Meet Jen Allen!

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 just purchased a new home in Morgantown, WV. It has two outbuildings, one of which will be her new studio.

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

Who are your role models/mentors?

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

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 to help me transition back into real life following academia. 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.

Jen's early work, 2000- 2001.

When did you have your first experience with clay?

My first experience with clay came my sophomore year in undergraduate school. I was an elementray ed major but was taking a painting class in the art building. After snooping on the hand-building class down the hall, I decided that I needed to sign up for it the following semester. It just took that one hand-building class to hook me. I earned my BFA in ceramics 5.5 years later.  


Why do you keep making artwork?

I NEED to be creative. I NEED to make. It 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...

A conversation between Jen Allen & Emily Schroeder Willis

Anneliese and Finn playing in the studio with Jen

Anneliese and Finn playing in the studio with Jen

ESW: What made you want to start working in jewelry?
JA: Last fall I found myself in desperate need of a creative outlet. With a two year old in constant tow, it was impossible to get down to my studio to make pots. It started with my daughter and I making Christmas ornaments on the kitchen table and then quickly transitioned into porcelain jewelry.

ESW: Have you liked that transition?
JA: I’m a bit obsessed! I love having the freedom to experiment with forms that interact with the body in a different way (than pots do).

ESW: What have been the challenges of working on a smaller scale?
JA: It’s funny because in some ways I feel like I’m working on a larger scale. I now think of the body as the vessel that I’m decorating. The exciting part is considering that the form is now the decoration.

Earring studs from Jen's current jewelry collecion

Earring studs from Jen's current jewelry collecion

 

ESW: What are some of the things you find yourself exploring in jewelry that might help inform some of your future pots?
JA: Definitely the incorporation of other media. I love working with wire as it lends a linear element similar to my drawn lines.

ESW: Who are some of the people you’ve been looking to for influences, either in jewelry or elsewhere for your current body of work?
JA: I have always been intrigued by body adornment. Whether it is tattoo or scarification or fashion or body altering “jewelry”, I am fascinated by what various cultures perceive as “beautiful”. I look a lot at tribal culture, specifically the Mursi and Suri tribes in Ethiopia. I also recently befriended an amazingly talented metalsmith and jeweler, Maia Leppo, who has been a tremendous help to me as I navigate this new way of working.

Mursi and Suri (Surma) body adornment

Mursi and Suri (Surma) body adornment

ESW: You have helped to curate a jewelry show with Lindsay Oesterritter that will open on the Objective Clay website on October 15th, which people participating in the show are you most excited about?  
JA: I am excited about everyone involved as we have an incredible line-up of artists!
Joanna Powell, Melissa Mencini, Lorna Meaden, Amy Santaferraro, Lauren Gallaspy, Deb Schwartzkopf, Lindsay Oesterritter, Mallory Wetherell, Lindsay Locatelli, Elizabeth Pechacek, Cydney Ross, Reiko Yamamoto, Jenna Vanden Brink, Kari Radasch.
Most of the invited artists’ jewelry I am familiar with but I’d have to say that I can’t wait to see what Kari Radasch comes up with for the show! Knowing her, her pots, her tile work and her sense of style I am so looking forward to her pieces!

Jen's earrings

Jen's earrings

ESW: Will you still be making pots in the future?
JA: Of course! The jewelry is an added venture, NOT a new direction. I remain fascinated by functional objects and how they become an active part of our daily lives. I am in constant search for beauty and am intrigued by the myriad of ways it can manifest itself.