A Chat with Local Ceramic Artist Janelle SongerHere at Rovin we have come to realize how many very talented artists we work with everyday We are flattered that so many accomplished, skilled, and intelligent artists and have chosen to work with us! We had so much fun presenting our first Featured Artist, Rex Benson and his whimsical sculptures recently, that we have decided to make the Featured Artist a regular part of our blogging rotation! So without further adieu we would like to introduce you to Janelle Songer, a functional ceramicist from SE Michigan who's work is rich and colorful, non-rigid and botanical.
What lead you to become a clay artist?The only art classes that were oﬀered at my high school were drawing, painting and ceramics. I immersed myself in all three with equal interest. In 1997, right after high school, I attended Kendall College of Art and Design for Illustration. Unfortunately, I was so young then and felt I knew so little about the world that I couldn’t see myself committing to a speciﬁc career path quite yet. I left Kendall in my fourth semester in order to experience life outside of the classroom. Some of my experiences over the next few years included living and painting in Arizona inspired by Georgia O’Keeﬀe, learning and then teaching yoga at a Hindu ashram in California, traveling to seven diﬀerent countries in the South Paciﬁc and Asia in order to see what life was like outside the USA, and becoming a certiﬁed massage therapist which I still practice to this day. Finally, in 2005, I was ready to go back to college to ﬁnish my art degree. The College for Creative Studies in Detroit accepted me into its BFA painting program; however, a couple months before classes beganI started seriously thinking about switching to ceramics. Even though I hadn’t touch clay in a couple of years I felt a strong pull towards the medium. Paint and canvas felt so dead, ﬂat and removed from me but clay, on the other hand, was this soft, moist, 3D object I could touch, move, manipulate and get dirty with. In the end I’d say it was the tactile nature of ceramics that drew me in and has kept me captivated over the recent years. Where else can you play with dirt, chemistry, color, and the magic of ﬁre?
What is your favorite part of your process, and why?
Currently, it’s the hand-building process for my vases and wall ﬂowers. Whether it’s pinching out leaf after leaf and arranging them slowly into a “moving” cluster or pushing out petal after petal around an ever closing circle, I’m enjoying the opportunity of getting lost in the steady repetition of these movements.
Do you have any advice for artists who are just learning to work with clay?
Don’t give up! Clay can be such an unruly material to work with in the beginning but I promise that if you just stick with it and keep a focused mind and gentle hands you will soon be able to turn a pile of mud into something beautiful.
What music is on your studio playlist?
Calexico, Bonobo, Gillian Welch, Of Monsters and Men, NO, Krishna Das, Leonard Cohen, Soley, Jonsi, Black Prairie, etc... I also love listening to audio books (my latest favorites being The Botany of Desire and A History of the World in 6 Glasses) and WDTE.
We will continue our conversation with Janelle tomorrow, when she will share her insights for selling your work, and much more! If you would like more information about Janelle and her beautiful terracotta pottery (RO-82m in fact), please visit her website at JanelleSonger.com or follow her on Facebook by clicking HERE. You will also find her at the Ann Arbor Art this week, booth #270 on Liberty St. between 4th and 5th if you would like to check out her gorgeous work in person!