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Keanne Petrie

Keanne earned her BFA in sculpture and is familiar with a lot of materials, including metal and glass, among others. Ceramics seems to be the most versatile of the bunch, which is how she came to create her business, Keap Ceramics. She’s been at RWS for about two-and-a-half years. Plaster mold-making is a large part of her practice, mostly now to use in slip casting ceramics. Keanne creates all of her original mold prototypes in wood turned on a lathe, which is the material she has readily available and how she achieves more sharp, geometric forms. This is a contrast from some of her other work in which she frequently references natural forms and organic engineering, such as a bird’s nest. “I find the nest fascinating because it’s put together but it doesn’t look like a building structure but it functions and holds together.” There’s a lot of planning that goes into making molds. “You can’t just show up and slap things together. You really have to have a plan and an idea and an approach, and I think, at this point because I’ve done them so many times, it’s comforting.” She describes plaster as an old friend because she understands it so well. Plaster has a playfulness that never goes away for her and she finds the mess satisfying. She loves the different stages and focusing on her artistic process is huge for her. She finds it very meditative. “I think that’s a really nice space for me to live in.” The element that unites all of her work across the many mediums she’s worked in, and that she has always loved using, is lines. “They’re in everything. It’s the way your eye follows a line; the way that it creates forms. The way you can draw someone’s eye in with it, and it can be sculptural or illustrative.” These lines show in the work she’s making now, her porcelain bowls and forms specifically. When Keanne went to art school she started out as an illustrator, mostly because it’s what was available to her in high school. Keanne was drawn to sculpture for the physicality of using her hands. She was drawn to sculpture for the physicality, “It’s a full body experience when you’re making sculptures, and I think there’s something about that that I hadn’t experienced before that I loved.” All she had were pencils, so when she arrived at MassArt she immediately realized she liked making these other things, but she still loves line. “Even in my cups I’m using lines to create the visuals on them.” After she graduated from art school, Keanne was a technician and studio manager at the Museum School in Boston before moving to New York City and eventually returning to Maine. While in New York she continually took classes at different schools including the Art Student League, Urban Glass, NY Academy of Art, Brooklyn metal works, and many others, to stay connected to her art and creative community. She took printmaking, figure sculpting, jewelry making, glass working and woodworking classes, among others–the equivalent to having earned a master’s degree, she jokes–while working a full time job creating window-front displays for luxury brands, including Nike, Dior, and Chanel. For the Chanel project, Keanne sprayed 100 replica bottles of perfume that she had cast in resin. She enjoyed the work she was doing, but it’s a very different feeling when it’s not your creative venture. She still does some independent contract work that is usually something specialized involving casting. Every job Keanne has ever had has had a mold-making component.

For a while it was enough for Keanne to work on her own and not show anything, but now she is more focused on community. It was more recent that she decided she wanted to show her work and have dialogue about them. Putting it out into the world has given Keanne the confidence to be more bold because she’s being asked about it more. The idea behind her use of lines is interconnectedness. The lines connect and come together, so conceptually Keanne is thinking about community and how that interconnection provides strength. In her ceramics it’s also a comment on how those lines can look messy and still produce a strong object; how these lines can come apart but still hold together. The communities she’s referring to are communities of artists. She appreciates the like mindedness of being around other artists and it’s something she needs and enjoys. “I’ve never had one like [RWS] before. It’s really nice to have so many different artists and be able to see them on a daily basis and talk with them and have critiques. I haven’t really had that on this level since college.” Right now Keanne is casting a bunch of big beer steins for Watershed’s Salad Days event on July 9th in Newcastle. She’ll be selling her ceramic jewelry there too. Stop by and see her then, or email her at to learn more.


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