Meet Jen Allen


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Jen's Background

Jen received a BFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 2002 and an MFA from Indiana University in 2006.  She has participated in residencies at the School for American Crafts, RIT (2002-2003), the Archie Bray Foundation (Summer 2003, 2015, 2017 and full term 2006-2008), the McNamara Foundation (Summer 2008), Red Lodge Clay Center (Summer 2012),  and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts (July 2016).

Jen and her husband Shoji recently purchased a new home and studio in Morgantown, WV. Along with other local artists, Jen is gearing up to launch a studio tour in Morgantown and is excited to open her studio doors to the public this Oct 2019. To find out more about the studio tour and the dozen of artists that will be a part, visit: motownstudiotour.com.

You can also see more of her work at www.jenniferallenceramics.com

Work of some of Jen's mentors during her time at UAA (1995-2002). These are all pieces in her personal collection. Pictured clockwise from top left: Martim Tagseth, Steve Godfrey, Pamela Pemberton Price, Brad Schweiger, Peter Brondz, Tom Rohr, Kris Bliss.

Work of some of Jen's mentors during her time at UAA (1995-2002). These are all pieces in her personal collection. Pictured clockwise from top left: Martim Tagseth, Steve Godfrey, Pamela Pemberton Price, Brad Schweiger, Peter Brondz, Tom Rohr, Kris Bliss.

Who are your role models/mentors?

I have so many role models/mentors... many of which are from my days as an undergraduate student in Anchorage, AK. My first ceramic teacher, Martin Tagseth, was the reason I changed my major. Lisa Conway, Pamela Pemberton, Steve Godfrey and Robert Banker were all faculty during my time at UAA. The majority of my classes were with Steve Godfrey. He has always been someone I've looked up to and is one of my most favorite potters. Kris Bliss, a production potter in Anchorage, had a huge impact on my career trajectory. I worked as her studio assistant for four years. She taught me about all things clay.

Peter Brondz, another well- known studio potter in Bird Creek, AK, also made a major impression. His studio/home set-up was something I always admired. He was so generous with the UAA students and would let us fire his bourry-box wood kiln and his salt kiln. Tom Rohr and Brad Schweiger each taught summer classes at UAA while I was there. Both had a lasting impact on my work and career. Between undergraduate school in AK and grad school in Indiana, I worked with many talented artists... each of which helped shape the potter I am today. Julia Galloway, Rick Hirsh and Sinisa Kukec were all pivital to my growth as a young artist who had just left home for the first time. My grad faculty, Tim Mather, Christyl Boger, Malcolm Mobutu Smith and John Goodheart gave me the kick in the ass I needed in grad school. I also need to acknowledge Josh DeWeese and Steve Lee who both helped me transition back into real life following academia (They were directors of the Archie Bray Foundation while I was a resident there). Currently, I am thankful for my colleagues, peers and students for challenging me and for helping me to stay creative in my constant search to find the better pot.

Jen's early work, 2000- 2001, salt-fired stoneware, mixed media.

Jen's early work, 2000- 2001, salt-fired stoneware, mixed media.

When did you have your first experience with clay?

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My first experience with clay came my sophomore year in undergraduate school. I was an elementary education major and was taking a painting class in the art building. After stumbling upon the ceramics room down the hall, I was intrigued and signed up for a hand-building class the following semester. Five years later, I earned my BFA in ceramics.  

Why do you keep making artwork?

Starting in 2015, when my son was home with me full-time, I found myself becoming increasingly depressed because I was unable to have studio time. In order to keep making, I ventured into ceramic jewelry. Just having a small corner of the kitchen to design new things helped heighten my spirits. It was then that I realized that I NEED to make. The creative process helps ease my mind and focus my energy. It is rewarding and challenging and frustrating at times. It is the only time I am completely comfortable in my own skin. There is a great video that KQED released about Viola Frey and her dedication to clay. Even following a series of life-altering strokes, she never gave up on her passion. Instead, she found ways to keep making...to stay creative and engaged with her craft. Retirement was never an option for Viola. She is such an inspiration. I too can’t imagine a life without making...

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