CK_TC: colin klimesh and taylor carter

Cincinnati-based design studio CK_TC creates small batch ceramics that embody an original, contemporary take on objects for the home, including cups, mugs, bowls, and vases. Their approach to making harmonizes the useful and decorative, by merging traditional methods and digital tools to fabricate precise and singular objects using more efficient and sustainable methods. Starting with raw materials, they formulate and produce each step of the process, including molds, clay, and glazes. Founded by Colin Klimesh and Taylor Carter, CK_TC aspires to build a collection that represents their passion for craftsmanship and design to enrich the experience of the new domestic space.

Colin Klimesh and Taylor Carter began creating thoughtfully designed and useful objects at the University of Cincinnati, within the DAAP Program.  As a graduate student, Colin recognized Taylor’s dedication to ceramics in her first semester with the medium and her long hours in the studio. He approached her about becoming his studio assistant, and through an intensive and immersive semester of training Colin imparted what he knew about ceramics, mold making, and 3D modeling.   

They brought their first line to market the summer after this assistantship, and their shared interest in creating quality goods through ethical processes continued to grow.  Taylor is now a fearless catalyst in the process of experimentation in design and making. Her optimism and innovation feed their endeavor and serve as a productive balance to Colin’s knowledge and keen pragmatism.  Their shared goal of enriching domestic environments through small batch, locally produced ceramics pushes them to continue to create original and fresh products.  

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Five-Dots: How long have you been in this studio / space?

Colin: We’ve been in here for a year and a half. 

F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?

Colin: The first few months that I had the space I wasn’t in here a ton. I was struggling to have a job and make money and get stuff in here. The smallest things, like getting tables in here, took a bit of time. The latest thing though has been the spray booth-- which we got just last week--  and that’s already been a game changer. But, at the end of the day it’s a matter of getting everything [as far as remodeling] done when you have the time, supplies, money, all of it. It’s also a matter of asking yourself how much money you want to put into a space that you don’t own. I have a CAD background so when I moved in I knew right away that I’d really need to work on it. Things like walls, tables, and large equipment stay put, but other than that things flex around. During the winter we also have to keep plastic sheeting up on one half of the space to accommodate the heat that’s available. Now that it’s warming up, we’ve been able to kind of figure out our making process and how to properly use the space so that we can keep it clean and keep dust down and whatnot.

F-D: Has the location of the studio influenced your work in any way?

Taylor: Not really. It’s not the most inspiring space. Carl Solway Gallery is downstairs, so that’s pretty cool. We can just hop down there.

Colin: Yea, I’d say more of the ceramic community and the retailers that we work with. Things that they are into are usually things that we are into. I try to find retailers that work with our interests, and I think we really fit into a niche market. So. . .

F-D: Who locally are you retailing out of?

Taylor: So I updated our website last night. . . and currently we have a total of 13 retailers. But locally we are at Continuum Bazaar and we have some special gray stuff at Deerhaus [Decor], and of course Handzy.

Colin: In regards to our local retailers, we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and so something that we are trying to do now is making something specific to each location that is selling our product, especially locally, and with our process it’s easy to be pretty nimble. So we’ll say, “ok, for you guys we will make this color wave, and for you all we’ll make this style of planter”. It creates a little more local variety as well. I’m becoming more interested in having retailers come to us and then we can have a discussion and figure out what they like specifically about our collections, and then create work for them specifically.

Taylor: It's also a lot more fun that way. Our process is kind of repetitive and often times we are making the same things over and over again. So it’s nice to switch it up and do something new. We just did some yellow color wave stuff for this place up in Philly. . .

Colin: Yowie.

Taylor: Yowie [laughs]. And then we are doing some some candles for some guys up in Columbus.

F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself in the studio?

Taylor: I work at Rookwood in their slip room. So I go into work at 6 am and get out at 2:30. Then I come over here and get whatever we poured the night before out of the casts. Then if I’m feeling really motivated I’ll clean some other stuff. But most of the time I just come in here and mess around. I do a lot of experimenting, surface work, testing, painting. . . that sort of thing.

Colin: It just changes around depending on if we have an order we need to fill, or a current project, new stuff, or something else going on. We communicate well and we’ll always ask each other if the other is planning on coming in to the studio. We’re trying to also take some personal time out of work and CK_TC; because otherwise I work 9-5 or 9-3 at University of Cincinnati, and then come in here and do some mold making until I go home and go to bed. I’m usually in either mold making mode or production mode, usually. Production mode includes demolding, cleaning, loading kilns, glazing, and making greenware.

