Lily Kusmik of Meadowview, VA, creates white sculptural vessel forms using the finest European porcelain and Raku. Lily considers herself to be an artist/sculptor rather than a potter even though her medium falls into the broad category of clay/ceramics. For the majority of her work, traditional methods of working clay by using a potters wheel, coils, slabs, or molds are set aside in favor of the most basic forming process—that of using the human hands. For Lily, this method allows an expression so intimate that it bypasses verbal thinking patterns.
Lily began working in clay in 1972. She has experimented with various forms of hand building including pinching, coiling, and slab work, as well as press molding and slip casting, always being drawn toward freeform abstract shapes. In the latter ‘70’s she detoured into kiln-fired glasswork for several years, but rediscovered her love of working with porcelain while using porcelain to form molds for glass casting in 1986. The sensual tactile experience drew Lily to the particular porcelain that she still uses. She hand finishes in lieu of glaze because she wants the feel of the finished piece to be “buttery” like the porcelain is when it is in the final stages of workability. Something about porcelain makes it “beg to be touched.” Lily builds on this quality by enhancing the surface at various stages of production.
When viewing her hand finished porcelain sculptural works at shows and exhibits, people are often startled when she says, “Did you touch it?” One lady immediately withdrew a step and sheepishly said, “No, of course not!” thinking Lily’s remark was an accusation. Far from an accusation, Lily encourages people to experience “tactile art.” For those who are more reluctant about the concept, she reminds them of how small children instinctively reach for things that are beautiful or interesting to them.
Lily also enjoys working in Raku, a technique that requires using long-handled tongs and welder’s gloves to handle red-hot pieces of pottery. Raku is known (and loved) for its unpredictability.
Her abstract vessel forms suggest such diverse natural shapes as sea oats, flowers, shells, waves, and (especially) the human body: the ultimate vessel form. “Birth of Venus Re.1” was the first of a series of sculptural vessel forms which became Lily’s focus. The Venus Series, although vessel forms, are unglazed and not intended to function as vases. Form alone, without the distraction of color or texture, is used to create the rhythm of the piece. The rhythm of the piece, in Lily’s view, is the way the eye moves over it and is crucial to the experience.
Lily has a Bachelor of Arts from Georgia State University in Atlanta and has studied in various settings including Callenwolde Center in Atlanta, Penland School in North Carolina, Peter King’s studio (Pensacola, FL), Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida. She has also taken classes at the Eastern Shore Art Center in Fairhope, AL, where she has also taught.
In porcelain, however, she is essentially self taught. She currently works in her own studio and the Town Square Center for the Arts in Glade Spring, VA, where she is one of eight resident artists.
In both look and feel, the technique developed by Lily gives her work its own identity.