Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics

Today, I’m sharing the work of Jamie Kelly. I’m a huge fan of his work and I first met him a few years ago when he became a member of the Colorado Potters Guild. This spring, I finally snagged one of his gorgeous soda fired bud vases.

Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics
Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics

Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics:

I’m James Kelly and I’m a potter living in Denver CO. I’ve had a love for ceramics since I took my first class in high school in Michigan. Working with clay is a like working with no other medium, there are endless possibilities. I moved to Colorado after college with a friend looking for a new adventure. The reality of life set in and I ended working all sorts of jobs and clay took a back seat to life for about 10 years.

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Mod Mugs
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Mod Mugs

I finally got my nerve up to apply to the Potter’s Guild and was accepted in 2010. Shortly after that I met my beautiful wife and we were married in 2013. We then bought a house and converted the garage into my studio. Since then I have been working to create work that I feel is good enough to share with the world.

Jamie Kelly Red Beard Studio Space
Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics’ Studio Space

We are both members of the Colorado Potters Guild. How many years have you been a member of the guild and what does it mean to you to be part of a local clay community.

I’ve been a member for 7 years. For me being a member means being part of a community of like-minded individuals. We all share the same desire to create, and the guild provides us that opportunity.  It’s gratifying being a part of a group of peers that all have a passion for clay.

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Soda Fired Bud Vases
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Soda Fired Bud Vases

How many years have your been working with clay and do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I’ve been working with clay off and on since 1991 and have a BFA in Ceramics from Northern Michigan University. Though, I first fell in love with clay in high school where we had a fully functional ceramics studio. 

 

Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio
Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics

Your ceramic business is “Red Beard Ceramics” – I get the obvious correlation. 🙂 How did you name your business?

 
Choosing a name was something I hemmed and hawed over. I wanted to have something that identified myself without having to use my name. Ultimately, it came down to REDBEARDceramics or REDBEARDstudio. I like them both and am still using them interchangeably at the moment. The only problem with my name is that my beard is turning grey at an alarming rate so a change down the line may be in order.
 
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Soda Fired Bottles
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Soda Fired Bottles

How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

Most of my work is either wheel thrown, hand built, or a combination of those two processes. I primarily work with porcelain and fire my work in the soda kiln. I spray my work with various combinations of slips and glazes to create flowing surfaces that are enhanced by the soda firing process. Soda firing is a process where soda ash is dissolved in water and sprayed through ports in the kiln near the hottest point of the firing and the soda ash is vaporized and swirls throughout the kiln reacting with the glazes, slips, and raw clay to create unique surfaces that capture the essence of the firing. 

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Tea Pot
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Tea Pot

Who or what inspires you?

I draw inspiration from all sorts of places. Certainly my college professor Sam Chung has had a lasting impression on me. I am inspired by the simple clean lines of mid century modern architecture and furniture, as well as the random organic shapes found in nature. 

Jamie Kelly's Cliff May Mid Century Modern Home
Jamie Kelly’s Cliff May Mid Century Modern Home

You live in an neighborhood enclave of mid century modern homes in Denver (Harvey Park). How has renovating your home and living in such a mod space influenced your current work?

 
Moving into our Cliff May home in 2014 was a turning point in my ceramics pursuits. We moved from a 600 sq. ft. condo downtown and this was my first opportunity to have a home studio. The simple clean lines of the mid century modern architecture drew us in after seeing so many brick boxes that lacked much visual interest. The space has a one car garage that I gutted and insulated, ran a gas line, and upgraded the electrical with a sub panel for an electric kiln. While the space is rather small it functions great for my needs.
 
Jamie Kelly's Living Room in His Mid Century Modern Home
Jamie Kelly’s Living Room in His Mid Century Modern Home

The house in itself is a piece of art and is a inspiring space to work and live in. Through learning about this architecture, furniture and decor of the 50’s I’ve drawn all sorts of inspiration. I love simple, minimal forms with little embellishment in this space. Seeing my work on display in my house has driven at least some of my work to try and be simple, modern, and aesthetically pleasing in the space.

 
I’d like to incorporate some of the color schemes going on in my house into my work. Subtle shades of grey and white contrasted with bright lime green. I gutted and redid the bathroom and that process really made me think about how important finishes and color choices matter in architecture, the same is true with ceramics. Living in this house is a joy and a wonderful space to create art.
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Bud Vases
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Bud Vases

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your work? 

 
I’m still trying to figure out my niche as far as where my work is going. I tried an art fair last december and had a positive experience. While I’ve yet to sign up for any this year, I intend to pursue that avenue more in the future.
 
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Booth Display
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Booth Display

Currently, I’m selling work through my Etsy Shop at and have been trying to develop a website. I can be found on Instagram @redbeardceramics and that’s where I post most of my current happenings. Going forward I hope to keep honing my craft and develop lines of work that I can reproduce consistently at a high level of quality. I enjoy experimenting, but perfecting certain ideas along the way is something I need to spend more time focusing on. I love working with clay and the endless possibilities it holds. 

Where else can people find your work?

  • Facebook
  • Other than the two annual shows put on by the Colorado Potters Guild I try to participate in a few local craft fairs throughout the year as well as trying to get into a few gallery shows. 

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.