Jennifer D'Arbenzio is a ceramicist based out of Brooklyn, New York. We fell in love with the way Jennifer re-imagines the forms and shapes we interact with every day, in black, delicate porcelain. Her work forces you to look twice at the often over-looked items we all know and own, and to appreciate their design and functionality. Jennifer was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her beautiful studio, and to tell us more about the unique and truly special way she was introduced to ceramics. Stop by both stores to take a peek at her work, or shop here online. Thanks, Jennifer!
ET: What has your artistic path looked like? How did you get started in ceramics?
J D'A: I've been making things as long as I can remember; it's something I don't feel that I decided I would do, but just found myself doing, over and over again. At the end of high school I knew I wanted to do something creative, but couldn't narrow my interests down to anything specific. I went to The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and did a bunch of studio arts and humanities in the Visual and Critical Studies Program. This program was brand new the year I started and very small and very personal. Every day for the four years I was there I was surrounded by brilliant and inspiring professors who introduced new ideas, new practices and pushed us to go to galleries and museums pretty much constantly. Th support and community this program provided really gave me the opportunity to experiment and start carving out my path, though I don't think I saw it so clear at the time. It is here that I started working with clay. I took a beginner ceramics class in my second year and my interest was immediately sparked. I was super fortunate to have been able to study abroad in Florence, Italy my third year of college. I took ceramic classes and had unlimited access to this super charming studio off of an even more charming garden. I may have been the only one in the class with a genuine interest in clay, which was great, because I spent endless hours there over those four months with the studio all to myself, it was so dreamy! Ever since then making things in clay has become a permanent part of my life.
ET: One element that I find interesting about your cups is their reference to vessels that we are familiar with-- aluminum cans, French drinking glasses-- but are re-contextualized in black glazed porcelain. There's a unique play between light and heavy, translucent and opaque...I'm interested to know more about your color choice, and why you chose the shapes to reference?
J D'A: I'm really interested in common household objects that we are familiar with but don't really pay much attention to. Objects that we live with, like a basic drinking glass, or objects that come in and out of our homes, like the little black can, without really being looked at, considered, or examined. I'm also really interested in objects that I find at yard sales or junk stores, items that aren't really being sought after or showcased anymore. I've been collecting objects like these whose forms I find appealing and try to imagine them in a different way. My current collection of work is composed of very basic and familiar vessels that I tried to elevate, or enrich, through remaking them with clay. The porcelain adds a fineness and the matte black adds a richness to these very basic and familiar forms, and I enjoy seeing them in this new way. I plan on working more with these ideas in my next collection.
ET: What does a studio work day look like? Do you have any rituals that you incorporate into your practice?
J D'A: I'm an early riser. I absolutely love the morning and like to get to my studio when the streets are still quiet and everything around me is just waking up. I turn on the radio right away, always NPR, and get to work while listening to the news. I work in a collective studio, but usually have the studio to myself in the mornings, which is how I work best. I get distracted very easily and I really love working alone in an environment I can control. It's the only way I can really get into my head and then out of my head and into my work. This state of mind is when I truly become present and all the ideas begin flowing.
ET: You work and live in Brooklyn, NY. How would you say that your neighborhood and community influence your work?
J D'A: My neighborhood and community have been so important to me, my work and my progress as a maker. My senior year of college I started interning at Choplet Ceramic Studio in Williamsburg. I had just moved to Williamsburg and was stumbling around New York trying to figure out what I wanted to do and feeling the pressure of my college years coming to an end. Finding this studio was the best thing that could have happened to me. I started interning as a tech, and learned a ton about ceramics. When my internship was coming to an end I asked to keep working in exchange for studio access and was offered a job. I'm now the studio manager and have been for almost 6 years! The owner, Nadeige Choplet, is a force, and has become my friend and mentor, as well as my boss. Her and her husband John have created a really strong community through this studio. They are both so present here, and so supportive and so kind to every one who walks through the door. Many of our instructors and members have been here for many years; it's like a family. The studio is really welcoming, people get to know each other and become friends. It's been wonderful and really inspiring to watch people come in with no experience, learn the basics, find their style and start selling their work, or even make it their career. I get reallye xcited when I see a member's work in a local store! Through working here I've never been without a studio, support, or community, and have been learning about ceramics and running a business the whole time.
ET: Who are your artistic heroes?
J D'A: Richard Brautigan! I first stumbled upon one of his books in a bin outside Central Park. I totally zero-ed in on this book, picked it up, liked the cover, and took it home. I have gone on to read it, and reread it (and reread it), and collect many of his other books. I feel like I always have an excerpt of his in my head at all times. His writing is so gentle and so human, and funny, they give me such vivid imagery and I get so inspired.
ET: Do you have any future projects you're excited to share with us?
J D'A: I have so many projects I cannot wait to get to. I've been working on some tiles for the bathroom in my apartment and have been having so much fun that I started some designs for more tile projects. There's a pendant lamp I have been visualizing for quite a while and cannot wait to bring it to life with clay!