The delicate hands of an artisan are the most important tools in the creative process, mostly when we talk about pottery. Jacqueline Klassen, the artist who talks with us today, works with an extreme sensitivity in every single piece she makes. The delightful ceramic items that she produces have a timeless conception of design, looking for something beyond beauty. Based in Vancouver, she explained us a bit more about her precious world.
What kind of creative personality are you? How do you describe yourself: as an artist or as an artisan?
I never think about artists and artisans in concrete terms, so I really can't choose one over the other. I'm not interested in following conventions or creating purely functional objects. Everything stems from a very messy experimentation process. Sometimes (a lot of the time) things don't work out, and that's okay.
When did you start working with ceramics?
I started working with ceramics two and a half years ago, after finishing my undergraduate degree in English Literature. I wanted a break from writing papers and staring at computer screens, so I signed up for a 6 weeks beginner ceramics course at a local studio in Vancouver. I learned the basics and fell instantly in love with the medium. This past January I quit my full time job so I could spend more time in the studio.
If I'm not wrong you also write. Is writing an inspiration for your pottery works? What inspires you to create those beautiful pieces?
I’ve written stories, self-indulgent journal entries, lists, etc. for as long as I can remember. Unlike with pottery, writing has always been something that appeals to me for very selfish reasons. I write from a very personal place, for myself, without anyone else in mind. With ceramics I’m able to create without restraint, without the urgency of conveying a fleeting feeling. And I’m always thinking about the kinds of people who might end up with my pieces in their homes.
When I’m creating pieces for ceramics, I am inspired by shapes, colours and textures, as well as nature. I’m inspired by the beauty in ordinary, everyday things, and the relationship between natural and unnatural environments.
Beyond the beauty of your designs, what is in your mind when creating a new piece? How is the relationship between shape and function in your creative process?
Shape and function are equally important details in my creative process. When I begin working on a new piece I have a fairly good idea of what I want to achieve aesthetically. It’s once I have settled on a piece that I become aware of its functionality. There is a lot of fine-tuning involved in order to get the design and function streamlined. No one wants to buy a mug for their morning coffee that doesn’t feel good in their hands, no matter how beautiful it is.
I've noticed cooking is an important part of your life. Was it an influence to start working with ceramics?
Absolutely. I love to cook and entertain, and a huge draw for me starting ceramics was the hope that I would be able to fill my cupboards with custom plates, bowls, and cups. All these things are blank canvases on which I present the meals I make. I was never really able to find a tableware set I liked, or especially one that inspired me to cook, so I slowly created my own instead.
Your designs have a great balance between elegance and amusement. How would you explain your style?
My style is a balance between the classic and the obscure. I want my pieces to have a timelessness about them, but I also don’t take my work too seriously, which accounts for the whimsical element present in my work.
You live in Vancouver nowadays... How is the creative business in there? What do you really like from working in this city?
Vancouver is filled and thriving with makers and creatives. My favourite part about working in Vancouver is its proximity to nature. Anytime I feel weighed down or tired from being in a bustling city, I don’t have to go too far to clear my mind. Sitting on the edge of a cliff and staring out at the sea does wonders for any kind of mental or creative block.
If you could choose some artist to work with… Who would that artist be? To dream a bit is allowed.
I would sit down to have lunch with Patti Smith and Joan Didion, and absorb as much of their power and knowledge as I could.
You also take pictures, we can say you are a multidisciplinar person. What do you like to immortalize with your camera?
Most of my subjects are very ordinary and everyday, and I aim to capture them in a way that will evoke a feeling of nostalgia or a sense of familiarity. I like the big, wide open spaces, and densely textured surfaces found in nature. I like photographing messy, unstyled food scenes. I want to capture things as they really are, not perpetuate images of a carefully curated dream world.
What are you working on nowadays?
I’m experimenting in the studio and slowly gathering ideas for a new collection, which will focus more on sculptural pieces, rather than on purely functional objects. My hope is for a range of statement pieces to emerge… autonomous objects you wouldn’t mind displaying on your shelves for the sake of good-looks alone. I’m also growing a vegetable garden and writing more on the subject of food.
If you had to choose one of your pieces as a favourite one... Which one would it be?
The teapot. From its inception to being a part of my collection, everything was a labour of love. Although the design was relatively spot on right off the bat, I had a lot of issues with its functionality. The biggest issue was getting it to pour in a clean and steady stream. I had to fine tune the design multiple times before I got it right. The finished design is modern, minimalistic, and timeless.