Though likely unintentional, Kendall Davis has become somewhat of a Fort Worth attraction. Peering through the windows of storefronts on the revamped Magnolia Avenue, passersby are likely to come across a bespectacled, short-haired lady expertly shaping cups and bowls on a pottery wheel. While Kendall’s immense humbleness could make one assume she would avoid such spotlight, she actually has plans to one day livestream her pottery-making.
I met Kendall at her new storefront in the Near Southside — a 15-by-15 room that serves as both her artist studio and retail space — which she opened in August. The space has two walls draped in bookshelves filled with her stark, minimalist pottery; a bare wall; a window that looks out to the busy Magnolia Avenue; and a floor stacked with still-to-dry cups, bowls, plates and pitchers. Her pottery is all about the details; you can literally see the impressions her palms and fingertips have made, and her pieces are completely void of any fuss. This is important, as I quickly realized that Kendall likes to keep things simple.
How long have you been doing pottery and how did you get your start?
Off and on, 17 to 20 years. I was an art major; I've always done art, but I was an undergrad photography and did painting and drawing in graduate school. I went to grad school in DC, and I would go to the little bitty Chinatown there, and I would ooh and aah at their pots and would bring their little bowls back. But I still love painting.
Even though I'm now using a different medium, you would look at one of my paintings, and you could tell that they're minimalist, reductionist studies. The edges and those little marks in my paintings are very important — seeing the element of your hand even in paint.
What draws you to minimalism and reductionism?
I don't know; I wonder if I have such a jumbled brain that it’s just the only way I can think about things. It's just to break down the distractions and get to the core of something.
Another reason I go with white or a solid color is I'm interested in the form more than surface decoration.
Is this your preferred aesthetic? I mean, even for your own house?
My house? This is my preferred aesthetic: You walk up to my porch, and it's covered in boxes of clay. You walk to my dining room, and it's covered with everything that needs to go into the kiln — laundry is everywhere. I mean I tried to strip down the house, just get rid of everything and paint the walls white; it's just, I think pockets of chaos tend to explode.
What artists have influenced your work?
Robert Ryman. That was an influential artist I saw when I was in graduate school; I saw his paintings in New York in retrospect, going back to these little edges. But most of his paintings were mostly white, but about all the different ways you could show white. So those subtle nuances interest me, and that's what Robert Ryman was about. Giorgio Morandi, you know that one? Italian. Still life painter, even designers would know Morandi.
What are some of the challenges you have being someone who handmakes everything yourself and just being one person?
The process is extremely timely. There's a lot of drawing in between. So, you have to coordinate what you're doing, at what stages the pieces are, everything I have to take home to fire, not once but twice. I fire it once, then I glaze it, then I fire it again, then it gets sanded, then I bring it back. And I'm upkeeping my Instagram, and I have the TCU Roxo team helping me this semester. They’re from the communication department, and they help small businesses with website and social media stuff.
What made you choose Magnolia Avenue to open a storefront?
I live on Sixth Avenue and I drive by here, and I was driving by one day and saw the for-rent sign. I'd been looking for a space for about 10 months — either here or the new South Main. It just has a different vibe, you know? That's why I chose to live here, because that came first. There’s just so much progress, and I like that I can walk the neighborhood.
And I love Fort Worth. I mean, the Chamber of Commerce has done a good job lately of bringing in the arts. And you see a lot of people from these oversaturated markets of Austin and Dallas moving to Fort Worth. It’s sort of the new frontier for Texas artists.