Jennifer Allen Plinth Gallery Artist Interview
Jen’s website: http://www.jenallenceramics.com/ Plinth gallery: http://plinthgallery. This month Plinth Gallery Artist interview is with Jen Allen. Her show opens First Friday June 4, which is also the third anniversary of Plinth Gallery. Jennifer makes truly beautiful ceramics. Her functional pottery forms “describe contrasts between modesty and generosity, grace and awkwardness” while they relate to her love of sewing through details such as folds, seams, darts, and pillow-like handles. Jen’s exquisite pottery is the way she, communicates with the home, the hand, and the mind.” How did you become an artist? I’m not really sure that I became an artist; I think I’ve always been one. I have painted and drawn ever since I can remember. As a child, my father built my sister and I a miniature workbench next to his, so we could tinker with wood alongside him. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t building or creating something. My sophomore year of undergraduate school I took my first ceramics class. It was then that I choose to pursue an art degree over an education degree. How would you describe your style? Generous and graceful, useful and comfortable One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? This question is a tough one to answer because I don’t know how long it’s actually taken me to develop a style. Consciously, probably since I was a beginning undergrad student. Every choice you make helps mold you in very specific ways. In retrospect, I can clearly see many common threads that span the 14 years that I’ve been working with clay. My “style” came together swiftly in graduate school. It was there that I learned how to look at my work objectively and hear what it was saying. When my intentions met up with the actual language each piece was speaking, I knew my work was honest and was my own. Developing a style is never something you seek out; rather, it’s something that just happens given time and determination. It’s something as unique and individual as DNA. What is your inspiration for your pieces? My inspiration comes from a myriad of sources. Most notably from landscape, textiles, home, food and historical crafts. What keeps you motivated? I’m kept motivated by my husband, my dogs, my students and my constant need to speak more clearly through my work. Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces? Yes, I am a full time artist. When creating new pieces, I often start by thinking of utilitarian forms made to fulfill specific purposes in the home. Next, I sketch many iterations of each form. I post these sketches in front of my wheel and construct quick 3-D sketches of my favorite drawings. From there, I’ll refine the one’s I feel are the most successful. I go through a similar process when coming up with new decorative motifs. I research textile designs from certain eras, when design was influenced by times of renewal, prosperity and optimism. Specifically, I look to kimono patterns from Edo period, Japan, post WWII textile design, and Arts and Crafts era design. I then sketch a blending of these sources on scraps of paper and post them on my studio walls. When it comes time to decorate my work, I’ll look to my drawings as inspiration. How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance? The truth is, I don’t. I’m definitely a workaholic. I would like to have more balance in my life and am constantly trying to figure out how to do it successfully. You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn't get into it for the sake of "business". But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation? Choose how you want to establish yourself in your local, national and global communities. Know that these decisions are going to make distinct differences in your career choices. As for specifics… keep all records and receipts!!! Keep track of all incoming revenue and outgoing expenses. Set money aside to pay state and federal taxes. Be mindful of loss rates and adjust if need be. What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look? If you are searching for a style, you’ll never find one. It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s a process that takes years to develop. Always be aware of the current trends in ceramics and have an extensive understanding of ceramic history. Make a lot of work, but don’t make it thoughtlessly. Be conscious of your creative choices, be in the moment with your work and be able to access your work objectively in order to move it forward. Eventually you’ll notice sensibilities that remain constant throughout. When this happens, you’ve gotten closer to identifying what “your work” looks like. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see your show.