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Conversations with Jennifer Siegel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Siegel.

Hi Jennifer, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I started working with clay in 2003 at Anderson University in South Carolina. My focus with the medium skyrocketed at the age of 17 and now looking back it seems like every other career option just melted away.

In 2005, my life relocated to Apex, North Carolina where there turned out to be an even bigger, thriving clay scene. Central Carolina Community College accepted me and for the next several years, I found myself driving from Apex to Siler City, roughly 80 miles per day, at least 5 days a week with a big smile on my face.. probably some clay smudged on there too.

It was a fluid transition for me, going from a student to an instructor, and by 2007, I was teaching for the academic program in Siler City as well as the Town of Cary Arts Center. The community network was so good before I knew it I was taking production pottery jobs with a few local ceramic artists, cranking out pots for pay, while honing my own skills and style as a maker in my own studio.

For almost a decade, I was content with a variety of jobs that circulated around clay; throwing pots, fixing and building kilns, teaching classes, making tile, etc. But the hustle was no joke and I craved consistency, a salary, and major focus. In many ways, the next door that opened felt like one of those ‘ask and you shall receive’ situations; The NC State University Crafts Center was looking for a new Clay Studio Manager.

This was the job for me! And it has been for going on ten years now! August of 2012 brought me into a position that felt deserved and challenging in all the right ways. My connections with the surrounding community continued to grow as did my connection with clay. In January 2021 I became an official small business owner and founded Clayvoyant L.L.C.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In the beginning, there were struggles like needing to be in two places at once, spreading myself out too thin, and not getting paid enough (or even on time). Nowadays, I would say my struggle is time – I just need more of it. Also space!

The artist grows but the studio does not. That challenge has its ups and downs, definitely caused me to think about what I am making within my [spatial] capabilities, but it brought me new ideas. Everything for a reason, right?

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I work with clay, primarily cone 6 porcelain at the moment, and I create for the connection. Good food and good vibes are two things that I really enjoy and being able to affect someone else’s experience of either is the connection that I am referring to. The food tastes great AND it’s in a beautiful handmade bowl – that’s a win, win even if I didn’t make the food!

I love to cook, probably should mention that, too. But I can remember that I had favorite dishes and decorations as a child, some of which are still around and being able to recreate and improve upon those forms and aesthetics that brought me joy is really fun. Making wares for the table is just as rewarding to me as making work for decorating the walls.

I am definitely known for my carving style, it’s deep and bold and generally all over the place, but I feel that people remember me for two things – lamps and eggs. Lamps have one function but they can each be unique in size, texture, color, and maybe even tell a story as you move around their body. Rarely do I repeat a design, I go with whatever mood I am in at the time, whatever theme I want to focus on, OR maybe if I have already found an amazing shade then I will make a lamp to match. Watching a customer fall in deep, deep lamp-love-at-first-sight (… light?!) is priceless and I love creating for that moment.

‘The Eggs’ are a complete 180 from lamps and utilitarian wares. What started as a fun springtime project at a friend’s request quickly turned into an idea that I couldn’t let go of. They wanted clay eggs to decorate for Easter and I wanted to know what else we could do with them! “I don’t know, you’re the expert!” they said… Expert… Eggspert!… But how do I make an ‘eggspert’ I said? A few days later I was writing E=mc^2 on an egg and that started the slinky down the never-ending stairs of creation. Soon there were deviled eggs, eggplants, eggshells, and so much more.

‘The Eggs’ have become an annual show of mine, usually in late spring, that has grown from about 20 or so ideas to dozens upon dozens of small ceramic sculptures. I even self-published a book about them in 2019, entitled “Photeggraphs’ by Clayvoyant, available on Amazon, that shares roughly 100 behind-the-scenes photos of eggs as they ‘hatched’ in my studio. They’re small, each an average chicken egg size, made of porcelain on the pottery wheel.

Some take me hours or days to complete and they all have a name with a pun. It’s quite entertaining, maybe more so for me than the audience. I absolutely love putting this work out there and feeling people connect.. and collect! My eggs don’t stay in the nest for very long!

Currently I am focused on a new endeavor called Painted Tree! It’s a small business boutique extravaganza and they’ve opened up a new location in Cary, NC. I’m designing my very own space, really customizing my vibe from top to bottom and putting the work out there seven days a week – even The Eggs are joining the party! It all starts at the grand opening on February 26, 2022 and I am truly eggcited to see where this goes.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking?
Once upon a time, my parents thought my career choice was a risk, ceramics. It took years to convince them otherwise although it wasn’t a conversation but rather my actions and steady climb to financial stability that won them over. It never felt like a risk to me, it felt like freedom.

I’ve always strived to be myself, to keep things creative, to laugh and connect with people; ceramics flooded my life with opportunities to do just that. Being an artist is risky because you’re putting yourself out there and essentially awaiting judgment, good or bad. But there is risk in everything we do and we can learn from both kinds. I have found over the years that I am less worried about the risks if I feel passionate about what I am doing.

*I made an egg called “The Whisk Taker” and he would really love this question!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Robert Davezac Photography

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2 Comments

  1. Shawn Nystrom

    February 25, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    Awesome exposé and well written article. I know her personally and she is incredibly talented. In fact, it runs in the family. Both her sister and her mother have amazing imagination and talent! Best of luck with your new venture. You have worked hard for it!

  2. Carol Fountain Nix

    February 28, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    Jennifer represents the Crafts Center and Arts NC State with aplomb! I am so proud to work with her and to witness her spirit and creativity on a daily basis. If you want to learn to work with clay AND have a total blast, take one of her classes. This is a super article!

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