Dynamic Ceramic

Jennifer Thomas’s unique approach to pottery

Bailey Berg, photos by Andrea Paulseth

CLAY CUTTER. Local potter Jennifer Thomas’s most recent collection draws inspiration from pictures taken on the Apollo 13 and 17 missions.

Local potter Jennifer Thomas occasionally has to wear a gas mask while working.

Thomas is somewhat of a pioneer in the pottery discipline, having developed a technique that’s unexplored by any other artist she has come across. What makes Thomas’s work unique is the staining process she uses in her pieces. “I’d seen people try to use a red clay and a white clay together, and I thought, why not try and add other colors?” Thomas explained. She developed a way to mix multiple colors into the clay, well before firing the piece. The thing is, in this stage, it’s hazardous—hence the gas mask.

Thomas is relatively new to the art scene. Until recently she’d been working for the family business in Neilsville, first as office manager, and eventually climbed the ladder to president of multiple businesses. After the passing of her father in 1997, the businesses dissolved, and it was at this point that Thomas decided to pursue her love of art. Twenty-eight years after first going, Thomas returned to college in 2007 at UWEC's ceramics program.

Her most recent collection, composed of both wheel-thrown and hand-built pieces, and christened “Earth, Wind and Fire,” draws inspiration from pictures taken on the Apollo 13 and 17 missions. Thomas explained, “I thought the pictures taken of the Earth on these missions were so incredibly beautiful. I decided I wanted to find some way to incorporate that into my ceramics.”

Previous to this, Thomas worked on a hand-painted collection consisting of bowls and vases entitled “Lady in Clay.” But more recently Thomas has branched out from making bowls and vases exclusively, into experimenting with jewelry. “Actually, it was an accident,” Thomas admitted. “I broke a bowl when it was still in the green-ware stage, and there was no way to save the original piece.” Rather then waste her expensive clay, and throw out something she labored so intensely over, she decided to try something new.

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