Welcome to our next installment of Meet a Member! This time we are going to introduce Jenn Gavlin!
Name: Jenn Gavlin
Years working with clay: Oh boy, I got interested in clay in high school. Our art class had two wheels that we took turns on, and I came in after school to play. Then in college, I minored in art in order to get into ceramics classes. So I guess that makes almost 20 years of clay with some breaks when I didn't have access. I've been more consistent with it since I started teaching in 2008.
Type of work made (sculpture, pottery, etc): Mostly functional pottery, but the occasional sculpture
What region of the state do you live in? Seattle proper, teach in Kirkland and Bellevue
Describe your process and materials: Most pieces start on the wheel, but I've been enjoying playing more with slip casting after making myself a couple molds. I work almost exclusively with porcelain and would love to focus more on my illuminated pieces, but they're a harder sell than a good ol' mug.
What is your favorite tool? I cannot survive without a mudtool rubber rib, yellow or red. Close runners up, though, are my bison studio trimming tools; while an investment, they make porcelain trimming so much smoother.
Please share your favorite clay tips or trick: Compression and magic water have become my survival mechanisms for dealing with porcelain attachments. Magic water is sodium silicate, soda ash, and water. I don't know the ratio as I steal it from where I teach. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
How do you prepare to make your work? Drawing, research, etc. I've fallen in love with instagram. I am so inspired by seeing the things other people are making and their processes. It makes me want to spend more time in the studio just experimenting. Sometimes I draw, but mostly I try things on clay. I try to take at least a month out of the year for "play time", usually after the holidays, with no set agenda.
Where do you feel most inspired? That's impossible. I mean, I regularly inspect dishes at restaurants. One of my longest running bowl styles was originally inspired by a dish at crate and barrel. The questions my students ask will send me down research rabbit holes. I was convinced I would be adding curving, archy lines to everything after seeing an art nouveau exhibit. I started a line of jewelry based on leaves on neighborhood walks. Instagram is my motivational crack. And one of my designs literally came from the Portlandia sketch "put a bird on it".
What is your favorite tool? DoI get another? Then I'll add in a shout out for diamond core tool carving tools. There are my favorite for sgraffito and mishima and carving translucent porcelain.
What are your favorite forms to make and why? For the longest time, this has been teapots. They're still up there, but I also love making lamps. I love the challenge of going big and thin with porcelain (ok, love/hate). Since they take a while, there isn't a lot of repetition with form or surface - less boredom. And they're a good exercise in managing disappointment. If you carve through on a lamp once it's too dry, it's just done. The porcelain will always remember the crack past a certain point, so it's better to trash it and start over. It's just an object, which is an important mantra to remember.
What’s the best advice you ever gotten about creativity?One of my colleagues and I had a discussion about the word "just" that's stuck with me ever since. We were talking about it in the context of teaching, and she said "I've worked really hard to cut the word 'just' out of my teaching vocabulary. It's easy to slip into the habit of saying 'just push the clay this way' or 'just hold your hands in this position' as a stand in for "simply", but when you're first learning, there's nothing simple about it." I feel like that applies to a lot of things, including creativity, and we really need to watch out not to put unnecessary expectations on ourselves. Creativity takes as much work, trial, error, and gradual successes, as anything else. There is no "just do it" and happy accidents are always a result of all the unhappy accidents that came before.