Kathy Jeffers of Woodbourne, New York, has worked professionally as a potter and clay sculptor for nearly 40 years. She employs hand-built and wheel thrown techniques to shape porcelain and high-fired stoneware into functional yet highly decorative pottery. By pressing vintage lace or doilies into the soft clay, she creates wonderful textural elements that capture the intricate beauty of crocheted fibers to make lasting impressions.
Mother’s Day is a perfect opportunity to show respect to all the women who have expressed their artistic nature through domestic crafts that were functional and decorative. We salute Jeffers for preserving their handiwork for future generations to appreciate.
“When I started incorporating vintage lace and doilies into my work, I simply saw it as a way to make interesting texture that complemented the soft, organic, lyrical shapes I design,” Jeffers explains.
As she found more and more of these lovely crocheted and tatted pieces in thrift shops, yard sales and antique shops over the years, Jeffers began to think about the women who designed and produced them.
“This artful craft was mostly done in a time before women worked outside the home. I feel sure all these fiber crafts were not only a way for them to pass what little leisure time they had, but also served as an outlet for women to express their intellect - figuring out those complicated, repeated patterns was not easy! They could also enjoy the feeling of artistic accomplishment, at a time when most of their days was spent with housekeeping and child rearing.”
Jeffers was recently told by the owners of a Brooklyn handiwork shop, established in the early 1800’s, there was another very important reason that women did these crafts: for survival. Their crocheting, tatting, knitting, quilting or sewing was often the only thing they could do to survive financially if their husbands left them or died early in the marriage, she says.
Fiber crafts may be destined to deteriorate over time, but they don’t have to disappear from memory. “By preserving these lovely designs in clay,” Jeffers says, “I can honor these hard working, creative women of the past.”