January 18th, 2013 1 Comment

Meet Kaminer Haislip: My Interview with the Extraordinary Silversmith from Charleston

If you haven’t realized from my shop or my posts, I’m a bit obsessed with tabletop and design. So I was so thrilled and elated when I discovered Kaminer Haislip’s designs for the first time. I just love her coffee and tea services that combine wood and silver… as well as most everything else she designs! And of course wouldn’t you know it, she’s as gracious as she is talented. Kaminer recently granted me an interview and I wanted to share it with you today as well as show you a sampling of her work. She shares a lot of insight into her designs and even her favorite restaurant and shop picks in Charleston! For more information about Kaminer and her work visit www.kaminerhaislip.com.
LBB: I see from your bio that you received your MFA in 2005… but when did you really start creating your hollowware & home goods? How many years have you been designing?
KH: I began designing and making hollowware and functional objects during my undergraduate work at Winthrop University, which began in fall 1998.  My major professor, Alfred Ward, is an internationally acclaimed silversmith (there is some information posted about him on my website blog) and he introduced me to the traditional, British techniques I work with today.  Therefore, I have been designing and making for about fourteen years (now I feel old!).
All of my work is drawn by hand first in my sketchbook and on large drawing paper to scale of the actual object (see attached for drawing).  I make paper and clay models of the forms to see them in the third dimension.  All of my pieces are fabricated by hand using sheet and wire.  None of my work is cast, so each piece is an individual.  Traditional silversmithing methods of hammering over cast iron forms (sort of like blacksmith anvils) are how the shapes take form.  I use an acetylene torch for soldering (similar to welding) and finish the surface both by hand and with a polishing machine. The process is quite laborious and dirty, but the end result makes it worth the while to me!
kaminer haislip sketch.001
LBB: What led you to become an expert silversmith? did you know at a very young age? Did you have a certain experience that made you want to work with this medium?
I grew up in my family’s hardware store in Aiken, SC.  I believe that experience had a direct impact on my interest in tools and making things.  When I was in high school, I took the industrial tech class to learn how to weld, because I was interested in how sculptures were made.  I was the only girl and it was quite the learning experience for me and the boys!  I had a high school friend whose mother went to college for art jewelry, so that was the introduction to jewelry and metals as a career.  I chose Winthrop University because of the strong metals program they have.  Also, the opportunity to study under someone with such accolades drew me in.  Once at college, I found silversmithing to be a bridge between my interest in jewelry and sculpture.  The influence and mentoring of my professor Alfred (Alf) really lead me to pursue silversmithing as a career.
LBB: Do you have a specific designer (whether it’s interiors, craftsmen etc. living or deceased) that has inspired you the most?
KH: My inspirations range from Art Deco (Jean Emile Puiforcat), the Bauhaus (Marianne Brandt), Scandinavian Modern (Georg Jensen, Henning Koppel, Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube, Alan Scharff), and Alessi.  Additioanlly, ergonomics and anthropometrics in terms of function greatly influence how I design my work.  I intend on my designs to be used, so therefore they must function properly and be comfortable to use.  I enjoy the challenge of creating something original and distinctive within those constraints.  Finally, bird forms and things that relate to birds, such as eggs and nests, have been visual and thematic inspiration.
LBB: Does the southern Charleston environment influence you in any way -more so than if you had a studio in urban new york?
(I see you are involved in many associations and teach at the art institute, so it seems you have really become woven into the community there)
KH: I think that living in Charleston has effected how my career and perspective has developed since graduating from my MFA program and moving here from Charlotte, NC.  Charleston has a rich history of silver and therefore, has many residents who appreciate silver and are knowledgeable about it.  I believe that support has encouraged my decision to build a career within a very obscure field.
Being involved in many aspects of my community has always been important to me. I interned and was a docent at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte and taught workshops and college classes at Winthrop while in grad school.  I think being community minded is an important aspect in an artist’s effort to share their work with others.
LBB: Your studio environment…are there many artists in your building? If so, how important is it in your process to be surrounded by other artists?
KH: My studio is located at Redux Contemporary Art Center in downtown Charleston (www.reduxstudios.org) and you can see a 360 view of my own studio on my website under Contact.  Redux is a non-profit organization that houses private artist studios (around 22 artists currently have a space), a gallery, classroom/workshop area and hosts frequent events.
I have had my studio at Redux for almost eight years now, since June of 2005 immediately after I graduated.  I felt it was important to continue my silver work in an energetic, artist environment, surrounded by people working toward similar goals.  I have a great relationship with my studio mates and enjoy working in a building with talented people.
LBB: Do you use your designs at home? I would love to know or see how you set a table or how you display your favorite objects at home.
KH: I do use my work at home and have some of it on display.  See attached for a picture of my silver and ebony teapot “Perched Flight” displayed underneath a fabric and paint collage piece by Karin Olah (a former studio mate and close friend) and next to a pair of Tiffany crystal candlesticks (a wedding gift) and silver Art Deco tray by Gorham.
kaminer teapot at home.001
LBB: What is your favorite object you’ve made so far?
KH: My favorite objects to make are the tea and coffee pots, because of the immense challenges they present in design, fabrication, and function. My teapot “Corresponding to an Echo as it Travels (teapot)” is an example.
kaminer haislip corresponding teapot.001
LBB: I’m so drawn to your tea and coffee pots with wood handles. I love the combination of silver and wood. Frank Gehry designed a pot with wood handles called the Pito kettle and that was one of my favorites until I saw yours- which are so refined and elegant. Does European or Japanese design influence you at all?
KH: European design has been a major influence.  (See Kaminer’s favorite designers/movements above).
LBB: And is it difficult to merge the wood and silver together on the handles? Iwould think so.
KH: One of the challenges I referred to above includes the lamination of the wood and silver as well as the carving and shaping of the wood handle.  It is very time consuming, tedious and creates quite a mess!  However, the end result is worth the work and I am pleased with the look.  The lamination of the silver not only creates a design feature, but adds strength to the wood.  The pots become quite heavy when filled with liquid, so the silver reinforces the support.

