Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hands & Hearts: An Interview with Jaci Ryan

This is the fifth instalment of a weekly summer series showcasing various Canadian artists and delving into who they are, what they make, and why they do what they do.

I feel a special affection for this week's featured maker, Jaci Ryan of Jacpot Pottery. We're both Kitchener-dwellers and former bakers/baristas. We've both learned from Natalie Prevost (potter extraordinaire). But more than any of these things, Jaci is an incredibly kind and generous woman who has this rare, authentic spirit. Her pots share this authenticity and are a unique fusion of tattoo symbology and clay. But see for yourself...

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

My name is Jaci Ryan and I am a maker from Kitchener with a focus on Functional High Fire Stoneware.

How long have you been working in clay? Tell us about your journey.

I have always been drawn to pottery and have been collecting for years. About 3 years ago I was searching for something new and I decided to try my hand at it after being inspired by our amazing local potters, especially yourself. You recommended classes with Natalie Prevost and after my first night I was hooked. I remember rushing home and telling my husband all about it. After hitting it off with Natalie so well I was already dreaming of an apprenticeship. After about a year of classes Natalie and I spoke about me doing an apprenticeship and the rest is history. I have been working with and learning from her ever since. She claims I was a potter in another life, perhaps that's why it feels so natural. ;) 

Have you had any mentors? Who are they and how have they helped shape you?

One of the best things about being part of the wonderful group of artists at Globe studios is the opportunity to learn from so many different people. There is an amazing group of female potters working out of Globe and many of them have helped shaped me. Natalie has certainly been the largest influence teaching me everything from basic techniques to smoke fired awesomeness. Barbara Murphy helped me to have confidence in myself and is a master of glazes, she has helped propel my interest in glaze techniques. Becky Webster is another amazing teacher whose incredible attention to detail is something I'm always striving for.

What inspires or influences you and your work?

As a former cook and baker I am drawn to creating functional pieces mostly to be used in the kitchen. I am inspired by other potters, the beautiful nature surrounding us in Southern Ontario, and also by traditional tattoo culture. The tattoo imagery I am drawn to is simple and strong and translates beautifully to clay.

Tell us about your process. What's your favourite part? Least favourite part?

I throw most of my peices on the wheel, although I do a small amount of hand-building of platters and small dishes. I trim and then carve directly into most of my peices. Next comes a bisque firing and then the carved parts are glazed before being glazed a second time over the entire pot. I often paint and layer glazes over each other to create different effects. My favorite part of the process would be the throwing which I find to be calming and meditative. My least favorite thing to do would be make handles. If only they would pull themselves!!

(Agreed: handles are the worst!)

Describe your workspace.

I am lucky as I have studio access at Globe as well as a home studio, and I divide my time between the two. The studio at Globe is a large shared space with about ten wheels and several different areas for storage and hand building. We have several electirc kilns as well as a large gas kiln. We all tend to work around a large community table and bounce ideas off each other throughout the day. At home I have a small studio set up at the back of my home with a single wheel and small table and storage shelves. I enjoy the balance of spending days alone at home and days at the studio with the other ladies.  

Tell us about a time where you absolutely and utterly failed and what you learned from that.

I continue to fail at making teapots! I think that I spent too much time fussing with tea pots before I had my basic techniques down and every one I've made has caused me heartache in the end. Every one I have created has been off in a different way. Too small, too heavy, glazed shut, cracked due to not compressing well enough, off balance, doesn't pour. Clay is certainly a silent teacher and the teapot has been my greatest challenge. I'm currently taking a break from them, while trying to work on a better shape and technique.

Where do you want to be in five to ten years (in art or life or both)? 

In five to ten years I would like to still be potting and represented in more galleries and shops, I also hope to be teaching programs and workshops in collaboration with the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery. Natalie and I are currently working towards our first one, to begin in September. I also hope to be a part of opening and running a collaborative artist run gallery.

Why is handmade important?

Handmade is important because it directly supports local communities and economies. You are buying a little piece of the artist and it helps you to treasure the pieces you get and be mindful of the work that went into creating it. For me supporting handmade helps me to remember not to be wasteful and to spend my money consciously on quality items created by like minded people.

Where can we find or purchase your pottery?

Jacpot Pottery can be purchased directly through my website, (I love making custom pieces for people, please email for more details) and at several shops in Kitchener Waterloo (Living Fresh Flowers, Cafe Pyrus, 100 Mile Market) as well as the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery and Gallerie Viva Vida in Montreal. For a full listing and links please see my website, I am also currently a part of a collaborative show called Peony Studies, the brain child of the incredibly talented Andrew Mckay (andy borehol) that is on display at Honey Bake Shop in Waterloo, until September 27th.

You can also find Jaci on Etsy, Twitter, and Instagram. If you're interested in a custom order, email her at Jaciryan[@]yahoo[dot]com. She'll also be at the Aberfoyle Potters Market on October 17th & 18th, along with Natalie Prevost, Barbara Murphy, and many, many others. (I'll be there too!)

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