Jessica Hans is a Philadelphia based ceramist and textile designer with a passion for plants and landscapes from which she takes inspiration for the colorful, misshapen pots and sculptures she creates. A constant research in geology, rocks and minerals together with the love for the mysterious deep sea life contribute to create her supernatural and enchanted creative world.
You studied Textiles as an undergrad at Philly’s Moore College of Art and Design and then took Fiber Arts and Ceramics at MICA. How did this transition happen and why?
The transition happened merely out of coincidence. I was enrolled at Moore College for Textile Design and really loved the program. I spent most of my time weaving and screen printing with natural dyes there. I ended up transferring from Moore to Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland because, sadly, Moore was in the process of eliminating their Textile Design department. While on paper I technically transferred in as a Fiber Arts major, I found the two departments differed a great deal from school to school. At this point I started taking ceramic electives just for fun to fill my time and the medium really struck me. I realized how much I enjoyed working with the material and became really interested in the chemistry aspect of ceramics.
What is your attitude towards fashion? Do you think there is any connection between fashion and your way of conceiving ceramics? Is there any fashion designer you particularly like and why?
I definitely think that there is a relationship between the work that I make and the world of fashion. The connection may not be directly apparent, but I definitely keep an eye on what’s going on each season and am influenced in small ways that may be evident in my ceramic works. For example, I really love the Céline Summer 2014 line; the large gestural motifs and bright splashes of color. I also really love everything that Eckhaus Latta does, specifically their neutral, tonal colors and mixing of textures. I think elements of what’s going on in the fashion world sometimes show up on the surfaces of my wares. I pay a lot of attention to surface decoration and texture and I'm forever inspired by pattern and print.
Your ceramics are misshapen and have irregular textures. They are mostly very colorful and they look like randomly shapen, fairy-enchanted creatures. What kind of techniques and materials do you use? Can you explain your creative process? Does what you have in your mind at the beginning always match the final result?
This is a wonderful compliment, thank you so much! All of my forms are handbuilt through a process that is a bit like making a pinch pot but a lot larger and with much more clay. On occasion I will work on the potter’s wheel but only to make pieces that I will then cut apart to handbuild with. I predominantly use porcelain and a dark brown/black stoneware. I incorporate a lot of found, foraged materials into my clay and glazes; I will often grind up bits of rock and gravel that I’ve found while traveling to mix into my base clay and glaze. A lot of times the finished piece only slightly resembles the idea that I had in mind but the process itself is the most important part of the practice for me.
From your photography series “Flora” a deep interest for different plant species comes to light. It looks like you have a deep connection with plants and nature. How does this passion influence your creative research and work?
I go back and forth between photography and ceramics. Making photographs always seems to act as a sort of field research. Previously, I did a lot of work with textiles and weaving. Photography was a necessary medium for documenting specific colorways and shapes in nature. I’m interested in plants and landscapes so I’d shoot a lot of that and take the color and graphic information and incorporate that into printed fabric or weavings. A lot of the images that I’m making now focus on color but also surface texture and geology because I can directly bring those elements into my sculptures.
What else inspires you to create new pots and sculptures? What kind of research is behind your work?
Definitely the chemistry aspect of craft inspires me to keep moving forward. The world of ceramic chemistry, glaze calculation, and clay body composition is unending. There is so much more I want to know about all of the materials and how they interact with each other. I’m particularly interested in phosphorescent minerals right now. I have some ideas that I am working out about glow-in-the-dark glaze recipes but I need to spend a lot more time researching and testing.
As I said your ceramics look almost like magical creatures, certainly inspired by nature and for this reason, extremely in harmony with earth colors and shapes, but with a supernatural and enchanted touch that stands out as well. How do you perceive your own work?
I spend a lot of time thinking about geology, rocks and minerals. I’m also forever interested in deep sea life like corals, anemones and sea urchins, as well as deep sea fish, believing in a way that they are 'magical creatures' because of their mysterious watery world life. I often find myself incorporating elements from these into my work, so I’m glad the supernatural and enchanted aspect carries through.
The photographs you took between 2011 and 2013 portray places and people you seem deeply connected to. What are the places you feel attached to? How much of your personal experience affects your work?
As I mentioned earlier, photography has always been a means of research for me. Travel is a big part of my life; I travel quite a bit for work and also for leisure. Learning about and then photo documenting the special qualities of each place that I visit to is a really important part of the trip. I don’t feel attached to any one place in particular but rather the culmination of all of the places that I’ve been... I think of my life as one big travel adventure and all of the places just stops along the way. I recently visited Arcosanti in Arizona and was really moved by the landscape, the architecture, and the philosophy behind the community. I’m also keen on the very small island town of Monhegan, twelve miles off the coast of Maine. The island is three miles in circumference and is comprised mostly of artists and craftspeople and lobsterman. There aren’t any cars, just gravel roads, some bicycles and boats.
What will you be up to in the future?
I have some shows lined up for the fall and winter of this year with maybe some traveling to in spring-time. I will be showing new vases at LOWELL Shop in Portland, Oregon at the end of October and then at Mr. Kitly in Brunswick, Australia in November. I have a couple of pieces in the Scripps College Ceramic Annual at the end of January 2015. After that I’m thinking about spending some time on a permaculture farm in Tuscon, Arizona.