Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Kojima.
Janet, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started working with clay in 2010 when I spontaneously enrolled in a community ceramics class that focused on hand-building techniques. I was making wire jewelry at that time and began combining ceramic components with my jewelry pieces.
I also made wall hangings and pinch pot tableware. The following year, I enrolled in a wheel throwing class taught by Jeffrey Greathouse and became hooked. Jeffrey was so great at teaching the fundamentals and explaining the physics and chemistry involved in making pottery and glazes. He was truly an amazing teacher and got me hooked. I eventually became his assistant in classes and would help with firings and so forth until I got my own kiln. I already had a pottery wheel that I remarkably won in a raffle. It’s like it was meant to be. It took me awhile to find something I love to do and I’m so happy to have found my passion working with clay.
Winning a pottery wheel in a raffle is definitely remarkable – that’s never been the prize in any raffle I’ve been a part of! Jokes aside, sometimes things are meant to be and seems like that is the case here, so have things been smooth overall?
Nothing worth achieving is ever a smooth road for anyone. When it comes to pottery, there are obstacles every step of the way. It’s such a finicky and time-consuming art and things can go wrong at any stage from throwing the piece and having it collapse on you, to waiting a week for it to dry then having something go wrong at the trimming stage, to cracks or glaze mishaps. When all the stars align and your piece comes out of the kiln looking beautiful, you’re like, “Hallelujah!”
I can only imagine the feeling of completing a piece you built yourself. What else should we know about you and your work?
I make everything from start to finish in my small backyard makeshift studio and work off of a pottery wheel situated under a sun sail shade. It’s nice to be with nature and listen to the birds as I’m throwing…I’m literally a backyard potter. I create one-of-a-kind stoneware vessels and tableware for the home that reflect my love of nature and Japanese American heritage. I find beauty in simplicity, minimalism, and understatement and aim to create pieces that promote a sense of calm and inner peace…quiet pieces that don’t scream for your attention yet hold their own. I focus on my pieces having good form. If a piece has that, it doesn’t need much more. I also tend towards neutral glazes that will blend seamlessly and beautifully into most homes.
I am a one-woman operation and run a sustainable ceramics studio by carefully planning firings and running my kiln only when it’s completely full and maintaining it so it runs at peak efficiency. Every piece undergoes mindful consideration before it’s fired because once fired, it undergoes a molecular transformation and cannot be recycled back into clay to make other pieces with. I use water from rain barrels instead of running water from a sink to make my pieces, wash equipment and clean my studio. I also use recycled boxes and packaging to ship with. Every little bit helps our environment.
What were you like growing up?
I’ve always loved the arts. From a young age, I took classical piano lessons and was taught the Suzuki method. The method is intuitive on many levels and it helped me develop a creative sensitivity and love for working with my hands.
After college, I taught English to Japanese junior high school students while living in Japan. One of the Japanese teachers took me to a pottery studio, and with a lot of assistance, I was able to throw my first bowl. I also learned about Japan’s long pottery history. This experience may have subconsciously influenced me to pursue pottery later on.
When my teaching contract in Japan concluded, I returned to the states. I wanted to do something practical and make money to pay off my student loans. I went to law school, passed the California Bar Exam and practiced law for several years.
- Website: www.jkojimaceramics.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @jkojimaceramics.com
Todd Young Photography (personal photo only)