Ceramic artist Mollie Jenkins reminds us that the best form of art in our daily routine can be found working with clay. She loves this art form because it is a very direct process where she works with her hands and sees and feels the shapes and forms come together in front of her.
By Lizzie Flournoy | Photos by S. Saxon
For the last several years, former Brookstone graduate Mollie Jenkins has been focused on developing a body of work that would bridge her from college to a professional path of ceramic artistry. Her formal education allowed her the opportunity to develop strong relationships with peers and professors ultimately influencing how she approached ceramics. Despite all of the support and guidance she received from her education, nothing could have prepared her for the abundance of lessons she learns on a daily basis while running a business and a studio.
Tell us a bit about how you found your way towards pottery. How did you get into it, and what were your first pieces? I first took a ceramics class at Brookstone senior year of high school, and at the time, I did not think much of it other than I really enjoyed throwing on the wheel. From there, I graduated and went o to school at the College of Charleston where I postponed declaring a major for as long as possible- at the time there was no way I knew what I “wanted to be when I grew up.” During the end of my freshman year, I decided to transfer to a school with a ceram- ics department. Upon deciding on Auburn that summer, I took a class back here in Columbus for wheel throwing, and from there on out, I was certain that I wanted to pursue a degree in ceramics (and potentially a livelihood). I began making bowls and mugs to start and later went onto plates, larger serving bowls, and lamps.
Where did your passion for ceramics come from? My passion stems from the functionality of the finished product mixed with the creation of each product. In the start of the process, I love that I can mold a block of clay into some- thing that later turns to stone and can be used day in and day out for years to come.
What is the process for making your ceramics? All individuals have varying steps to their respective ceramics process. For my work, I start with a block of brown clay, put it on the potter’s wheel and throw it into the desired form using the force of my hands and water. For all items except for lamps, I cover them to dry for a day or two. From there, I revisit each item, wire it off of the throwing surface, and then put it back on thepotters wheel to trim the bottom. Trimming is just to clean up the bottom while creating a foot, where the vessel rests on the table. If the item requires a handle, at this stage I pull a handle from an oblong piece of clay. The handle will then dry for a few hours and be shaped again, then the handle is attached to the vessel and they slowly dry together. From here each item is red in the kiln for about a day, then the glaze color is applied, and once dried, the piece is red for the second and nal ring.
How important is social media to you? Do you think it’s going to be a big part of how you sell your products? Social media, at this point in my career, is crucial. It is an irreplacible way to advertise my product and reach customers who, otherwise, I would have great di culty reaching at this stage. It also al- lows those who are interested in the process or the behind the scenes of ceramics to get to know me and what goes into my work. I think it is crucial for folks to be able to see that more goes into these products than the mass produced items they are used to.
Most ceramics off the shelves are made from smooth clay or delicate porcelain. What material do you prefer to use? I love using the brown clay which most of my wares are made of. This clay has some grog (sandy material in it) which allows me to be able to shape it on the wheel as needed. This clay alsonishes to a warm tan with speckles in it, which I love.
What attribute do you feel best characterizes an excellent piece of pottery?Functionality. For me pottery should be functional to the point of being able to use it everyday as well as growing to love it throughout the use of the item.
Was there a point in your career that you made a decision to sell your ceramics for a living? Could you describe how you came to that decision? For me, I kind of grew into the selling of my work. In school at Auburn, I participated in a few shows where my family was nice enough to come overto purchase my work. I was so amazed after that rst show that anyone wouldwant one of my creations. Thank goodness. Now, strangers are buying my work too.
What, in particular, do you want your finished projects to express? As mentioned above, everyday use. I have folks who will let me know that the mug they have of mine is their favorite and they use it everyday. For me, there is no greater compliment that someone would want to spend their day with an item I have created.
What current trends are you seeing in ceramics? A lot of people working with ceramics are going for a more minimal look, as that tends to be an ongoing fad these days. This includes fewer or no handles and white everything. I prefer the speckled nature of my clay and the variation of my glazes too much to go this route anytime soon.
What kind of environment do you like working in? In the studio, I have music going all day, or I like to listen to podcasts, but right now music is my go-to. If it is nice out, I will have my garage door open. I prefer a relaxed work environment so I don’t get too stressed day in and day out with all of the to- do’s of running a small business.