Artist Interviews

Meet Jessa Decker-Smith

Jessa Decker-Smith - Mug Set
Jessa Decker-Smith – Mug Set
Please introduce yourself:

I come from creators. We are a crafty people. My mother worked tirelessly to support her four daughters and though she never allowed herself to devote much time to intentional art, she was constantly creating. From the charcoal drawings she made of her children, to the paper fireplace and mantle she created at Christmastime over which to hang our stockings, to the metal and driftwood sculptures that have taken up residence in her garden, innate creativity flows through her veins, whether she intends it to come out or not.

This apple did not fall far from that tree. None of us did. Her four daughters became a dancer, a photographer, a potter, and a realtor. A really crafty realtor.

I too am constantly creating. I have dabbled in all the crafts – sewing, felting, paper and book-making, metal smithing and jewelry design, stamp-making – you name the craft – I’ve tried it. But clay holds my heart.

How many years have you been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I am one of the newest members of the Guild! I was admitted in November, 2016.

Jessa Decker-Smith - Serving Bowl
Jessa Decker-Smith – Serving Bowl
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve been trying to get into the Guild for a decade. When I moved to Denver in 2007 I expressed interest in joining, but the guild was full at the time. I took a long break from pottery when my babies were little, and when I returned to clay I again applied to join the guild. A year and a half later – I was in!

It’s such a wonderful gift to be part of such a talented group of creators. I am a full-time potter, with a studio and kiln at my home, and I do most of my production work in my home-studio. Alone. All day. It’s way too quiet. I love coming to the guild and being among creators. I love the idea exchange, experimentation, critique, and enrichment I experience when working with my guild mates.

Jessa Decker-Smith - Teapot
Jessa Decker-Smith – Teapot
How many years have your been working with clay?

Twenty years ago, I met the clay. I took an elective pottery class in my first year of college and it was love at first sight. I went ahead and got my practical degree and my practical job, but the clay continued to call to me. I made pots in any spare moment — often in the middle of the night. After a few years I decided to pursue this passion in the daytime. I went back to school to learn all I could about the magical medium of clay.

Jessa Decker-Smith - Serving Platter
Jessa Decker-Smith – Serving Platter
Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I started in elective pottery classes while I was in college and anywhere I could find them after I graduated. Once I realized that clay was meant to be more than a hobby for me, I started studying clay at East Tennessee State University and was awarded my Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics in 2004. I also loved my more immersive experiences like clay classes at Penland School of Craft and a trip to India to study the amazing art and architecture.

It’s not optional. I can’t help thinking creatively about even the most mundane tasks. And often I don’t notice I’m doing it, until the outcome emerges. Opportunities for creativity are ever more present as I parent my three young children. They too come from crafty stock, and it’s such a joy to watch that evolve in them.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

The pottery process is fairly cyclical for me. I plan my year with orders, exhibits, and shows, and then work out a production schedule to prepare for those events. Each block on the schedule begins with a throwing cycle – wherein I create the needed pieces for whatever is coming up. Then comes the decoration phase, where I fire, glaze, and fire again, this batch of work. It’s nice to finish the process, and start fresh again. In between cycles I like to sprinkle in group firings, workshops, and other enrichment opportunities.

Jessa Decker- Smith - Mugs
Jessa Decker- Smith – Mugs
How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

I want to constantly be learning more. When I returned to clay after my long kiddo-break, it was like reuniting with my very best old friend. We picked up right where we left off, except I couldn’t wait to learn everything it had been up to while I was away. I came back from that break with seven years of pent up inspiration, ideas, and sketches – and I was an insatiable potter until I was able to make them all a reality. Now that I’ve worked through that body of inspiration, I’m ready to refill the tank with new ideas. I’m constantly looking for classes and workshops where I can learn new techniques, study new themes, hear new perspectives, and find new inspiration. The Guild often provides those as well.

Who or what inspires you?

On a Wednesday morning not long ago, a woman drove up to me on the street, rolled down her passenger side window and told me her son drank orange juice that morning out of a cup I made for a local coffeehouse. That is why my work exists. I want someone’s child to enjoy juice out of one of my cups. I create work for people to take into their homes and use to feed their families. My work exists as I hope I do, to add brightness and ease to life, to assist, to serve, to comfort, to celebrate,to connect, to enliven.

Jessa Decker-Smith - Teapot
Jessa Decker-Smith – Teapot
Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

I’m on the lookout for new inspiration, so I’ll be excited to see how this question gets answered!

Where can people find your work? 

Colorado Potters Guild Artist Page
Decker-Smith Pottery Website

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