FOS: What is your proper title? Potter? Artist? Sculptor? Ceramist? Crafter?
JR: Ceramic Artist / Ceramicist
FOS: Where did the idea come from?
JR: I have always enjoyed making things, ever since I child, I would beg my mom on Saturdays to make crafts with me. My interest grew for creating and I explored various other mediums in high school. But it was my first pottery course with my best friend where I fell in love with clay. I loved how it could be moulded and shaped in any which way. I loved how I could turn a lump of clay into something tangible and something I could use! It was a great feeling having a finished product that I could use in my own kitchen. Secondly, I had a desire to be an entrepreneur. I grew up on a horticultural farm my parents and Uncle owned. I only knew self-employment and hard work. I had a desire to invest and grow my own business. The two fell hand and hand and the rest is history.
FOS: Tell us about the inspiration for your ceramics. Some of them are named after sea creatures? Anything other than crayfish around Iroquois?
JR: I am inspired by nature, plants and my surroundings. Different forms that I make are also inspired by things that I want in my own home. For example, I love plants, and I have a house full of plants, so I draw inspiration to create planters for house plants, succulents and air plants. I first start out sketching my ideas, or playing with the clay to get my ideas out. The piece evolves throughout the process and it is changed, tweaked and fine-tuned several times to become the final piece. Sometimes it is just going through the process and seeing how it evolves.
FOS: Where did you learn to make this?
JR: I took numerous classes from multiple ceramicists, worked as an apprentice and assistant. But I have no formal training in ceramics, I am self taught. I have spent and do still spend a lot of my time reading and watching videos. A year before I officially began my business, I was constantly reading, learning and sketching. I still spend time researching and learning every day and a lot of experimenting and trial and error.
FOS: Is your living environment conducive to creating art? What are the perks? The limitations?
JR: We live in a early 1800s farmhouse that is slowly getting filled with handmade goods and plants of course! I like to support other artists' work and fill my home with their artwork. I love collecting from ceramic artists as everyone has such a unique style and I appreciate all the time and efforts that have gone into every single pot. I want to create an environment that supports other creatives and gives me inspiration to work hard, keep going, and push myself more.
FOS: Is there a community of artists in Iroquois and the area?
JR: There aren’t many full-time artists in Iroquois, but there aren’t many people to begin with. Iroquois is a very small town of only 1200 people, and I live in the country about 7 minutes from town. However, looking around about a 20 minute radius from me, it is surprising the amount of hobbyist crafters there are in the area.
FOS: What does a common day look like for you?
JR: I start my day reviewing and responding to emails and checking my social media channels. I then get to the studio (which is just a few steps away!) and begin my work there. I start in the studio by checking on all my existing in process work. I uncover the items, move them around, sponge if necessary and either leave uncovered to dry or cover again. Some days I am making new work, either by hand building, throwing or slip casting. Other days I am glazing the work and gold painting, plus firing the kiln between that. My evenings are spent either back in the studio continuing the work there, or I find myself back behind my computer, answer emails, doing admin work, researching, updating my social media channels, packing items to be shipped and checking/updating my online shop. There is never enough time in a day to get everything done!
FOS: Would you consider your ceramics as tableware or as art?
JR:I would consider my ceramics to be tableware. I want my ceramics to be used, and I make them to be used. I love seeing photos of my ceramics in other people’s homes. I love being able to beautify their homes and tables them ceramics! However, there are some pieces in my collection that are beautiful on their own as a centerpiece for a table, which make a great statement.
FOS: What qualities do ceramists need?
JR: There are many, but here are two I feel are important:
FOS: How long does it take to create a piece? / Walk us through the process of how something gets made.
JR: Each piece takes a minimum of two weeks from start to finish. A piece starts by being thrown on the wheel, built by hand or slip cast (Different items in my collection require different methods). The piece is moulded and shaped to how I want it to be. It then dries for a day so that touch ups, sponging and trimming can be done. At this stage attachments are done, such as handles. The piece then dries slowly, so it does not warp or crack, for about a week. During this time, the piece gets checked on every day, moved around and covered and uncovered to unsure even drying. Once the piece is completely dry, it gets fired to approximately 1900F. This firing takes 24 hours. Next the piece is glazed. I then allow my glazed piece to sit and dry for at least 12 hours before I then clean up and fix any glaze imperfections. The kiln is then loaded with all glazed items and fired again to 2232F, which takes 24 hours. At this point in time, the marbled pieces in my collection are finished and ready to sell. However, the items in my collection that have 22k gold, require an additional step. The gold gets painted on by hand, dries for a few hours, then goes back in the kiln again. This firing goes to 1400F and takes about 15 hours.
FOS: What are some other passions/hobbies that you have?
JR: I love many things that involve working with my hands. I love to cook! I love to knit and crochet. I love to grow plants, propagate plants, and garden. I also love skiing.
FOS: As a young artist entrepreneur, how do you get the news of yourself out? What are your best tools?
JR: Social media. It is difficult getting your name out there, and getting known. And of course I am just starting, I officially started my business in November of 2014 by way of an short entrepreneurial course. But I did not start working in my studio until mid February of 2015. Social media has been a huge help in spreading the word and getting others to discover my work. Also networking among other artists and customers is important. Attending craft shows and getting to know more people in the community has really helped.
FOS: How can someone get their hands on an original Jenny Rijke?
JR: Currently, my work is only available online in my online shop. I do attend crafts shows throughout the year (which are listed on my website) www.jennyrijke.com . I also plan on getting some of my products in retail outlets soon. You can keep your eyes peeled for that!
FOS: And lastly, something that we ask all of our interviewees….
FOS: Favorite person, place, and thing:
JR: It is hard to pick just one favourite…
Person: My parents. My dad is able to do anything, fix everything, and come up with a better way for everything! My mom is the single most hard working person I know, hands down. I don’t know how she does it! I look up to them both tremendously.
Place: I love our farm that my Grandparents started 60 years ago, I am a homebody. But one of the best places on earth is Whistler, B.C on a powder day!
Thing: Plants and kitties.
DISCLAIMER:This interview was conducted for THE CAROLINIAN MAGAZINE, a future project showcasing community shaping enterprises. Images are property of Jenny Rijke