Given my strong affinity for all things ceramics, I couldn't be more excited to present our heartfelt and insightful interview with the lovely and inspiring lady, Vancouver-based ceramicist Jacqueline Klassen. Featuring her distinctive sculptural forms, playful patterns and textures, her collection of ceramics is a true objet d'art while functional at heart.
Your pieces have such distinctive forms, tactile quality and playfulness to them, how would you describe your design approach and creative process-from design, inspiration and the formation of your collection?
My design process is relatively unfussy and unplanned. Sometimes it starts with me sketching out an idea, but more often than not it’s something that begins when I sit down at the wheel. I’m thinking about new shapes and forms constantly, and so long as I have a vague idea of what I’m hoping to achieve at the beginning of the day, I’m able to hash out these ideas in a totally organic, experimental way when I’m at the studio. Once I have a piece I find to be aesthetically pleasing, I have to test out it’s functionality. After I get those kinks ironed out, I put it out into the world and see how it’s received.
My pieces are predominantly inspired by architecture and design elements (the interplay between colours, textures, and forms). However, I’m also greatly inspired by the relationship between natural and unnatural environments - that’s something that has stemmed from living in a buzzing city surrounded by mountains and sea.
I have such a weakness for ceramics. How did you get into ceramics?
I took a 6 week beginner course shortly after finishing my degree. I was burnt out and desperately wanted a change of pace before continuing on with more schooling. My infatuation was instant, and I found myself spending every spare minute I had in the studio. I ended up choosing ceramics over the art history program I had been accepted into, and I’m so glad I did. I had no idea that this would grow into what it has in such a short amount of time.
How has your design changed or evolved?
My process and my aesthetic has evolved significantly over the past couple years, and I want to continue to allow that to happen as I learn and grow. In terms of process, when I first started I was completely consumed by an end result, which didn’t really allow me much space to experiment and make mistakes. I’ve since become a lot more willing to enjoy the journey and the process that comes along with making a piece. In achieving this, the work I create feels so much more personal. Aesthetically, I’m starting to veer away from colours, and instead focus on bold shapes and forms, and textures.
Behind each piece is an intricate process. So much of the process involves the combination of art, skill, time, hard work (mixing that glaze!), science and magic in the kiln? How does it feel to open the kiln and see the final pieces?
As you’d expect, it’s incredibly rewarding. There are so many steps in the process, and so many opportunities for things to go wrong along the way, so opening up the kiln and seeing a finished piece IN ONE PIECE is a massive relief. Of course, there are also days when I’ve been experimenting with glazes and I open up the kiln to see that my vision has gone terribly wrong. I try not to ever get too attached to pieces, otherwise I’d be breaking my heart on a bi-weekly basis.
I know it’s so hard to choose, but what are some of your favorite ceramic pieces to make?
I love making teapots. They require the most time and effort out of anything I make, but they are by far the most rewarding. Playing around with various spouts, handles, bodies, and lids to create something that is both aesthetically pleasing AND functional will always be my favourite challenge.
I have a bunch of collaborations in the works that I’m super excited about. I'm currently working on an exclusive teapot for Sight Unseen that will be available in their online store. In between projects I’m slowly working away on a dinnerware collection, and re-launching my website.
Running a business requires a lot of time and passion for what you do- on your down time, what are your other interests, passions or activities that you enjoy?
My favourite thing to do with my down time is to cook and bake. There is nothing better than pouring myself a glass of wine, turning on some good music, and setting to work in the kitchen. I’m also big into beach combing, reading, and cuddling cats.
Any irks and quirks you'd like to share?
I hate doing the dishes, and I’m incredibly forgetful. I also make a bad ass New York Sour.
I always try to invest in pieces that have a timelessness about them, both for my home and for my wardrobe. For my home, I love old pieces that look like they’ve lived long, full, and exciting lives. Most of my favourite pieces have been found at thrift stores and flea markets. One of my favourite pieces is a hanging lamp from an old ship. My boyfriend and I found it at a street market in Anacortes, WA this past summer. The light itself is attached to a metal pulley and the entire thing hangs from a metal hook. It’s intense. And so, so beautiful.
Any advice for someone who wants to explore and plunge into the world of craft and design?
Sign up for some classes, practice, practice, practice, and always keep your chin up. If you love what you’re doing, nothing else matters.
Whether the conceptual design of a product starts with paper and pencil or actual construction, it is wonderful to learn not only the craft and creative process, but also the individual's journey in becoming a designer/maker. From taking the leap into the world of craft, it is a continuous process of research, learning, and skill building combined with the love for the craft. Thank you so much Jacqueline for share your inspiring story with us!It is a pleasure to get to know you and you know we'll have to visit your city soon. So grateful!And of course for the wanderlust in you, we will be sharing Jacqueline's travel tips for Vancouver in Part 2.
Shop Jacqueline Klassen's ceramics
Studio and personal photos courtesy of Jacqueline Klassen