Sitting Down with Local Ceramic Sculptor Jenni Ward


APRIL 2017

Jenni Ward is a California-based ceramic sculptor who creates abstract pieces and installations inspired by nature. Her mission is to share the beauty she sees in the natural world through her art. Jenni is the owner of Earth Art Studio; an art studio offering community clay classes to children, teens, and adults since 2005. She has shown her work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the de Saisset Museum and at the annual exhibition of the NCECA conference. She has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and Ceramic Now magazine. Annie sat down with Jenni for a get-to –know you interview as follows.

Annie/ AM: Welcome Jenni- I first saw your work at Open Studios and was thrilled to see your fresh approach to sculpture, so heavily inspired by nature. I enjoy living with your sculpture at home and hope to collect more of it. It is truly interactive- I can’t leave it alone- always rearranging it since I brought it home from the Pajaro Valley art show at Sierra Azul Nursery. I look forward to seeing that show and what you will have in it this year. Thank you so much for joining us at Craftbar. I love the story of how you got to Santa Cruz. You just up and left New Jersey on a whim?

 Jenni Ward/JW: Yes I did after graduating with a BFA in ceramics from the University of Hartford in 1998. I stayed with a cousin in the East Bay and worked as an assistant to several artists. I learned how to run a studio as a professional artist.  I visited Santa Cruz, fell in love with it and decided to stay. I became a Spectra artist and worked teaching art in the schools for over 10 years and eventually began my own after school art programs in my studio as a way to make a living while continuing my sculpture practice.

 AM: Yes, I noticed how many children take your classes in this county, my young cousin among them. Lucky kids! Tell me what inspires you? And how do you inspire them?

JW: My students are always an inspiration, they aren’t limited by the rules, so they experiment and try things that might or might not work -sometimes with amazing results. I love their reactions to my works in progress that they get to see in my studio, sometimes they say just what I need to hear to keep working on a piece. I love when they are inspired by my work to create their own versions too.

My ceramic sculptures are inspired by structures and patterns found in nature. I like to explore the insides of things, how things work and find the way things connect. I try to spend as much time outdoors as I do in my studio, finding inspiration through exploration.

 AM: That is wonderful. What are your favorite places in the Santa Cruz area?

 JW: Nisene Marks is one of my favorite places in the county, I love playing in the creek, exploring the trails, it’s a really magical place. And also Davenport Landing beach is the best when the tides are low because it’s so much fun to explore the beach coves.

 AM: I was surprised to hear where your “Happy Place” is. Congratulations for making a difference there. Sounds like travel is another inspiration for you.

 JW: There is something about Haiti that keeps me going back. I’ve traveled there multiple times since the earthquake. Originally it started to give children the opportunity to be creative and express themselves through drawing and painting. It evolved into working with local artists, orphanages, schools and communities. My last project was to fundraise money for a small community to buy goats for each family. Haiti is a crazy amazing place but I would definitely consider it one of my happy places.

Other epic travels include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa with my dad in 2014 and driving through Spain and Morocco a few years ago. I’m planning a road trip through the U.S. in our converted van soon and I have plans for some Himalayan treks next year, so yes traveling is definitely an inspiration for me. I love meeting other artists when I’m traveling, seeing what influences them and how culture shapes the art a community makes.

AM: I see the influence; the bone and dried gourd shapes you use, did they come from that trip? Do you think it takes a while to gel in your mind or you triggered to make something right away?

 JW: Influences take a long time to show up in my work, but they are there. I feel like they need to saturate or maybe marinate is a better word, before I know what to do with them. When you make work for years, you can look back and see all the connections.

 AM: Jenni from one Jersey girl to another, thank you for this chance to get to know you better. Perhaps that makes us appreciate nature more- it is certainly a big influence on both of us. I can’t wait to take your workshop! We are going to have fun installing your sculptures in the Craftbar- which one of us is driving the forklift on May 27th?

Craft Your Own Terracotta Pinch Pot

Learn clay hand-building techniques from Jenni Ward to create your own succulent planter from terracotta clay. Experiment with tools and textures to design your pot. All materials and tools are provided, space is limited, so sign up today! No experience is necessary, all levels welcome, ages 15+

Pick up your fired pot the following week or arrange for shipping. 

1-hour workshop, $45/pp materials/tools/firing included, 20 student max

Check out the Workshop Details