LBB: Do you collect other designers tea or coffee pots?

KH: In general, I collect Art Deco and Scandinavian Modern designs in all objects.  I cannot get enough!
LBB: Your baby cups and spoons are gorgeous!
KH: I thoroughly enjoy designing and creating unique, heirloom baby gifts!  All of my baby items are functional and are made with a thick gauge of silver that can be personalized with engraving.
kaminer haislip baby items ws.001
LBB: What is the range in price for your items… I think i saw a coffee pot is around $5,500?
KH: My work ranges from $50 – $6000.  The under $1000 price point items include Christmas ornaments, baby items, Nest Bowls, bird boxes, serving spoons, dishes, vases, and (most) jewelry.  The over $1000 price point includes wine goblets, pitchers, trays, and tea and coffeepots.  (If you would like specifics, then I would be happy to provide them!)
LBB: Are some items made and ready to buy or do you make each one per order? And if so what is the lead time?
KH: I keep an inventory of silver jewelry and the under $1000 price point items that are ready for purchase.  I sell a lot of objects for baby, wedding, Christmas, birthday and anniversary gifts, so I keep those type of objects stocked.  I do a large amount of custom commission work, which is all made to order and original designs by myself (with direct input from client).
Lead time depends on the object.  Gift items are shipped within two weeks unless hand engraving is requested and custom pieces are a bit more varied depending on the complexity.
LBB: Do you have a charity project you’d like to share with the readers?
KH: I do frequently donate silver pieces to local charities that my husband and I support.  I will be donating a silver object to the Preservation Society of Charleston this spring for their annual fundraiser.  Other charities I regularly donate to include SPCA, Redux Contemporary Art Center, and First Tee of Greater Charleston.
LBB: What’s on your night stand right now as far as books? (ie: a novel? a magazine? a design book?)
KH: I enjoy reading a wide variety of books, including non-fiction satire, design/art/craft, and philosophy.  I subscribe to multiple magazines, including Metalsmith, American Craft, Charleston Magazine, Garden & Gun, Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, and W.
LBB: I would love to visit Charleston soon, I’ve heard so many great things about your city.
What is your favorite restaurant in charleston?
KH: My favorite restaurant in Charleston is McCrady’s.  Sean Brock is a culinary genius and we dine there at every opportunity!
LBB: So what is your favorite store in charleston? I’d love to know!
KH: Hampden Clothing on King Street is my favorite clothing boutique.  They carry a gorgeous array of designers and lines that are contemporary, sophisticated and stylish.
Dulles Designs on Church Street is my go to for gifts and stationary.  They did our wedding suite and do all of my business cards, business stationary, and personal stationary.  Their taste and quality is exquisite!
LBB: Kaminer thank you so much for sharing all this time with us!
(And readers, if you love Kaminer’s designs you’ll love a sneak peek at her wedding that I’ll feature in an upcoming post! Stay tuned!)