In the spring of 2014, NCC sat down with Jan McKeachie Johnston to discuss the benefits of taking a break from “regular” studio work to explore a new direction. Taking risks and exploring new ideas may sound appealing to many makers, but the reality is that artists have to weigh the benefits of risk against the obligation to deliver (reliable) results. NCC decided to turn the challenge of a deadline into an opportunity to celebrate exploration in the studio. Bede Clarke and Sandi Pierantozzi were invited to join McKeachie Johnston for Risky Business, a Featured Artist show dedicated to showcasing artists who are trying new methods, and including experimentation in their studio practice.
I am having tremendous fun, and a somewhat cathartic experience by allowing myself to begin with a solid block of clay, then, with a general idea, but no specific end in mind, hollowing and carving until it pleases me. I’m not sure what the inspiration for these objects is. It may be simply the need to play, or a gateway to a new approach in my work. While they address many of the things that have always excited me and have been integral in my work, such as proportion, rhythms, tension, and containers for flowers, it is an entirely new and more spontaneous approach.
Also, I have been collaborating with Kinji Akagawa on a few vase forms. He is responding to my ceramic cones, and supporting them with wood or rocks. It is my first collaboration experience and very fun and exciting for me!
—Jan McKeachie Johnston
It seems natural that given a restless spirit and a creative discipline one should get into a lot of mischief. I guess I don’t separate pots by how they were fired or made, but by the feeling they occupy — their “being”. I am on friendly terms with wood kilns and electric kilns, high-fire and low-fire. No matter the technique, it really only holds merit if it leads to “good” pots, and for me good pots are not defined by a technique, but most often by a healthy balance of energy/wildness and restraint/firmness. I have always thought pots are a lot like people.
I have finally stopped fretting about having two or three different bodies of work. For me, change and exploration means growth. For many years, all of my surfaces were textured before I made the form. Lately, I have started to make the form first and then figure out how to go about planning a design on a completed form. I have learned so much!