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Artist: Terri Kern

Terri Kern, OHIO
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“Kern has a unique approach in her studio, centered around narration that springs from both a depiction of her personal stories and her study of drawing and poetry.  She does not spend time viewing contemporary work, rather she speaks of her enjoyment of 14th century illuminated drawings and the poetry of Richard Hague, which she has illustrated in the past, and which influenced some of her recent drawings. Other influences she credits to the painter Frida Kahlo. Kern spends a lot of time drawing, recently participating in an international drawing/montage collaboration with artists in China and Europe. Her drawings help formulate her narratives.”


Artist Statement

My work has always documented my personal history. Each piece functions as a visual marker that commemorates a moment, an event, a daydream or a memory. The concept of Balance is also woven through my work as I reflect upon and create work about my life, which has grown rich with possibilities and complications. The documentation takes the form of highly detailed and symbolic narrative imagery that is painted or carved on the surfaces of my pieces. 

As I’ve continued to imbue my work with ever more personal stories of love and loss, triumph and hardship, caregiving and receiving, the scale has grown more intimate, making each piece a small treasure. It’s my hope that these pieces, with their inescapable attention to detail and deeply felt imagery, slowly reveal their stories to the viewer.


Birds represent both myself and the other women in my life: mother, sisters, friends.

Cages reveal the juxtaposition between fragility and strength.

Nests are possibilities.

Ladders symbolize doubt, the struggle to grow.

Snakes signify forgiveness as they need to shed their skins in order to grow.

Trees and leaves stand for compromise and change.

Seafaring and sea life imagery maps my artistic journey.

Chairs present a safe place to land.

Blank pieces of paper and puffballs communicate ideas yet to be investigated.

Wolves, dogs and foxes represent the idea of being steadfast and true.

Needle and thread indicate the need to piece one’s world back together.

Pencils imply creativity.

Stars light the way when things seem dark.

Rabbits allude to the idea of strength through endurance.

The Moon introduces the presence of emotion.

Compasses convey the feeling of trying to stay grounded when one feels lost.

Dragons are a reminder to be fierce and have courage.



Terri Kern received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from Ohio University in 1991. In 1995, she left a teaching position at Morehead State University to pursue making art full time. For the past twenty-six years, Terri has traveled all over the United States and Europe selling her one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces at fine art and fine craft venues. She participates in invitational gallery exhibitions every few years. Her work has been featured on the cover of Clay Times (2008) and The Journal of American Art Pottery (2020) and has been included in Ceramics Monthly (2011), Ceramics Art Daily (2011), Cincinnati Home (2016) and the online magazine Aeqai (2013, 2017, 2018) amongst others. 

She has been awarded four individual artist grants (1991, 1994, 2009, 2012) and for the past twenty-five years has connected with art teachers and students of all ages through her visual presentations and lectures on her experiences as a working artist. She presents workshops on occasion and has most recently started teaching online classes due to the pandemic.

Terri has exhibited her work internationally in Germany (2000, 2006, 2009), France (2006), Japan (2012), Cuba (2014) and China (2009). She traveled to the People’s Republic of China where she and seventeen other artists exhibited drawings that were part of an international drawing collaborative. The collective body of work earned Terri and her fellow artists an Artist Innovation Award from the Sister Cities International Conference in Belfast, Ireland. She had a solo exhibition of her ceramic work at the Canton Museum of Art (2009). The museum, which collects American ceramics, purchased three of her pieces for their permanent collection. Terri has worked as a freelance designer creating ceramic pieces for Red Carpet Studios Inc. (2004-2006), the Rookwood Pottery Company (2007-2015) and Xavier University (20003-2021).

Over her career, Terri has had a long history of leadership and community involvement including serving on the board of the Greater Cincinnati Clay Alliance and working with Summerfair Inc. to engage college and university art students from the greater Cincinnati area.  In 2011 she founded “The Joyce Clancy Legacy Fund” to honor her late mentor. The fund’s mission is to subsidize ceramics programming at not-for-profit institutions within the city of Cincinnati through grants for materials, supplies, equipment and field trips. In 2013, she and two other artists created a community based, visual arts outreach program called, “Art in Action”. The program offered free art classes and demonstrations to the public. The program resulted in a collaborative piece consisting of a large ceramic nest that Terri created and which holds 300 miniature clay books that were made by some of the citizens of Cincinnati. The piece is installed at Cincinnati City Hall. In 2015, she designed and managed the creation of 20 mixed media pieces with a team of high school students for the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House. 

She has been nominated for the prestigious USA Fellowship by United States Artists, a nonprofit organization established to support the work of the nation’s finest artists in both 2011 and 2017. In 2016, Terri was among a group of four Cincinnati artists who were each commissioned to create a sculptural piece for permanent installation in LongTan Park in Liuzhou, China. Her work is included in Corporate, Museum, International and Private Collections.


Technical Statement:

I like to think of myself as a hands-on artist. That means that every task from wedging the clay to stacking and unstacking the kilns is done by my hands alone. Wheel throwing and hand building are used separately and in combination to create my work. After the pieces are dry enough to handle, their surfaces are carved in relief and then dried thoroughly.

Each piece is hand painted with underglaze before the first firing. The blending of underglaze color is done by brush work alone--no airbrushing is used. To achieve a sense of depth, underglaze is applied onto the surface of the clay in many separate layers. Because of the translucent nature of the underglaze, each layer picks up the color from the layer underneath resulting in lush, subtle color blends. It is that same translucency that can require up to fifteen layers of underglaze to be built up on the surface in some areas to block out darker background colors. The build up of some of the underglaze colors creates a low relief quality to the surfaces of my pieces that can be felt when the surface is touched. Each painted layer needs to dry thoroughly before another layer can be applied. For that reason, several pieces are always in process at the same time.

After all the underglaze color has been applied, black underglaze is painted on with a fine detail brush which gives definition to the painted images. There are thousands of brushstrokes gracing the surfaces of every piece.  Some of the detailed line work is achieved by using a wet sgraffito technique. Black underglaze is painted on the surface of a piece in a small section and while it’s still wet, a small metal tool is used to carve away the black, to reveal the color underneath. It normally takes as long to apply the black underglaze as it does to apply all the other underglaze colors combined on any given piece.

Once all the detail work is finished, the pieces are bisque fired for the first time to a temperature of 2018 degrees. Clear glaze is then brushed over the pieces (three to five layers depending on the colors) and they are fired again to 2018 degrees. During this firing, the clear glaze saturates the pigment in the underglaze layers, turning them into translucent sheets of color which gives my pieces their rich depth and color.

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