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About Bracken & Briar

Bracken & Briar is a small batch shop that sells pottery and prints online, in some local shops and at makers markets

Owner and artist Piper Smith is a multidisciplinary artist from Kittery, Maine, studied ceramics at Maine College of Art and graduated with a BFA in Ceramics in May of 2020. Originally attending Maine College of Art for Illustration and Printmaking, these techniques and graphic qualities heavily influence her work. Nature, flowers and fruit are also a large influence. Plants frequent the surface of Piper’s ceramics. She mainly makes functional forms, appreciating the ritual aspect of using functional ceramics. Using a technique called sgraffito to carve through slip and colorful underglaze to reveal the red earthenware clay body underneath. This process produces a high level of contrast that resembles a pen on paper, but on a usable vessel. 

After graduating from Maine College of Art, Piper opened Bracken & Briar online. Briefly having a consignment brick and mortar shop in Rye, NH, but has since closed the physical shop due to the pandemic. Now she works from her home studio.

As a way to preserve the natural world, my ceramic work portrays natural and floral motifs to convey a feeling of memory and magic. Using imagery of plants that have medical and health benefits on the surface of my pots links the old tradition of plants, magic and food. Some of my oldest memories were of growing food and then serving it to friends and family as a meal. Knowing the use of these plants, manifesting them with intention and surfacing my pots with them embodies them with the magical qualities that the plants have. This doesn’t just go for veggies, fruits, flowers and herbs; to me all plants have this old magic in them that doesn’t interact with people like an animal or another human does, but is slower. So when you take the time to grow these plants, their personalities and life becomes more visible. That’s what I want to capture, the slow and old magic that plants have and their healing power. Even if it’s just through a smile and a cup of warm tea. 

Growing up with one hand in the garden, plants are deeply rooted in my life while my artistic practice expands them into the other hand through clay, pen and paper. Having a foundation in illustration and printmaking, I carve graphic natural illustrations into my ceramic vessels as a main part of my artistic practice. Using mainly the ceramic carving technique called sgraffito, I carve through brightly colored underglaze and slip on functional red earthenware ceramic vessels. Carving through the lightly colored slip to reveals the dark orangey-red clay underneath. This gives a three dimensional, functional form contrast that is similar to black line art on white paper or a crisp linoleum print on nice paper. Which is a look I’m trying to achieve with the techniques I use most frequently. I have also been trying to incorporate real flowers and leaves into my work, as well as the sgraffito, to elevate my imagery above the two dimensional level.

Typically the pots I craft portray natural and floral motifs to convey a feeling of memory and magic that I see in the natural world around me. In my work, I want to preserve the natural world, through stylized drawings and pressed flowers and leaves. Life, like the short growing season of my home is fleeting. The seeds that are sewn every spring only have enough time to grow, bloom, seed themselves and die all in four months out of the year. The plants that grow here year round are tough and old and go dormant for the rest of the year. Through clay I can preserve the growing season. Ceramics is not a fast craft. It takes time to form the pieces to be suitable for function, then to surface them with plants that take time to cultivate and grow for use is how I bring the garden to the table year round. To create this feeling of an eternal spring; capturing the time when life and all things green and leafy come back into the world after a period of intense change on a material like clay that also has to go through an extreme change to survive is uplifting and hopeful. 

Taking a cup, bowl,  plate, vase, ect. and giving it a fun, colorful surface to give the user a deeper experience than just the food or beverage they are consuming. For the user to connect with the vessel and to find the vessel visually intriguing as well as functional is my goal. This includes the physical aspects of each pot. Having each mug or bowl being the same as the next in form is not the exact goal as of right now. Instead to take the time to notice how each piece works with the body to perform its function. Making sure the rim is clean and comfortable.  Noticing the foot or bottom and making sure the piece is stable and sits flat on the table. Taking time to make handle after handle till they fit the pot and are comfortable in the hand. Stemming from my love for the labor involved in gardening and keeping plants, using the slow technique of making functional pots gives me a way to preserve the growing season for the whole year. 

My end goal for Bracken & Briar is to bring color and joy into the everyday life with a functional piece of art. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.

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