At the peak of Arabia Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia, designer Katie Ridley Murphy is often foraging for her next treasure — sticks that strike her artistic sensibility (sun-bleached, peculiar etchings), before replicating each one’s distinct formation in porcelain imported from Barcelona. Through a subtractive carving technique and glaze firing, Murphy slowly reveals each sculpture’s distinct character. “I have an obsession with replicating objects, working with them side by side, and seeing how closely I reach each time,” she says.
Prior to producing porcelain artworks inspired by her environment — including leaves, matches, and an array of fruit — Murphy sketched sticks found in her backyard, transforming them into trompe l’oeil graphite drawings and prints. After having twins in 2009, the artist-designer quit her job as a media illustrator and dived straight into art — a therapeutic escape from the challenges of motherhood. Five years later, Murphy switched from pencil and paper to pottery, and taught herself how to carve ceramic by YouTubing videos.
At her home studio, Murphy performs her mesmerizing craft. First by forming the shape of her samples by hand, and then carefully etching the finer details with one of her grandmother’s sewing needles. Whether it’s a pomegranate or matchstick, Murphy adds 20 percent to its size to maintain an equal ratio when compared to the real object, as porcelain tends to shrink in the kiln. Another unintentional outcome are crevices that can form in the body of the sculpture — something Murphy fully embraces. “The delightful surprise of fissures and cracks often occur, which I then fill with silver kintsugi,” adds Murphy. “It’s all a balance between imperfection, beauty, and detail.”
However, the most difficult aspect of Murphy’s art is not relinquishing control to the firing process, but rather finding the perfect specimen to copy. “First I have to find the perfect leaf or fruit, that’s the hardest part,” she says. “But what keeps the excitement going is finding that one leaf that has an abnormal curl or a lemon with a mold spot. Every piece has to be different every time.”