Sandy Kaster’s story could be a Disney fairytale. A struggling artist, working a fulltime job, puts one of her ceramic teapots in the Ann McKee Artists Fund auction and is discovered by a local gallery owner.
Instead of being a fairytale, Kaster’s story is real, but filled with all the challenges and rewards facing any fairytale princess. She came to Key West to attend Florida Keys Community College’s nursing program, graduated and worked at the local hospital as an RN.
“I was in health care research before coming to Key West,” Kaster said while she sipped coffee at a local coffeehouse. “I wanted to get a nursing license and came to FKCC. I graduated and my first job at the hospital was as a medical writer. Now I’m an RN.”
Her medical career led Kaster to pottery class at FKCC because the process helped her to relax, she said. She began taking classes at FKCC and the process captured her imagination and she wanted to know more.
In 2012, Kaster received a grant to help continue her ceramics work from the Ann McKee Artist Fund.
The grant allowed her to buy a kiln for her home studio. Kaster smiled, almost laughed. “My studio is outside my apartment. I love that I can work outside. The one problem I do run into is that sometimes the heat dries the clay too fast, it has to be pliable for me to work with it.”
Kaster’s designs are teapots, bowls and plates, but she has ventured off into a form of ceramic sculpture, she said and pointed at a photo of her “vegetables on a stick.”
Her teapots are what challenges her the most.
“Teapots are complicated,” Kaster said. “There are so many components before it’s put together. You have the handle, the bowl and the spout to deal with. When I’m done, they have to fit together. The handle and spout has to fit the bowl and the design has to look right.”
Kaster crafts each piece separately, allows it to dry a little and then she puts the pieces together and lets it dry completely.
“A teapot takes two turns in the kiln,” she said.
Kaster’s creations are all one-of-a-kind and because of this each item is unique in what it requires for drying and kiln time.
“My bowls go from small to large and, of course, the large pieces take longer to dry,” she said while discussing her process. “I can create something in a few hours, but it may take weeks to dry and for me to begin the next step.”
Kaster said she enjoys experimenting and learning about clay and what she can get away with, with new design ideas.
“The ideas keep coming,” she said. “I work with the ideas, experiment and each time I learn more about the limits of clay.”
Kaster feels lucky to love what she does, both as an RN and as an artist. Her ceramic art is displayed at the Frangipani Gallery, 1102A Duval St., Key West, and sells from $25 to $80.