed with all the stone streets because they took the time to make pattern with stone. With these tiny-ass stones. It helped me realize further why I’m trying to soften things.”

Her most recent collection of ceramic furniture is, in fact, called Softened and it’s as warm and inviting as you’d think. It’s a study in contrast between the hardness of its material and the comfiness of its design. And between the density of her previous work, heavy with lines and pattern, and the lightness of this new focus on muted colors and round forms.

What distinguishes all of Rudolph’s work is its mindfulness to the actual human body that will interact with it and, as we found out while talking, the way it embodies her attentiveness to mind.




Placed: We’ve been talking about space and you mentioned how space affects the psyche. Can you connect this to Softened?


Kelsie Rudolph: It’s all just a feeling for me. I live with the Soft XL Coffee Table and I love the way the yellow glaze shifts color over the course of the day, and the gradient on the legs gets deeper in high natural light and softer when the sun goes down. So the work gets activated at all these different times of day. The hard-edged work is a little more straightforward in that sense because either light hits a side or it doesn't—it stays that way all day.

I think for now living with that big wholesome coffee table is really cozy to me, but I'm sure there will come a time where I want something different. That body of work has a really lighthearted and playful vibe to it which can really brighten up a super minimally designed home. I look at all this Montana aesthetic and it’s either super-duper minimal with a touch of wood or it’s full-on log cabin. And honestly, I think a Pink Fade stool would pop in just about any location and add a bit of a different character to either narrative.




PL: Has Montana—whether the Montana of log cabins or the Montana of minimalism— informed your design?


KR: I’m mostly inspired by architecture. I would not say that I am inspired by Montana architecture by any means. Montana is where my practice formed into an actual career. I came here because of the clay community and have essentially stayed because of it. I've been here for 9 years so it's where my community exists. Space and affordability are great and play into me staying here a great deal, but some of the friendships and in turn dialogue that have developed help keep me engaged in what I’m doing and what we are all collectively trying to do out here, which is just live and work and collaborate and bring some contemporary twist to the western aesthetic.

My work is often way more related to my emotional state over a period of time. My hard-edged, straight-lined work came from such a rigid place: I had control of that one thing in my life and I ran with it. And then over the past year and a half I was struggling with a lot of things at once in my personal life and found the work softening a lot. Every edge turned into a curve. Now I look at that work and think OK that’s too soft–we have evolved.

I'm trying to find some balance between the hard and soft within one piece. When I'm designing and building it’s based on an emotional state instead of inspired by location. The fact that I have so much time and space here in Montana to do my work is what gives me the opportunity to explore and realize these things. I'm not sure I'd be able to find or afford the same time and space in many other places.



PL: Does your approach to form evolve with your approach to how you think and feel about your own body?


KR: It’s just a general sense of body I suppose. I’m not conceptualizing “chair” or “sit”—I pay attention to slight angles, curves and dimensions of classic forms and try to translate that into my work. We often don’t pay attention to those subtleties that make furniture comfortable beyond function.




PL: A recent trip to Spain got you thinking about patterning. A lot of your new work is focused on pattern and how to create pattern without using glaze.


KR: I've been exploring some “dimensional pattern” on my vessel forms. I love vessels for this exactly: they are form-finding experiments for me. They generally act as an intermission between different bodies of work—or like right now I’m going pretty hard on vessels because my kiln’s busted and I can't get anything fired. So I've had a good amount of time to explore it more deeply and I'm really loving it. It's really scratching my itch for that repetition within my practice that I've lost since I stopped painting squares on everything. I'm not sure if it will make its way to the furniture. I find lately that less is more when it comes to surface on the furniture because the forms have been so involved and dynamic that I don't think they need pattern to distract from that.


PL: Even with a busted kiln, you have a great studio.


KR: My studio is the absolute bomb. It's my safe haven. Literally nothing can bother me there, and if it does I can have a good cry and move on. I get to be myself whether I'm in a good mood or a complete shit one. I'm obsessed with it and sometimes I have to pinch myself because I'm like Did I really do this? Is this really my life? But I did, and it really motivates me to get out of bed most days. 

I've recently gotten back to this place where I'm going to bed dreaming of the next body of work and then springing out of bed to get after it the next day. 


PC: The work has become almost a dream journal of sorts.


KR: I like the idea that the work has become a dream journal. That’s an angle I haven’t really considered. My dreams have been absolutely nuts lately, so I can’t wait to see what comes next.





Kelsie Rudolph Bio

Photos by Will Warasila

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