This superb piece of contemporary stoneware was hand thrown by listed potter Karl Christiansen (1931-2007) of Wilton, Iowa. After obtaining double master's degrees, he was a potter and teacher at The Art Gallery of Davenport, Iowa for many years. He was also a mentor; his legacy lives on in the many artists whom he apprenticed and influenced, in particular potters Joel Knanishu of Rock Island, Illinois and Sally Gierke of Bettendorf, Iowa.
The shape of this piece is a canted cylinder, widening at the bottom, with a circular opening for the mouth. The carved and incised geometric details and patterns on this vase are precisely and expertly done. The speckled glaze is taupe and rust, with the designs outlined in black. The base is solid rust with black specks and tiny blobs. It's signed on the bottom, incised with "Christiansen" and the date "1982." We've included a photograph of the artist and more information below.***
The vase is 7 inches tall, with a circumference of 15 1/2 inch inches at the top and 18 inches at the base. The dished top is 4 inches across with a 2 5/8 inch mouth. The piece weighs about 2 1/2 pounds and is in excellent condition, with some tiny glaze pops and a glaze drip down one side but no chips, cracks or other damage.
"The Marks Project" listing for Karl Christiansen displays pieces of his that are in The Forrest L. Merrill Collection, Dane Cloutier Archives. Merrill’s collection, based in Berkeley, CA, is one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world, containing pieces from major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A vase by Christiansen is in the permanent collection of the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, Iowa. Additionally, a 1977 pottery ewer of his is in the collections of the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio.
A great piece of pottery by an exceptionally talented artist, this vase will be a focal point in any room and an excellent addition to a pottery collection.
***The following wonderful article is from the online "Muscatine County, Iowa 1776-1976":
"The Potter, Karl J. Christiansen By Mary Lee Stoll
Pottery making is one of the oldest arts known to man. No one knows what people first learned to make vessels of clay. In some of our great museums we find well shaped bowls and vases which were buried in the Egyptians graves perhaps six thousand years ago and which have taught us something about the state of civilization in Egypt long before the time of Moses. Cups and saucers, dinner plates and all other useful and beautiful articles of chinaware which we use in our homes today are so familiar to us that we fail to realize the knowledge, art and skill that have gone into their making.
We are proud of Karl Christiansen, the potter, who chose to make Wilton his home 10 years ago. His small shop, located at 302 Jackson Street in south Wilton, is adjacent to his home. Christiansen’s tools consist of two capable hands, a manually powered wheel and an electrically operated one. The clay is imported mainly from the states of Missouri and Kentucky. Potter making falls into 5 main stages: preparing the clay, shaping the pot, drying and firing it, decorating it and glazing it.
Christiansen, a talented artist and idealist was born in Forest City, Iowa. He spent his early childhood at Valparaiso, Indiana. Later he moved to Minnesota where he attended Concordia College, Moorhead and St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. For 2 years he was an art instructor in a public school in Minnesota. Realizing he was ill-prepared for teaching he returned to school, the University of Minnesota where he received a Master’s Degree. He returned to Iowa and accepted a teaching position at Luther College, Decorah for three years. The yen for more background and knowledge brought him to the University of Iowa where he earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree. It was at this point in Christiansen’s life that he was forced to make a decision—whether to stay in the teaching field with its demands and responsibilities or take a chance “on his own” in the field of “creating” with clay and making it a profitable way of living. He chose the latter and Wilton and surrounding communities have been enriched by his endeavors.
Much of Christiansen’s pottery is marketed in cities and states outside of Iowa. At intervals during the year he packs his wares and travels to the Chicago area where his products are displayed at various art fairs and find a ready market.
Karl Christiansen appreciates and enjoys the quiet country town of Wilton and depends much on its resources. Pottery is his life. Pottery created with pride from Mother-earth, useful, warm and enduring."