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Jill Whitten


What clay body do you use?

"Most recently I have been using Buffalo Wallow because I love the color and texture. I have also used Grande because it has more grog, and B-mix and porcelain. "


Primary forming method?

"I am a handbuilder and I make small sculptural work."


Primary firing temperature?

"Currently cone 5. I loved cone 10 when I started at Glassell in 2012. I love 60’s ceramics and the crusty texture and colors you can get with cone 10 reminded me of the 60’s. When Glassell moved to the Medical Center I completely changed my work, focusing on Mexican-inspired animals and candelabras with less texture and brighter colors. I am with Nosami Studio in the Heights and we can do cone 6 and 5. "


Favorite surface treatment?

" I use a great deal of underglaze. For much of my work I paint on designs with oxides and underglaze. I am doing a cactus-inspired group of functional pottery that is all pinched surface texture and some designs scratched in with tools and cone 5 glazes."

















Favorite Tools?

"My very favorite tool is wooden, about 7” long with a curved spatula end and a pointed end. I also use silicone shapers and a tool with three tiny needles to create texture."

Describe your studio environment.

"I work at Nosami Studio and it is lovely. I have a big shelf where I keep my tools and glazes and some work in progress. In addition to wheels, there are several work areas that we share. We keep our clay in the garage. It is a wonderful space and a very talented, amiable group of women (10 in all). "













How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

"I have been extremely fortunate to have been selling my work at the Menil Bookstore for the last four years. During this period when the bookstore and museum are closed due to Covid, I have been selling pieces by posting them on Instagram. "












What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?

"When I started taking a ceramics class at Glassell it was an experiment. I had never worked in clay or made sculpture (except for a summer pottery class in high school) and it just blew my mind to sit in front of a lump of clay and make something functional or whimsical (a pretty apt description for much of my work) emerge. My father collected Mexican Folk Art and we went to the border of Mexico every year throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I love the sweetness, humanity, freedom, looseness and colors of Mexican folk art and try and incorporate these elements in my work."               

                                                             









Did you come to ceramics from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.

      "I studied painting at UT and always wanted to be an artist my whole life. Upon graduation I realized I might need another career and found Art Conservation in 1987. I went to conservation graduate school and have been a successful art conservator teaching colleagues and students and running a painting conservation studio with my husband Robert Proctor, who is also a painting conservator. We have worked in Houston for the past 22 years. I started taking ceramics classes at Glassell because I was inspired to try it by my friend Amy Blakemore (amazing photographer and ceramicist and teacher at Glassell)."






      How have you have taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to your other artists?

      "During Covid our studio set up a weekly “challenge”. The first project was to make a book (I am the only member who works full time so I didn’t participate in the book). The next project was for each person to think up something they wanted and each member made a piece for their project (a mobile, tiles for outdoors, Japanese style teacups, a totem, planters, candelabras, coffee cups, fence toppers). Our next project will be short presentations about a technique we want to share. I have not done any formal teaching of ceramics or had an opportunity to share outside of the inspirations that come from working in a group."







      What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

        Experiment, take classes, try and work with other people that inspire you. Do what is fun."












        Website URL and other social media platforms:

          Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jill.whitten.9

          Instagram: @56jillw


          Bio:

          I have been a painting conservator for over 30 years (whittenandproctor.com). I grew up in Austin and went off to graduate school in 1989 and worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art and on contract for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. My husband and I have been part of a teaching team with René de la Rie, a conservation scientist formerly at the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery in DC. He now lives in the Netherlands. We teach colleagues and graduate students about new resins and solvents for retouching and varnishing.

          I have been working with clay for the past 8 years and it has changed my life to have something so absorbing to work on and different from any other aspect of my life. We are fortunate to have such a lively environment in Houston. I also live part time in New Mexico and there is a big ceramics community there that I hope to become more a part of as the years go by.

            clayhouston

            Address:
            PO Box 667401
            Houston, TX 77266

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