In the wake of many major life changes and serious health scares with my mother, I find myself compelled to pay homage to my lineage with imagery and symbolism from my formative years. This body of work is comprised of botanical sculptures emanating from semi-functional porcelain vessels.
My love of plants and art comes from my maternal lineage, which began with my great grandmother, who earned a PhD in Botany in the 1930’s. This love of plants and botany was instilled in my grandmother and mother, who co-owned a flower shop throughout my childhood. It was in this flower shop that I developed a love of flora, their symbolism, and design. It was at the hands of my great grandmother, in this very flower shop, that my love of art was encouraged; she herself was an artist, and fully developed her artistic career upon retiring from Botany.
Symbolic details are represented in many aspects of my work. Succulents and cacti are excellent at adapting and surviving in harsh environments, but also have the ability to easily and quickly succumb to death when given over-abundant care. Traditionally aloe and succulents symbolize healing and luck. Cacti symbolize protection and endurance and propagating succulents symbolize new life and reproduction. This symbolism is significant because each of the women in my direct genetic line has endured great challenges in life, and have adapted to the situation with grace and perseverance.
The vessel, upon which, many of my sculptures sit, is an important feature for two reasons. First, is correlated to historic symbolism of the vessel: though out cultures, vessels are intrinsically portrayed as female. Second, is due to my love and dedication to the functional art object. Beyond the ancient symbolism of a vessel, my forms are constructed to portray more distinctive symbolic meaning: they are commonly formed with rounded bottoms or without a bottom at all. The rounded bottoms, which sometimes allow the vessels to rock at a touch, alludes to balance in an unstable environment, whether external or internal. The forms created without a bottom, and the ability to flip to form a new object illustrates how quickly our perceptions and realities can be turned upside down. In some instances when our realities are shifted, something new and beautiful can come of it, but in others, a much darker reality can be observed. This fragile balance is further explored by the fragile nature of the plants on which the vessels can sit upon.
Repetition of form is also used in my work for both symbolic and functional reasons. The repetition of succulent forms represents new life and continued family line. This is especially prevalent in my propagation series, “Putting Down Roots”. In addition to using repetition symbolically, it is also a significant part of my process. I find repetitive undertakings cultivate a meditative approach to my work and in my life. It is for these reasons that I create each piece petal-by-petal and plant-by-plant. This meditative process allows me to focus on my studio practice by enhancing the delicacy of my forms, while simultaneously helping me to understand the world around me, especially when following great change and the realization that loss is inevitable, even if not immediate.
Kate Schroeder is a ceramicist and full time professional artist residing in Kansas City, Missouri. She received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Ceramics from the University of Central Missouri and a Masters of Fine Arts also emphasizing Sculpture and Ceramics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Although her academic focus was on sculptural forms, Kate has spent the last 7 years as a potter, focusing on functional works. She is currently a Red Star Career Resident at Belger Crane Yard Studios. In addition to her career as a professional artist, she also spent nearly a decade as an adjunct educator, and several years managing a ceramics studio/ Not-For-Profit arts organization, which specialized in teaching art to people with disabilities. Kate has also spent the last 3 years developing a business as a jeweler. In this business she makes braille jewelry and has recently partnered with the National Braille Press.