Jennifer Seifert Talks Mediating w/ Clay, Creativity and Having It All

Interview by Jefferson Ellison, done in Partnership w/ AVLtoday. Photos by Territory Design by Sadie Culberson

Pretty pottery in Asheville is not new. Yet, Juno Pottery is not like the others. With an emphasis on functionality and references that extends beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jennifer Seifert is putting her spin on clay classics.

Talking w/ Jennifer feels like a conversation with an old friend. Much like her work, the artist is approachable and forthright. Speaking with someone who feels like they benefit as much from their work as their patrons due, is rare and the thought can put a lot into perspective. Items made with intention, by hand, and from natural materials, are sure to bring a certain energy into any space. However, that is not what makes it special. What gives Juno Pottery a leg up - in my opinion - is that the work has soul. Your collection is incredibly unique. Do you have a vision of what you want a piece to look like beforehand? I'm often looking for inspiration in pottery that I've collected over the years in the places I've lived, like Oklahoman thrift stores, sidewalk markets in China and California estate sales. My favorite inspiration comes from old Frankhoma Pottery out of Oklahoma where I lived for part of my childhood. I usually set out with an idea of what I'd like to make, but in the process it becomes something else. I think that this flexibility during the process allows the work to be more genuine and truly from me. And sometimes I find that I just need to try things and get them out of my system before finding the piece that really works. A few years ago I started experimenting with wall hangings made from various clay shapes and handmade beads. I started with making pretty large pieces, difficult to balance correctly, only to find that what I really wanted to make and offer were very simple hangings that make a very subtle statement. Sometimes I start with something more complicated and then bring it way back to a much more simple version of itself. I like things to be simple and uncomplicated I guess! Where can we find your pottery? Any local stores? Yeah! I feel lucky to live in a place that has deep roots in the craft of ceramics. The saturation of potters in this area can be intimidating, but I've really found it equally encouraging. My website: www. is one place to find my work. Locally, you can find my work at WARE downtown which is a shop supplying Asheville with sustainable house goods. Also, Villagers in West Asheville is a lovely homesteading shop that carries my work. Finally, Territory Design has been my longest client. They have a studio in Woodfin. I'm also one of three local potters who makes mugs for HOLE Doughnuts in West Asheville! What do you enjoy the most about working with clay? For me it's meditative. It's nice to have found a creative medium that I can get lost in, and perhaps is a personal sort of therapy at times! There are endless possibilities to what you can do with clay. I haven't even scratched the surface, which is exciting. It's exciting to know that there's a potential to grow deeper and deeper within this craft as I get older. How did you discover Asheville? What drew you to planting your roots here? My family moved to Asheville from Highland Park, California about 7 years ago. My husband's job is pretty mobile which gave us the flexibility to make a big move. We had been wrestling with the idea for several years while trying to keep up with rent increases for a growing family living in L.A. I had been to Asheville before and the landscape is what really drew us here: clean air, incredibly beautiful mountains, great food and often a tour stop for some of our favorite musicians. Plus, it is a little bit closer to where our families live. We've been fixing up our old farmhouse for as long as we've lived here! I think after 7 years, we have finally settled in.

It seems like you have it all- you're a mother of three, a wife, and an artist. How do you juggle it all? What advice would you give to people who wonder if they can do it? I don't think that I actually can juggle it all, all of the time. I juggle some of it some of the time! Sounds a little like a Bob Dylan song! I stayed home when my kids were very little, while teaching online English courses here and there during nap time. I've always longed to find the right balance of work and home life with kids, but it's not easy. I think that's why I didn't really let myself get serious about ceramics until all three of my kids started attending school. I knew I would need some seriously focused time that I just didn't have when they were young. My kids are getting older (10, 12 and 14) so it's much easier to find time to work since they are much more independent now. I do regret not trying to find more time for myself for creativity when they were younger. Mothering is extremely creative, but it can be a tiring creativity. I think I also needed some kind of rejuvenating creativity to keep me going when they were little. I learned this a little late, but I'm grateful to have found it and that I've also been able to merge that need I have with my work. My advice for an artist wanting to have a family is to find something sooner than later, however small, but also to be patient with yourself as sometimes there just won't be the time or energy to do it all. Describe a typical day in your life.

These days, a typical day is so much different than it was maybe 3 months ago! I'm not able to work in such concentrated amounts these days, so when I do have the time, I'm more productive and focused. My studio is now strategically attached to the house, right by the kitchen. I bounce in and out to work when I can, while keeping up with the needs of my family and home. I feel very fortunate for this space.

What is something you wish you could have told yourself before embarking on your pottery journey? Early on I think I tried to do everything asked of me out of fear that I had some momentum that was suddenly going to end. I think there is wisdom in taking those opportunities coming at you, but I wish I had believed in myself more. I've learned that I need to balance the demands to sell work, with remaining open to new ideas and pieces. It's really important for me that my work is genuine and truly what I want to design and make. The pieces I design are also be items I would choose to use in my own home.

Functionality appears to be a theme with your work. What drew you to that aesthetic? I think of myself as pretty practical, although I'm definitely guilty of choosing pure aesthetics over functionality or comfort! I try to strike a balance between artful and functional. These days, I am becoming more interested in shape and clay body than how a pot is covered or decorated with glaze. I want to explore ways to let the clay body and shape be what you notice before you notice the glaze color, for example.

Your bio talks about how you enjoy photography and songwriting as well. Do you plan to incorporate those elements into the Juno Pottery brand as well? Why or why not? I do enjoy photographing my work for my website and social media; however, I hope in the future to be able to hand some of that over from time to time to other area photographers that can capture my work in different ways. I've been lucky to have had some work photographed by Sadie Culberson for Territory as well as Dee Determan for Villagers. Incorporating Music seems like a harder task! If you have any ideas for joining the two, I would love to hear them! I do listen to a lot of music while making work, though. Lately I’ve been listening to Sharon Van Etten, Brittany Howard and some John Moreland.

Do you believe school was necessary in cultivating your creative career? I studied English Literature and English as a Second Language in college, but I always wanted to go to art school. It is a bit hard to find a link between the English degree I received 20 years ago, and my 3 year old pottery business! But I think that for me, each moment in my life leads me to what's next and causes me to grow and be ready for it. The biggest growth I experienced in ceramics was taking an uncharacteristic leap renting a studio space four years ago inside a 30+artist working studio in Asheville. My space was up front and center right by the shared kilns, bathrooms and sink. I was surrounded by well seasoned ceramic artists. It was vulnerable for me to put myself in a position to be scrutinized and visible, knowing very little about ceramics and firing, having to ask way too many questions! That was the first year that all 3 of my kids were attending school. In that year, I witnessed how much more joyful and human it is to be generous with sharing knowledge and skills within a creative environment versus being competitive and closed off to others. I think creatives in Asheville do this well and it's something that can be hard to find in other places. I don't think I would have been ready to be that vulnerable 10 or 15 years ago. I think doing the hard work that is raising young kids helped me to take more risks and really value the time alone to create in a way I might not have appreciated in the same way before having my kids.