I was a secondary education major at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, when I made the choice to take drawing for my art requirement. The problem was that Drawing 101 was full and I had to choose another studio art class. I decided to try ceramics, (although, I wasn't so sure about how messy working in clay could be), and the rest is history. By the end of my first ceramics class I breathlessly and passionately stated to my instructor, Len Stach, I was working in clay for the rest of my life! Gentle, kind man that he was, he didn't laugh at my declaration-Len, thank you. I graduated in 1978 from UW-L and started the graduate Ceramics program at Northern Illinois University. I completed my Masters in Ceramics at NIU and having never been keen about winter in the Midwest, I decided to move to Austin, Texas.
My Dad had been self-employed and he loved what he did. However, I remember him telling me when I was around 14 years old, that he was an entremanure not entrepreneur, because being self-employed involved a lot of poop! Dad was right. Selling pots is not an easy way to make a living, but I thought I was doing what I loved. I realized early on that production pottery was not as much fun without all of the other graduate students to hang out with. Let's just say I wasn't a quick study. I struggled for years making and selling my pottery and absolutely hated working alone. The 15th year of making pots, 6 out of 8 art fairs I juried into rained out, with no rain date and no refund. I sold my antique furniture to make the house payments that year. I had done some teaching for Austin Parks and Rec. for about 5 years, but there weren't enough classes to make a living at it. I was a secretary for 8 weeks and a registered massage therapist for several years. Making pottery became secondary. I still needed extra income, so I brought students into my home studio and pottery became fun again.
I dreamed of opening up a large teaching facility of my own, and annually updated my business plan for it. In 1996 I had the opportunity to open ClayWays Pottery Studio & Gallery. I was essentially recreating graduate school, the happiest time in my life-lots of people living and breathing pottery. It was the right time, I found the right place and all of the right people came together to make it happen—words can't express how grateful I am to KT Thompson, Pam Neill, Tom Scott, Denise Kavanagh, Vernon and Lois McKean, Cissie Williams, and Sara Lyford.
After thirty one years as a potter and twenty one as a wheel teacher, the thing that brings me the most joy is being a part of the ClayWays community. Birth and death, weddings and divorces, good pots and bad, we share it all at ClayWays. When I opened ClayWays, creating a community was not in the business plan, it just happened. It's this exceptional bonus. I liken it to winning the lottery.
Today, I make pots for the moment of connection and exchange, when someone picks up one of my pots and needs to take it home. My pots become a "must have" for that person or for someone they care about. I teach pottery on the wheel for those moments of connection and exchange as well. When one of my students finally makes that first pot they're proud of, it just doesn't get any better than that.
I make pots because I like to; I teach pottery because I love to. Despite the poop, I'm forever grateful to be an entremanure, like my Dad.
Of all the things I wanted to do as a child, the idea of becoming a potter never crossed my mind. In fact, the first time I even saw a potter at work was in college.
Early in college, I was a rather uncommitted art major. I felt limited in talent with two-dimensional art forms. The first time I saw a potter throwing clay on the wheel, I knew I had to try this dynamic art. Once I did, I became captivated. The tactile quality of creating pottery, the spinning mass of clay, enamored me. Creating something extraordinary out of seemingly nothing was magic.
In the middle of my college study, I took a leave from academics to work for a potter near Kansas City. The year-and-a-half experience was a period of tremendous growth for me as an artist.
When I returned to finish a my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I was fully committed to pottery. I graduated in 1977 from Abilene Christian University and promptly moved to Austin, Texas, where I have lived ever since.
I work primarily in porcelain, with traditional functional and vessel forms. I have always fired in cone 10 reduction, and guess I always will. I love the exploration of form and abstract decoration. I work with many colors in my decorating, and the blending of colors in various ways is a strength of my work. I have also always enjoyed working on larger pieces in porcelain, for the challenge of it as well as the visual impact.
I have worked independently in a private home studio for the past 36 years, doing shows and private commissions. I have recently made a move into town, downsizing and simplifying into a smaller home without a studio. My good fortune has brought me into a studio space at Clayways, where I am enjoying working in community with others, and exploring new ideas. I am looking forward to exploring new challenges as a teacher.
My love of pottery began in high school; I didn't understand it, but I knew I wanted to pursue it. Later I took a course at ACC, then a friend told me about ClayWays so I started classes there and have remained with Kit and the studio for 16 years. After three years Kit demonstrated great belief in my ability by offering me a job instructing beginning pottery students. I now teach children in Summer Camp and adults in both wheel throwir1g and hand building short and long-term classes.
I craft functional pieces with special embellishment that makes them unique. I integrate both wheel and hand building into my work with a preference for wheel. I have been well-influenced by the work of Diana Seidel, the spareness of her form and the lightness of her pieces. When you pick up one of her pieces, you pick up air. From her I develop my quest to make more from less without loss of comfort.
Pottery is a vital part of me; it helps define my personality. I put love into each of my pieces and stamp a heart on the bottom of each piece so that whoever purchases one knows it has been made with love.
Jennifer Hill is a studio potter who has taught in a variety of settings across the country. Most recently on Kauai she worked in her petite studio, creating clay art of diminutive proportions. She especially enjoys making objects which reference a specific function, are technically utilitarian, but are designed with an unusual and sometimes perplexing structure for use. Working in both porcelain and stoneware, she utilizes wheel throwing and hand forming techniques.
Jennifer’s work has appeared in numerous solo, invitational and juried exhibitions. She earned an MFA in ceramics from Utah State University, Logan, and a BFA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, her home city. In between, she attended the University of Florida, Gainesville, for a post-baccalaureate study and was an assistant at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. After graduate school, Jennifer was the artist-in-residence and an instructor at Chester Springs Studio in Pennsylvania where she also taught at a small college, and later moved to Oregon to teach at Portland Community College and Multnomah Art Center.
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