Taylor: I keep track of what we actually need to do: whether we have an order we need to fill or an event we need to create for; like a City Flea or something like that. I usually keep track of what we need to do. I guess I’m sort of the de facto studio manager.

Colin: I manage most of the materials and the financial stuff, as well as any fulfillment.

F-D: So where is the business right now? Is CK_TC paying for itself or are you guys still putting your own money into the space?

Colin: Right now CK_TC is a self-sustaining business. Most of the time it covers it’s own costs; and we have had instances where we were able to cover all of our costs and we could have made a profit, but instead we decided to invest it into a big ticket item-- like the spray booth. We both have jobs, and so it’s more about investing into the business. We’re like most people that we know in this city who have side businesses. You know, they work in the evening, and they’re doing well, but they aren’t killing it quite yet. So. . . that’s the honest truth on the state of the business.

F-D: How would you describe your subject matter, aesthetic, or stylistic preferences?

Taylor: We are very different. Colin is very clean lines, and minimal. I’m very much the opposite of that.

Colin: Yea, I feel that if you were to look at our basic series you’d get a pretty quick view into both of our interests. The gray stuff always has a special place in my heart-- it’s pretty referential to my roots. In Minnesota (where Colin is from, and attended undergrad0  there is a cultural focus on the potter and the material. And that’s how I came up in ceramics. Even though my aesthetic is a lot cleaner than a lot of Minnesota pottery, it’s where I developed. . . and I guess Taylor has a different approach.

Taylor: Yea. . . I’m all about patterning and layering. I think it’s funny because he’s into the basic stuff and I’m into the pattern series. The ombre is where we kind of mesh together.

Colin: I actually have a pretty big soft spot for the pattern. I think that I would disagree because the pattern comes through the layers and you can see the glaze and the clay body.

F-D: What mediums do you work with?

Colin: Ugh. . . well we do a lot of ceramics. . .  I know we are specifically speaking to CK_TC, but whenever I have a fine art exhibition I kind of switch gears. I think that-- and I think Taylor and I both work spatially-- we both make small installations in spaces.

F-D: What is “small” for you?

Colin: Usually it’s like a vignette in a corner: a shelf and a table or something. It’s almost like a window display; like a staging of some kind. The process for that is making a lot of things and then curating those things. So my brain works differently when I’m working in that mode versus making molds, for example. In here it is very process and problem solving driven; production and manufacturing. In my studio practice it’s intuitive and based in a lot more decision making. Since I have a business and I have a day job I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do much studio work lately. But when I do I get the opportunity, I kind of switch gears. I also tend to make sculptural objects that aren’t specifically ceramic. It tends to be objects that are ceramics based but also plaster, concrete, or found objects. It's artificial walls or peg board, and sometimes purchased furniture. It's whatever I feel would be an appropriate mark or composition.

Taylor: When I graduated I was doing a lot of photo based work that was similar to the way Colin was working. The only difference being that mine was created with the intention of being photographed. I did a lot of research on post-internet art: so consuming art through a photo on the internet. I was trying to ask if the object even really matters seeing as how you most likely aren’t going to see it in real life. But, like he [Colin] said, since graduating, we’ve been so busy in here that I haven’t really had the opportunity to exhibit any new work.

Colin: Also, being in art school can wear you out a little bit.

Taylor: Yea, I kind of want to just take a little break. I just want to like pretty things for a while.

F-D: Can you tell us about your process and how it has evolved?

Taylor: So we primarily do a lot of casting of molds. But for making our prototypes we have a lot of different methods. Most of the time we 3D print things; Colin has a bought a lathe, so we have been messing around with that. Sometimes we throw a prototype [on a wheel], but we don’t do that too often, and sometimes it’s molded off of found objects. We have one vase mold that’s from a Kong dog toy. And then, like Colin said, we are going to be getting into making a lot of pots. And so he’ll be throwing those and then I’ll be doing the surface work on them. That’s where we want to see  the work going: a lot more expensive items that are more one of a kind.

