Jen Jeglinski’s ceramics look as if they could have sprouted directly from the earth. The colors are vibrant yet natural hues and the textures are often inspired directly from the garden and woods. Butterflies, leaves, natural patterns crawl across the bowls and vases, highlighted by handmade glazes.
Jen agreed to answer some questions about her work and nature as her inspiration.
Was working in ceramics an interest from an early age or was it something you found later? (I know that you describe your interest on your Etsy profile, but would love to include it here)
From a young age I was introduced to art by my mother and grandmother, who are both painters and creative in general. As a child I was always making something from the treasures we would find at craft shops, but it wasn’t until I was about 10 that I played with clay for the first time. My mom, seeing my growing interest in art, signed me up for after school art classes at a studio. The teacher let us explore whatever medium we were interested in. I remember the few sessions working with clay very clearly, even to this day.
I used the potters wheel a few times in high school whenever it was available, but really discovered my love of ceramics while taking a basic ceramics class at a community college. The professor saw quickly how fascinated I was and let me work in the studio outside of class. I found myself researching on my own and trying to soak up as much information as I possibly could including teaching myself to throw on a potters wheel. But, it wasn’t until I enrolled in SUNY New Paltz that I realized ceramics could be more than just an interest, but a life path.
I have always been drawn to nature, finding inspiration in the beauty it offers. Since it is where my artistic interests lie, it seems natural that my work would have an organic quality. The textures and patterns I see often become ideas for stamps. Colors of the sky or flowers become the basis for a glaze color. I often make stamps from actual plant material, which allows me to preserve the flower or grass and give it new life in each piece made.
I also am an avid gardener, so making ceramics that compliment fresh produce or a live plant appeals to me. For years, I focused on making terracotta planters. Initially I made a few planters to repot some houseplants that got too large, but it developed into a great way to combine my two interests very directly.
Could you tell me a bit about your working process and your studio?
Using a rolling pin, I hand roll several slabs of clay and let them sit a bit to dry. I have been rolling my slabs by hand ever since I stopped using the wheel, but recently had the opportunity to use a slab roller. It gives very consistent results and puts much less strain on my body, proving to be a valuable piece of equipment.
Once the clay is rolled into a slab, it becomes a blank canvas. For every piece I make, I’ve created a paper pattern to be able to reproduce that exact shape again, similar to patterns in sewing. Any given slab will provide enough clay for a mug and a few trays. The clay is then textured with various handmade stamps, fabric, natural objects, or block stamps and the pattern is cut out. Each piece is then assembled and formed. Often I have to wait between steps so the clay dries to the right consistency. For this reason I tend to work on about 25 pieces at a time. Once dry, everything is bisque fired, coated with handmade glazes, and fired again to cone 7.
My studio is located in the basement of our home. It is relatively small so I have to be organized in order to make the best use of the space. As it is in the basement, it tends to be damp. This works in my favor to keep the clay moist for long periods of time.
The best part about it is that it is separated from our living space so I have to walk outside to get there, something that sometimes distracts me and other times helps me focus. Often this step outside gets my creative juices flowing, seeing a starry night or my gardens to and from the studio.
Usually my experimenting is done right on the actual piece. I get ideas for a form or texture and sometimes remember to write down notes in my journal. More often I plan out a new shape in my head and go for it, making changes along the way until it feels finished.
I usually have a rough idea of what I’m looking to achieve. Now that I have a number of pieces that I make regularly, I know for the most part what the finished product will look like. In order to keep my regular items fresh, I use a variety of stamps and often add new textures or experiment with a new glaze color.
Often I discover new forms by accident. I recently had this happen when making a simple bud vase. I stamped the pattern sideways. When I began to assemble it, I connected the wrong sides together. This became my excuse to really push the limits on the shape, so I altered it more than I might have. As a result, I made a new form that has become my favorite.
How has living in the Hudson Valley affected your work?
Clearly the beautiful landscape and access to nature influences me greatly. Prior to living in Upstate NY, I lived in a relatively suburban neighborhood. Even though we had a small yard, I was outside regularly taking in all the wonders our backyard provided.
Moving upstate brought me closer to nature and showed me a slower pace of life. It provided me space to garden and establish my love of healthy cooking and eating.
From a practical standpoint, I live very close to a large ceramic supply store, so getting clay and materials is very easy. Also, since the area is filled with art and artists, there are many opportunities to show my work and reach a local audience.
Since I went to college locally, I still have a number of friends in the area, several who are also potters. I met many artists from the years of doing craft shows after college, many of whom I run into regularly and still live in the Hudson Valley.
I have also been connected with a local studio called The Women’s Studio Workshop for a few years. Initially, they helped me out of a bind when my kiln broke down right before a show. I was able to fire work there and as a way to return my gratitude began helping with their annual chili bowl sale. I have met wonderful artists in my interactions with them and enjoy the sense of community it offers.
How do you spend your downtime?
I always seem to be busy, often having a hard time finding true downtime. As I work part time, making ceramics is done in my downtime. In addition, from spring thru fall I spend lots of time gardening, specifically tending our herb and vegetable garden at a community garden. Last year my fiance and I got very much into canning our produce as a way to preserve it and enjoy it all year. We like to support our farmer’s market and local food cooperative as much as possible also.
I also enjoy knitting, yoga, and scouring antique shops for new textures or design ideas. Recently I got a serger and have been making clothes from raw, organic fabrics and then dying them by hand. The process of cutting patterns, assembling and coloring fabric is similar to working with clay and really appeals to me, plus I have a unique garment at the end made from sustainable fabric.