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Collection: Klapthors Universal Robots

Artist:  Michael Klapthor/Klapthors Universal Robots, Atlanta, Georgia

I am making a clay series of sculptures and functional wares based on the 1950s era of science fiction. Robots, rockets, ray guns, and more are made through a combination of pottery and sculpting techniques and then colored with bold glazes and rusty stains. The themes of this series center around whimsy and nostalgia.

The building process gives the sculptures a distinctive look of sleekly designed constructs. But the expressions and posture of the characters give a contrasting layer as they convey the emotional depth.

Most designs begin in my sketchbook as I doodle down ideas for robots or space-themed constructs. From there, I determine what shapes I need to make on the pottery wheel in order to build the sculpture. Once all the pieces have been thrown and partially dried, they are assembled together into a sculptural version of the drawings. After this, multiple kiln firings are necessary to build up the colors, metallics, and patina before the sculpture is complete.

I studied ceramics and printmaking at Georgia College and went on to work as a studio assistant and sculpture instructor at many regional ceramic studios, refining my own work and concepts about ceramics. I’ve bounced around various themes with my sculptures, typically explored through figurative work of some variety. As I spent more time around fellow ceramic artists, I became interested in pottery design and wheel-throwing techniques. Eventually these two interests merged into the robot series I’m creating today.

The strongest influence on my work is probably the print and film media that is rooted in the science fiction genre of the 1950s and 1960s. These stories delved deep into human nature that found a good amount of both hope and fear and exaggerated the themes into fantastic tales that took these emotions to their furthest logical conclusions. Both the heart and the aesthetic of these stories are what I aim to capture in my work.

This became a time of recentering for me, and I had a chance to explore a few more of my roots as a ceramic artist. I took this time to dabble once again in my sculpting techniques and see how they could work in tandem with the pottery aspect of my designs. Some results have been great; some have been failures. But this period of strange forced reflection has given me the freedom to experiment and fail—something, as a full-time working artist, I wouldn’t have otherwise allowed myself time for.

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