Colin: Yea, I think we have gotten into the habit of making things that appear to be commercially made. It’s hard when you get to a place when your skilled enough to make things that look commercially made because people expect commercial prices. So you have to scale it back a bit. It’s harder to do [what we do]. It takes more time. I think in a commercial setting, you can have unskilled labor because everyone is just placed with one specific task; but the way we do it, everything comes in as a 50 pound bag of dry clay. And then we turn it into this stuff. It’s very skill and labor intensive. But I think our process has changed a lot: the plaster lathe was huge. I’m fortunate to see some processes that give me direction into newer and better ways to do what we are doing here, because of the job I have at UC. So I can transfer some of that knowledge and skill. For example, if we are making something that is completely round; I might as well lathe it because it’s gonna be faster, and probably look better. But like, these diffusers for example, I can’t lathe it, so I might as well just print the mold. But we do do a lot of hand sanding of molds too. I see us going more dimensional because we have a wider variety of tools at our disposal.

F-D: What is your biggest challenge as a business operator whom is also in charge of creating stock?

Taylor: Marketing is hard.

F-D: What about it? Like, finding the time?

Taylor: Yea, because we both work all day. I have another job and so I work on the weekends sometimes. So finding time to work on the website and take photos for our Instagram or meeting with people who can take photos for you can be a hassle.

Colin: Yea, I did ArtWorks’ Co-Starters Program. There were a couple of good things that I got out of it, but one of the main things was to know what things your good at and can handle, and what things you should have other people do for you. There are definitely things that both of us hate and want to get better at. I know we both hate the website. So sometime we need to outsource that. Luckily we know enough photographers that we’ve been able to get some good photos taken. But you can only pay photographers with ceramics so many times. I mean, we’d like to lead into more direct sales: but that means that we need a better website, and better photos, and all of that. And, you know, Instagram is this thing that can do wonders for individual sales. But we just don’t have the drive to be like, “who wants to buy this thing off of us today?!”. But people do it, people do it all the time. And they can drive a lot of success off of that. It’s just a thing that we have a hard time accomplishing and finding motivation  to accomplish. I guess the next challenge is the space. I don’t want to be here forever. And I’d like to be able to bring clients up here, but as of right now I don’t feel comfortable bringing them through this building.

F-D: Do you consider your work to be autobiographical at all?

Taylor: I mean, I feel like it’s pretty representational of our personalities, maybe? But not autobiographical. I know that for me specifically; I’ve been working with patterns like this for about three years now. And so people relate it to me and are always sending me images and saying, “hey this reminds me of you”. Some of these forms are very “us”, I suppose. For me, also, I get a lot of design inspiration and aesthetic from the Memphis Movement. Their whole thing was about making things to make things. They weren’t interested in selling pieces or becoming commercialized. They wanted to express themselves through design and utilitarian pieces. Making stuff for the sake of your soul, I guess. I’m just making stuff to make stuff. I guess that’s why I prefer the one off stuff that we are working on right now. We’re making something different every time. All of the pieces are great pieces on their own. They stand on their own in that way.

Colin: Yea, definitely not autobiographical. I’d say for me-- [and this applies] in both my studio practice and CK_TC-- [the work is] about the material and the process, and that’s probably how it’s representative of me, I guess. . . and this is such a ceramics trope, but there is integrity in the material, and that’s why our basic series is so appealing for me. There isn’t a thin coating of glaze and the clay body is exposed. That’s what touches your mouth and that’s what touches your hands. I’m interested in the chemistry, I think that pieces are always best right out of the mold. But I’m also excited about the one off pieces that we are working on right now because everything is a test. Everything is an experiment.

Taylor:  I think it’d be funny if we set up all of the pieces that we’ve made from start [of CK-TC] to finish and see the chronological growth of the company.

F-D: What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?

Taylor: I’d say. . . outside of ceramicists?  Probably interior and fashion design.

F-D: Anyone in particular?

Taylor: I look at Dusen Dusen a lot. I love her, she studied at Tufts University. She went to school for Fashion Design and Psychology. She uses a lot of pattern, but [more importantly] she looks a lot at how patterns influence people. The way they catch your eye, or [how you react] physically or emotionally.

