Posted on 5 Comments

Donna Kato keeps making me do things

Long Hearts

Note to self: When taking a picture of things on the coffee table, consider washing the fingerprints and sticky spots off of the glass first… icon_rolleyes-flickr-1-3

I’m always happy to see some of my older work find a home. I just packed up these six Long Heart Pendants today and will be sending them away with the next mail pickup. I made them at least three years ago. They started out as large balls of clay, which I covered with two square cane slices, in such a way that no background was visible. I rolled the balls to smooth the cane edges and then finessed it into a heart shape. At the time that I made these, most of my work was done that way – make a ball, cover with canes, press into shape, poke holes, bake.


I work very differently these days. Now the majority of my designs, like these buttons, start out as flat sheets. My process is more along the lines of make sheet, add thin cane veneer, cut out shape, bake, outline, add thin protective layer of liquid clay, rebake, drill holes. It’s more complicated than before, but I like the results better. I used to resist the idea of multiple bakings, but now I embrace it.

Donna Kato class

Where did the shift happen? I remember it clearly. In August of 2005 I took a cuff bracelet/tile bracelet class with Donna Kato. This was the first time I had seen her in person, but before that I had become infinitely familiar with her book, videos, and as many Carol Duvall appearances as I could get my mother to tape for me (I didn’t have cable tv then, and I still don’t). I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but something happens when I see Donna demo a new technique. Something always “clicks” with me, and it is nearly always something unexpected.

10-flickrA good example of this is Donna’s gorgeous flower petal caning technique. I saw that and thought, “that would be a good way to simulate the look of raffia,” and proceeded to develop a cane that was meant to look like three colors of raffia ribbons woven together.

I also came up with a cane that looks like a chenille sweater to me, and it started with Donna’s spiral cane.

Just two examples of many.

So, this tile/cuff bracelet class was spent making (you guessed it) tile bracelets and cuff bracelets. I enjoyed making them, but I can’t say I was overly excited by my results. What I was excited by was the idea I had for barrettes and pendant necklaces using some of the techniques we’d employed in the bracelet-making. The layering of veneers over base sheets, the forming of the base over a removable metal armature, the multiple-bakings for easier handling, the outlining of the bracelets in solid-color clay… all of these things just screamed barrette to me. And for about 3 months after that class, barrettes were all I did icon_smile-flickr-4-2 In fact, I was reluctant to cut my hair short because I was having so much fun making and wearing barrettes.

I bring this up today because I am gearing up for a trip to Philadelphia this weekend to learn Donna’s technique for Japanese Inro Pendants. If you haven’t seen her take on these, you must. They’re exquisite. I have always wanted to know how to make these boxes, but what excites me the most about this is wondering what the a-ha moment will be. The inro I make in this class may be the only one I ever do, but I fully expect to see Donna do something, perhaps something only tangentially related to the class, that will make me sit up and say, “hey! that would be a great way to accomplish such-and-such a thing!”

When I say “Donna Kato keeps making me do things” I mean it. So often when she demos a new technique, I am driven to use it, but not before I have transformed it into something completely different in my mind. And that’s the beauty of it. The kind of inspiration that acts as a seed to your own creativity is the best inspiration of all. It insures that your finished result is wholly and truly your own and cannot be mistaken for the work of anyone else. I’m excited to see where this weekend leads me!


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Posted on 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “Donna Kato keeps making me do things

  1. Wow, so many amazing things! Your skills amaze me.

  2. Your canes are wonderful!

    1. Thank you! I so enjoy repeating patterns.

  3. […] has had an influence on my clay work like Donna Kato has.  I’ve blathered on about this before, so there’s no need to repeat myself.  Suffice it to say, while I am not anticipating (nor […]

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