To better know your community, meet the local artists who make up its tapestry of design. Each month, DESTINATION TAMPA BAY introduces readers to these creative ambassadors in its monthly artist spotlight. This month, meet a gifted artist whose ceramic work is often spurred by nature and always cast with precision and care. The spotlight shines on William Kidd.
For nearly forty years, William (“Bill”) Kidd has transformed clay into ceramic objects of unique beauty and clever design. In turn, this passion to innovate has helped shape the man behind the art. “Creating pieces in ceramic is extremely gratifying,” says the longtime Florida resident. “Taking a piece of clay, molding or shaping it with my hands, firing and glazing it and creating something that will exist forever is amazing to me.”
The artist is relatively new to Tampa Bay having lived in the area for only a year and a half. The journey to explore his passion for art, however, began quite some time ago following a detour from a more traditional career path. “I was 22 years old when I knew I wanted to be an artist,” he says. “I had become bored with studies to become an accountant, so I took a break from school. My wife Andrea talked me into taking several studio art classes, and upon taking my first ceramics course, I immediately knew that clay was my medium for expression.”
Kidd says he’s just as passionate about the art form today as when he first discovered the process all those years ago. His work can be viewed locally at The Florida CraftArt gallery in St. Pete and has been frequently featured and recognized at area events including the Gasparilla Art Festival in March and Mainsail Art Festival in April. (Kidd’s ceramic work featured at Mainsail Arts Festival-LEFT)
The artist acknowledges that sometimes viewers of his work are not entirely sure of what sits before them. “When someone sees my work for the first time, they often ask me ‘so what is it?’ At first glance, the viewer sees something that seems as if it could be alive but cannot actually identify it as something they are familiar with,” Kidd says. Some of his work has been inspired by the artist’s fascination with observing up close the structure of microorganisms, fungi, seeds, cacti, seeds, and sea life. “I refer to my pieces as ‘organic possibilities,’ These pieces are not imitations of any real organism so therefore they are somewhat alien or ‘other worldly’ life forms.”
Taking part in shows is nothing new for Kidd, who has been participating in art shows for about 36 years. While he worked on developing his skills as an artist, he also taught art and ceramics to high school students in Miami for thirty years. Much of Kidd’s artwork consists of wheel-thrown and hand-built ceramic pieces, everything from bowls, plates and jar to vessels and sculptures.
My pieces are all organically inspired by forms of nature, and there has been quite an evolution over the past twenty years with this body of work,” he says. “Many of my pieces are extensions or mutations of pieces that preceded them. I try to push an idea to its limits over a series of pieces, sometimes incorporating multiple ideas into a single piece.”
Kidd has been honored numerous times for his inventive ceramic work including Best in Show at the 2022 FAFO Ocala Arts Festival, First Place for Ceramics at the 2020 Beaux Arts Festival of Art, the Award of Distinction at Mayfaire-by-the-Lake, Awards of Excellence from the Halifax Art Festival and Boston Mills Art Fest, and merit awards at various festivals including the Fort Worth Main Street Arts Festival, ArtFest in Fort Myers, and recently, the 2022 Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver.
In 2022, Kidd was selected, along with eight other Florida artists, to be part of Clearly Collaborative, a unique, joint art exhibition between Florida CraftArt and Duncan McClellan Gallery. Each artist chosen would be offered an opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed glass artist Duncan McLellan. Final pieces from the collaboration will be on display in a January 2023 exhibit. (Click here to read more about the Clearly Collaborative multimedia art project.)
I have known Duncan for many years as we participated in many shows together throughout Florida,” Kidd says. “Duncan allowed me to select three pieces to incorporate with my clay work and let me create the finished pieces independently.”
Kidd employs the use of simple wire loop tools to carve by hand much of his thrown symmetrical work and uses the potter’s wheel along with stains and glazes to create other art pieces. He says his clay of choice is a low-fire red earthenware clay which he then finishes using oxide stains, underglazes, and his signature crawl glaze. Whatever equipment and materials are at the foundation of Kidd’s art concept, the ideas behind them can take time to solidify before the handbuilding or potter’s wheel begins. “I usually visualize pieces in my head before actually creating them. Some ideas come quick and are easily created while others have to be considered over and over again before attempting to create the idea in clay,” he says. “The more complicated pieces sometimes change form in their creation due to a change in the idea or sometimes a technical issue develops.”
Kidd, who participates in 15-20 shows a year, wraps up 2022 with a full event calendar. In November, he is slated to take part in the St. Armand’s Circle Art Festival in Sarasota (November 12-13, 2022) and the Florida CraftArt show in St. Pete (November 19-20, 2022). In December, he is part of the Tampa Bay Tour de Clay, an annual tour of 4 Tampa Bay area ceramic studios that highlights the work of 14 artists (December 10-11, 2022). He then starts off 2023 with the Clearly Collaborative Exhibit (January 27-March 11, 2023).
I hope to intrigue the viewer and provide some joy to them when they see my work,” Kidd says. “Most people when they see my work tell me it makes them smile.”
For those interested in seeing more of Kidd’s unique pieces, visit the artist’s website by clicking here. To keep up with the latest events, visit his ceramics page on Instagram.
by Chris Kuhn written exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay. All photos courtesy of artist William Kidd, unless otherwise noted. Feature image above: William Kidd works on his latest piece of art. Photo by David Ramsey.
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