Monday, November 10, 2008

Jenni Brant

Jenni Brant, Nebraska, USA

I fell in love with Jenni's work when I layed my eyes on this beauty. Butter is already on the top of my favorites list, but serving it on this? WOW - I'd have to find a reason to serve it 3x a day, everyday! I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did. Oh and I like to call her the potting goddess (hope she doesn't kill me for saying that out loud)!!!

1. How would you describe your style? 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? What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Voluptuous - Feminine - Dainty - Detailed - Refined - Celebratory - Precise - Decadent - Soft...all words that I would use to describe my functional ceramic work. I’ve been working seriously in clay for nine years. I do not think I was concerned about ‘my style’ until I had the basics of the techniques down, or about a year and a half into it. I’ve been making this particular style of work a couple of years and I can see myself making work like this for along time to come. My work continually feeds itself, inspiring new forms and new ideas everyday. There is always some thing new and exciting happening in the studio.

Finding your ‘signature style’ is kind of like shopping for the perfect outfit. You have to try lots of things on to find out what fits you best, what you feel most comfortable in, and what you can stand confidently behind. My advice to budding artists is to know your materials inside & out. Become familiar with all the techniques associated with your materials - once you know the limits & rules you can push them and break them. Pay attention and stay alert in your day-to-day life so you can take note of the things that attract you and repulse you - use that as information and inspiration in the work you make. Don’t try to make work like your artist heroes, just try to make your work. Read - look - sketch - make - play. And don’t rush it - enjoy the ride and the surprises that happen along the way.

2. You were originally studying to become a graphic designer in college. Can you tell us about the day you fell in love with throwing and decided to say goodbye to graphic design.

I took my first throwing class in my sophomore year of undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. We spent the first half of the semester working with slabs and coils. I enjoyed that but once we started working on the potter’s wheel, I was hooked. Wheel throwing seemed like some magical process where a lump of clay was quickly transformed into a beautiful, round, symmetrical, functional object. Although, it wasn’t that simple; my teacher just made it look so effortless. It was difficult but I was completely enthralled with the challenge. I knew that I could do this everyday for the rest of my life and changed my life plan. I told my parents I wanted to be a potter, they gave me their blessing and here I am today, trying to make that life a reality.

3. You've worked at a gallery before where you learned how galleries work + you've been part of a handful of exhibitions - What advice could you give aspiring artists on the best way to get noticed and invited to be part of a gallery exhibition?

First, make the best work you can possibly make. Be confident in that work and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Learn to take professional images of your work or hire someone to do it.

Visit the galleries in your area and get to know the type of work that they carry. If you like what they do, see if they have employment opportunities or internships available. It’s a good way to learn about the behind-the-scenes aspects of galleries and to get the chance to pick gallery owners’ brains. Volunteer for arts organizations in your community. Be involved and you will be noticed.

Research galleries on the web or when you travel. Look for opportunities to enter juried shows, donate work to fundraising auctions, or submit proposals for group exhibitions. There are lots of opportunities out there; you just have to take the time to find out about them and do the legwork to submit your artwork.

4. How do you find the energy to make such beautiful things while holding a full time day job as the Education Director at Lux Center? How do you juggle a full-time job, a growing business and a personal life?

I have an impeccable work ethic and try to stay very organized. I also have to know when to say ‘no’ to things and set priorities. But it’s not always easy. I get really stressed out and I tend to be late with everything. I’m lucky because my friends, family and my boyfriend understand that I always have a pile of things on my plate; they always seem to forgive me when I get overly wrapped up in what I’m doing. I think their continuous support is something that really helps to keep it all together. I also drink a lot of coffee (having some right now!) and am a fan of kombucha tea.

5. What part of the throwing process is your favorite?

My favorite part is when I am at the wheel, moving and molding the wet clay with my hands. I enjoy throwing ‘off-the-hump’ where I throw multiple things from one larger lump of clay on the wheel.

6. Who is your idol/current artist-crush?

I have a couple of artist heroes. One is Georgia O’Keeffe. The other is Lee Bontecou. I idolize them because first of all, they are both women. Their work is beautiful, sensuous and you get the feeling that they were masters of the materials, whatever they were using. I think that they constructed their careers on their own terms always remaining truthful to their ideas even when the art world was asking for something else from them.

7. 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 businessman. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

This business side of things isn’t always fun or easy and can be overly time consuming. I highly suggest taking a business class or two to help you with some basics. Take a design or marketing class so you can make your own website, business cards or postcards. Become friends with a good accountant. Partner with friends or fellow artists to do shows or sales so you can share the workload and build your mailing lists. Be organized from the start and keep all of your receipts. Dedicate time to staying organized and staying on top of things. Keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses with different accounts. There are lots of free directories or inexpensive Internet tools you can use to promote your work or have an online shop. Just like the artwork you make, it’s going to differ from how others do it. Decide how you what to live your life, set some goals and start figuring out how to achieve those goals - don’t be afraid to try things and put yourself out there.

8. What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I foresee the work unfolding into a greater variety of forms, continuing to develop a broader range of celebratory functional ceramic ware. New colors are coming soon! I want to start doing workshops or teaching classes at art schools around the country. I want to get into the business of providing gifts and one-of-a-kind d├ęcor for weddings and other celebratory events. I’m really excited about some upcoming shows and possibilities...we’ll see what comes of them!!

We are scheming about how we can start to transition from to a life in the country, hopefully in southern Wisconsin. My partner, Eric Petersen, and I would love to move from full-time day jobs to being full-time studio artists, living a quieter and simpler life with lots of gardening and lots of nature around us. But really, who knows what the future holds...just have to wait and see!!

Thanks Jenni!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Wow. Jenni's work is absolutely gorgeous, Thank you so much for the introduction. wow....

Julie - On the Dot Creations said...

I particularly love the polka dots on Jenni's pieces. Such lovely things.

Stacey said...

Just beautiful, such inviting, unusual shapes.

Amy (the b-line) said...

Oh my! Jenni's work is new to me and I'm so happy to be introduced! It's gorgeous!

Carlos Guerrero said...

Jenni Rocks!

Unknown said...

Jenni's work is wonderful! I have a thing for tiny polka dots myself and I think I'm in love with everything in her shop :D