Canopic Jars

Kate Missett was born in 1951 in New York City. When she was one year old, her family moved to South Florida where she grew up surrounded by the wonderful lushness of the tropics. Mangrove forests, the Atlantic Ocean, tropical birds and all sorts of sea life, as well as her grandmother’s collection of bone china and ceramic figurines, have all found their way into her work.

Misset majored in journalism at Loyola in New Orleans, but it was a ceramics class in her senior year that completely transformed her life. Inspired, she immediately bought a wheel and kiln and set about trying to learn everything on her own while living on a commune in Washington state.

Missett eventually went back to school for a BFA, then to graduate school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York, as well as a faculty member of Greenwich House Pottery and the Art Program director for the West Side YMCA.

Here is how Missett describes her work:

Canopic jars were used by Egyptians to inter various internal organs with the deceased. I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in graduate school and became fascinated with these wonderful pieces that were usually made of alabaster or limestone. The tops depicted Egyptian deities, frequently animals, and the sides of the jars often had intriguing letters and drawings. I was interested in borrowing the form for my own work because I was very concerned with environmental issues, particularly endangered species, having grown up in South Florida and watched the disappearance of so much wildlife as the population exploded. I grew up playing in mangrove swamps and spending hours diving on reefs that are no longer there. I had been making all sorts of animals and birds in clay for many years. I was also doing a lot of experimentation with printing photographs onto the ceramic surface and the combination of two- and three-dimensional surfaces on one piece was a natural fit for my aesthetic. Finally, the association with death and afterlife was perfect for the subject matter of endangered species and the environment.

The pieces are primarily hand built from slabs of clay, although some of the bottoms begin on the wheel and are then built up by the addition of slabs. All the forms are hollow, including the sculptural tops; they are all fired, some multiple times to create a particular surface effect.

I have had the good fortune to learn many types of firing processes as I do have access to places that have wood, salt, and raku kilns within a reasonable distance of New York City. I tend to think of the finished surface when conceptualizing a piece so the pieces are frequently quite different from each other depending on the firing chosen.


Lynx with Blue Rose
Salt Fired Porcelain
29”h x 8”w x8”d

This was inspired by the proposed drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. This piece is wheel thrown and handbuilt porcelain, fired in a Wood/Salt kiln to Cone 10 in 2016.





Ganesh; Remover of Obstacles
anagama fired stoneware
38”h x 10”w x 8”d





Night Crowned Heron
Wheel Thrown and Handbuilt porcelain with silkscreen transfers
21”h x 8”w x 8”d





Gator with Ibis
Wheel Thrown and handbuilt stoneware, wood/salt fired.
20”h x 6”w x 6”d





Just About Everybody Has A Nest
Handbill Stoneware
26”h x 12”w x 11”d

I made this one at a residency in Watershed, Maine using photos I had taken of blue heron nests in the Everglades but the piece is really about homelessness. Somehow being away from the city for awhile gave me space to think about living in Brooklyn. I noticed as soon as everyone arrived at the residency they immediately started talking about their “nests”; showing pictures of their families & homes, potters even show pictures of their kilns (believe it or not). It made me think of how many levels of loss homelessness involves.





Zebra with Daffodils
Handbuilt, raku fired stoneware with silkscreen transfers
15”h x 7”w x 5”d





Rabbit in a Flower Garden
Handbuilt Terra Cotta with Majolica Glaze
38”h x 12”w x 10”d





Oil Spill
Handbuilt Raku Fired Stoneware
25”h  x 12”w x 9” d





Tu-Art; Egyptian Hippo
Handbuilt Earthenware with Egyptian Paste
and gum bichromate photo prints
28”h x 15”w x 6”d


This is the first of the canopic jar series that I started years ago while still working at the Met. It has photos I took in the museum and alligators from the Everglades, printed with an old nineteenth century process called gum bichromate that was normally done onto paper by brushing the surface with an photo sensitive emulsion. I just adapted the process to clay. Tu-Art was the protector of women and children in the Egyptian pantheon.





Kabuki Tiger
Terra Cotta with Majolica Glaze
35”h x 16”w x 8”d





Sea Dreams
Wheel Thrown and Handbuilt Stoneware
Oxidation Fired with Lustre Overglaze
20”h x 10”w x 6”d





The Wall
Hand built Stoneware painted with underglazes and oxidation fired.
36”h x 12”w x 7”d





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