Colin: Normally I’m just looking at display tactics [in reference to my studio practice]. I follow trends somewhat, and it’s hard to have an eye out for what is happening but not let it effect your habits. I think we walk this line of what is classic and what is trendy, especially within an American context: we create vessels that simultaneously allow the pieces to be material in themselves as well as canvases for Taylor’s patterning and color theory. But I’m always looking at ceramicists. I have a separate Instagram account where I just follow a ton of ceramicists, all of the academic ceramicist kids: Linda Lopez and others. Also people like  Josephine Noel of Recreation Center fame. . . a bunch of others.

F-D: What does having a physical space to make your designs in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?

Colin: We couldn’t do it without a space. Before I got this space, we had one large order and we set up all of the molds and everything in my basement with the intent of taking it to a kiln. And uh. . . it just can’t happen without a space. It’s a fool’s errand.

Taylor: Yea, and there’s only so many things that you can do on the computer.

F-D: Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

Colin: The list of current projects includes candles for Olliver Lifestyle in Columbus, so we’re pretty stoked about that project. We have 100 sets of bowls that we are working on, and those are a challenge because we normally just fill the molds and then pop them out. But these have a variable thickness and so these have to be pressure cast. And those are going in three or four different color waves. We have the planters for Deerhaus.

F-D: So do you guys just go one project at a time or do you thrive in having multiple projects going at once?

Colin: No, that’s kind of the way of ceramics, right? You’re always waiting for something and so you multitask.

Taylor: At the beginning of the month (this interview took place in March) we did the DAAP Maker’s Market; and we hadn’t seen each other much that month. So we were sitting there at the table, and we realized that we had 5 different and large orders that we had to fill. And we had a ‘holy shit’ moment of, like, “Ah! We have so much to do!”

Colin: But luckily everyone we work with is flexible and understanding. We are only doing this part time afterall. We explain that we are only in here about 3-4 hours a day, and we try not to come in every day unless we have something huge that we’re getting ready for. Even then, our turn over time is only about 3 weeks. The only time it really takes longer is when we are doing something that is completely new to us. For example, this yellow glaze series that we’re working on, there’s a delay in getting the supplies because for some reason there is always a huge delay in shipping out ceramics supplies from suppliers.

Taylor: One time it took us 6 months to get a color that we wanted.


F-D: What does your business look like in five years?

Taylor: Hopefully in a different space.

Colin: My goals are to have a cleaner, healthier space. To be able to hire people to do the tasks that I don’t want to do. My priority is to build this place to the point where I can pay Taylor and perhaps have someone come in every once in a while and help out. I’m in it to grow the business. I see it being a very long time before I ever take a profit from it.

F-D: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture? Which other designers might your work be in conversation with?

Taylor: We’re for sure bridging that gap between classic and trendy ceramics: both through our craft level and our trendy color and texture choices. We are continually looking at stuff we are steeped in contemporary design.

Colin: I’m very interested in resting in between art and design.

F-D: Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?

Colin: I say “teamwork makes the dreamwork” a lot. I got that from Katie Parker and Michael Davis though. It’s a good motivational go-to. I also like that quote from Chuck Close that reads something like, “inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work”. That’s pretty good; cause some days it’s difficult to get in the studio, but you just have to do it.

F-D: When asked; what do you tell people you do for a living?

Colin: Ugh. . .

Taylor: I just tell them that I make ceramics. And then they usually still don’t understand. They’ll usually ask for pictures or something. I dunno, it’s kind of funny.

Colin: It just depends on the context; I usually lead with my day job. Then I add that I’m a small business owner and I run this thing called CK-TC Ceramics. Around here they usually know vaguely who we are.

F-D: What risks have you taken in your work, or for your work?

Colin: Well, before Taylor got in here, I got this space and filled it with equipment. And it was all from personal funds. I sunk about two grand in; and I probably won’t see that money again. And that’s ok. It’s what it is. Now it pays for itself without too much push or effort. I also have a pretty large and cool studio. So. . . it works for us.

F-D: Words of wisdom?… a motto, favorite quote?

Colin: I guess for those who are trying to start something similar to this: there’s no better time than now. Especially in Cincinnati. Things are only going to go up and getting bigger. And uh. . . when we are really cranking out work in here. . . it’s work. It’s work all day, and then we come here and work. And then you go to bed. It’s a lot. So you need to do the work that needs to be done. But it’s just as important to have a life outside of work. Get a hobby. This used to be my hobby. So I’ve had to find something else.

F-D: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

Taylor: We’ve got a couple City Fleas in summer and fall. We’ll do the O.F.F Market's that are at Madtree.