South Carolina ceramic artist and collector Kara Artman finds old stories and new art in what has been cast aside.
Artist: Born and raised in the rural town of Streator, IL, Artman graduated with a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At school, her main focus was ceramics, but she took other classes, including, print making and fiber work. After college, Artman moved to Bluffton, SC.
In 2016, she went to work for Programs for Exceptional People, or PEP), a nonprofit for adults with cognitive impairment, as an instructor and its artist in residence. While there, she helped facilitate the opening of a ceramics studio and store for the 72+ members of PEP.
While in Bluffton, she started exploring the areas waters. The ceramic artist found old bottles and glass fragments that she called trifles. And kept them. They later inspired her three-part “trifle” art collection.
After leaving PEP, Artman taught ceramics for a semester at Hilton Head Preparatory School. Besides exploring and making her art, she also works at Full Spectrum Studio, a mixed-media art studio and center for artists with special needs.
Company/studio: Kara Artman Art is based in Hilton Head Island, where she moved in October 2022 after living in Bluffton for 12 years.
Art & materials: Mixed media art she labels trifles, featuring found or recycled materials, including ceramic, glass, copper and plastic banding straps that she has woven into baskets and hanging lights.
What are trifles: Something of little value, substance or importance. A trifle was a fitting name for what she found along the banks, Artman thought.
What’s popular: Reconsidered Trifles and Reincarnated Trifles series ($15 to $100).
- “Reconsidered Trifles” are colorful casted replicas of original bottles. The ceramic bottles are available in 11 colors.
- “Reincarnated Trifles” feature broken pieces of glass, often bottle necks with distinct markings.
- “Reincarnated Trifles” are bowls composed of shards of patterned glass. In four different shapes, the bowls are food safe but often used for decoration.
Other favorites: “Unconsidered Trifles,” as singles ($400) or sets ($2,500), are sculptures made with broken bottle necks with woven copper bottoms. A set of these trifles was shown at Spartanburg Art Museum and ArtFields several years ago.
- Explores and collects whole objects as well as fragments from Low Country waterways.
- Cleans objects and researches.
- Creates molds of old objects or bottles and casts them in clay.
- Weaves copper to hold fragments.
- My hands.
- Custom made (by Artman) leather finger protectors
- The work of human hands
- The oldest bottles Artman has found are from the 1850s and 1870s.
- All found bottles have embossing, including Bull Dog Gin (pictured right) and Chero-Cola, invented by a pharmacist in Columbus, GA.
- On her website, Artman includes bottle history, which she researches.
Fun or special commissions: Making a bottle that is part of a family’s history or holds a special memory. Her latest request: A bottle from E.P. Ricker & Co Liquor Dealers in Sumter, SC, in three colors: cobalt, aqua and cornflower.
Recent awards/honors: First place in the 3D category at the 27th annual art completion at SOBA (Society of Bluffton Artists) art gallery in Bluffton, 2021.
What’s new: A series called ClayLarking, a combination of commercially processed clay and “wild” or raw found clay found while Artman was “larking around” along the banks of waterways in the Low Country.
- “Dreams of Winning” installation at ArtFields 2023 in Lake City, SC, April 19-29. This is Artman’s third year competing in the annual art festival and competition. The installation includes 11 cast bottles suspended below 11 gradually descending red balloons.
Where to buy: KaraArtman.com
- Instagram: @Kara_Artman
- Facebook: Kara_Artman_Art