Three years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to bring my dream kitchen to life. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is showcase the delightful pieces I’ve collected over the years from my favorite potter and artist, Stephen Kilborn. His whimsical creations have never failed to bring a smile to my face. My collection includes dinner plates, bowls, dessert plates, platters, serving dishes, pitchers, and sugar bowls, and none of them match. However, each piece brings me joy every time I use them for a meal. Among the assortment are ginger cats, dragonflies, rabbits, strawberries, guitars, black cats, sacred hearts, dancing Day of the Dead skeletons – some even proudly waving the American flag and the New Mexico flag. The collection also features sunflowers, turtles, magpies, various cacti, New Mexico landscapes, leopard prints, and other stylistic themes. This eclectic mix led to my decision to install open shelving and tiled walls to display my cherished Stephen Kilborn treasures.
My journey with Stephen Kilborn’s work began when I stumbled upon his gallery in Taos and later visited his studio in Pilar back in 2006. It took me quite a while to amass my collection, although I must admit that I recently added two more pieces just last week. What I love most is the experience of exploring his studio, searching for the perfect additions to my ever-growing collection of his works. There’s always a friendly canine companion around; this time, it was Rosie with her endearing floppy tongue and kind, adorable eyes. The presence of these dogs always adds to the joy of visiting the studio. Stephen himself has always been a pleasure to talk to, and I relish seeing his latest ideas for new pieces. During my recent visit, I was captivated by several, but I ultimately chose a rabbit platter and a dragonfly salsa pot.
Stephen Kilborn has been fortunate to spend the past 48 years doing what he loves. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and ceramics from Bowling Green State University, he made the move to New Mexico shortly after graduating. He initially worked as a furniture maker in Santa Fe for a few years before transitioning to pottery design and production. In 1978, he settled in Pilar, where he opened his pottery studio. His creations have graced over a hundred shops and galleries across the United States, Europe, and Japan. During the peak of production at his studio, Stephen had twelve assistants to meet the high demand for his pieces. In 1994, he and his lovely wife, Laverne, opened a gallery in Taos. The studio produced and the gallery sold nearly 500,000 pieces, all meticulously crafted and decorated by hand. While much of his work is considered craft, Stephen also boasts a few pieces in museum collections.
The impact of Stephen’s art and creations on clients like me who continue to follow his work and collect his pieces is profound. I can attest that his work has a lasting effect on my life every time I gaze upon my collection of pottery, each piece a manifestation of his artistic vision. Every time I take one of his pieces down to enjoy a cup of coffee, entertain guests, or retrieve it from the dishwasher or oven, I am reminded of the connection I feel with his art. Remarkably, his pottery is both visually striking and functional, designed to withstand the rigors of oven use and dishwasher cleaning due to his meticulous firing process.
Stephen, or rather my relationship with him, is the reason I’m sharing this story. If it’s not already evident, I thrive on cultivating relationships – with my clients, suppliers, and individuals like Stephen. When you discover something you love, something that speaks to you in a way that words can’t quite capture, and you feel an irresistible urge to possess it – that connection deepens when you get to know the person behind that creation. Their personality and, over time, your relationship with them become as integral to the piece’s significance as the piece itself. When you have something in your home, whether it’s your refrigerator or your pillows, that truly holds meaning for you and that you genuinely cherish, you can’t help but create a story around it. And that story typically begins with its origin – who crafted it. From there, you become curious about the maker, eventually desiring some form of connection with the person behind the work. That’s the essence of life, and it’s the essence of what makes great interior design: relationships.
While Stephen’s pottery is one of my passions, it’s worth noting that his paintings are now as much a part of his studio as his pottery. With just one assistant by his side, he continues to paint and create pottery in his Pilar studio. He is not only a skilled artist but also an incredibly charming individual. I wholeheartedly recommend paying him a visit one day. You can explore his work on his website and in his studio, or visit his gallery in Taos. But even if you simply drop by to meet the artist, you won’t be disappointed.