• UO Studio Visits: Jessica Hans

    Jessica Hans takes great care to create imperfect work. The Philadelphia ceramicist makes experimental pieces that are obviously lopsided, quasi-functional, and finished with bold patterns and unexpected textures...and the results are amazing. (Space Ninety 8 frequenters may recall her work in our recent pop-up with Sight Unseen!) Jessica's unique aesthetic has resulted in a style that's all her own, deeply rooted in her background in interdisciplinary art and textile design. The day before she left for a month of shows and travel on the West Coast, we stopped by her studio space to talk about marine biology, the tactility of clay, and exchange stories about success and failure. 

    How did you start doing ceramics?
    I took my first ceramics hand-building class in college as an elective while I was studying textile design. I was interested in the functionality of the material, its tactile qualities, and also the ability to put the patterns I was making for textiles on a 3D surface. I fell in love! I continued to take classes in clay and once I graduated I kept working with it at home. At the time I was working for an engineering company that had a couple of kilns where I was allowed to fire the stuff I was making.

    Your work has such a distinct style. How did this develop? And how do you describe your aesthetic?
    My aesthetic is really influenced by the outdoors in form, texture, and color. I'm inspired by different plants and rocks that I see during hikes and also a lot of sea life. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was kid and I find that I keep turning to the ocean for inspiration. I'm also really into chemistry and understanding the qualities of all of the materials that go into the clay and glazes I use. The ceramic medium is very much from the earth and I love learning about all of its weird properties.

    What piece of yours are you most proud of?
    There are a couple of giant tower pieces that I made in college that are nearly five feet tall that were quite a feat to construct. I made them in reference to a really cool plant species called Puya raimondii that grows only in the Peruvian Andes. It's the tallest of all bromeliads at up to 30 feet tall.

    You are currently traveling for two exciting show: tell us more about them!
    I’m headed out to Portland, OR for a show of new vases at LOWELL, a boutique specializing in vintage objects with a gallery space for artworks by contemporary artists. The show opens Halloween night and runs through December 7. After that I will make my way down to San Francisco for a two-person show with Paul Wackers at Park Life Gallery

    Tell us a story about a project that ended in failure.
    I had just started in the work-study program at The Clay Studio in Philly. It was maybe the third week that I was there when I fired a larger sculpture I had been working on. I was in a hurry to get the piece finished and out for a show so I single-fired' it, which means to skip the bisque fire and just take it to a glaze fire from 'green' state. The piece exploded in the kiln and created a huge mess. I was totally mortified: kiln explosions are no small deal! Fortunately the kiln was fine, just needed a good bit of scraping chunks of glaze bits off the walls, the shelves, and the kiln furniture.

    Tell us a story about a piece that turned out in an unexpected (but positive) way — thinking along the lines of the unexpected firing result you shared yesterday! 
    I have a couple of pieces that have come out as happy accidents. They are mostly pieces that have been glaze tests or experiments where I'm mixing glazes with new colorants or trying out new glaze/clay body combinations. Some of the more exciting/dangerous accidents that happen are when I've miscalculated materials in my recipe and have too much of something, for example this giant crater bowl. I added too much silicon carbide to the glaze and the result is this giant crater effect all over the piece. Though the accidents are not always happy ones, they're learning experiences that I can use on future projects.

    What are some dream projects or collaborations?
    I'm actually in the middle of a total dream project/collaboration right now! I'm working with footwear designer Max Schiller of Eytys shoes to design a special ceramic vase and a corresponding pattern to get printed on a pair of their leather high tops and low tops. The project combines my two favorite practices, ceramics and textile designs...on shoes! 

    What are the best and worst things about working for yourself?
    There are so many positives to working for myself but also a lot of tough parts. I have almost complete flexibility with my schedule. I'm able to work whenever I want to, I can go in to my studio when I want, and I love not having to report to anyone. But I'm a tough boss and it means that I work all the time. There is also no rhythm to the work flow. Some weeks are more chill when other weeks I'm in crazy town trying to get orders filled and pieces ready for shows. But the chaos of running my own business is the most exciting part. I am never bored. There is always something to do!

    When you're home working, what's your daily routine? Can you walk us through a day-in-the-life?
    Sure! I'm a fairly early riser and I'm typically up by 7:30 or 8. I eat a little breakfast at home, look at news and things on the Internet, then do chores around the house. Some days I go running or do yoga. I spend the rest of the morning responding to emails and doing computer work like editing photos. I usually eat lunch at home, then head to my studio around noon. I spend five or six hours in my studio either making, glazing, packing work to take to the post office, or some combination thereof. I finish around 7 usually and go home to cook dinner or hang out with friends.

    Follow Jessica's work on her website and Tumblr.