I first met Jesse at a friend’s dinner potluck almost a decade ago. It was a bustling evening filled with new people, music and good conversation, but the image that lingers on my mind is that of a dishwasher bursting at the seams with handmade plates with beautiful carvings on the back. I later found out that these were made by Jesse, my friend’s housemate. She had been making these plates in a trailer parked in the back alley of their house. Fast-forward to 2022, we visited her at her new studio in Strathcona to catch up and chat about her love for her craft. We greeted Jesse with a box full of packing paper and bubble wrap that we just used for our move. All of Jesse’s packing materials are reused and repurposed – something we can totally get behind!
One of the things that I love about clay is starting with earth, literally mud and making something beautiful that people use every day and feel connected to. I was drawn to the movement of clay. There is a flow when I work that I feels similar to dance and it stirs my soul. I admit that I do believe that everything in life is a dance of sorts and I like to think that my work as a potter is a reflection of how I move in the world. With clay as with dance, I have to be centred when I work and how I feel inside really does affect what and how I create.
My work feels so much like an extension of me. I have learned so much over the years of breakage, of non-attachment. Some other influences on the flow and creativity in my work are water, fire, (movement again) and the female form. I like to think that there is a fluidity and playfulness that people connect to with my work. The carving feels like an expression of the movement once again and the way I carve is very personal and primal.
When I was 23 or so my mom and my boyfriend bought me a 12-week pottery course. Honestly I wasn’t very good and was very hard on myself. So after a couple courses, I quit for a year. When I came back I had matured enough to know that I would not be good right away. And this time it stuck - my pottery addiction was complete. I put myself into waitlists for pottery clubs. I was eventually accepted into the Aberthau Potters Club and spent years practising my art there. Eventually, I outgrew the club and slowly withdrew buying an 8 x 16 foot cargo trailer to have one of the most unusual pottery studios in the city that I have ever seen. Eventually I outgrew that too and now I am at a lovely shared creative space in East Van called Sunrise Studios. It’s open and eclectic and I think I am gonna love it here.
We just moved into a new space on the east side and I am finally getting into a flow here. I love it. I also teach private lessons. I call them “Falling in Love with Clay,” partly because of my experience as a student. I want people to love clay first so that they can enjoy the learning process. I usually do my classes with about 45 minutes of one-on-one teaching to help students get the feel of things with me hovering a lot, then 30 minutes for you to practice, with me there for you to ask questions if you need to. This way, you know I’m there but you can play around and get to know your own rhythm with clay.
I laugh when I tell people that I do pottery and they say “like the movie Ghost?” It’s not really anything like that, except that I am there with a helping hand if you need it. It’s a lot about feeling, another reason why I love pottery so much. My classes are unhurried, you don’t need to make anything, in fact I don’t want you to make anything right away. You need to start out by feeling the clay, making friends with it, learning how to understand the ways it responds to your touch and pressure, and being able to stay steady with the clay as it comes at you while you bring it to the centre.
A lot of my clients break their pottery and come back to see me asking me to make the exact same piece. I suppose that is a very high compliment, but also my style changes and sometimes I find that I don’t want to make something from an era long past; it sometimes doesn’t feel like me anymore. Luckily there is a lot of work that I have made over the years that I still love making. I am really excited to have the opportunity to play with Mended with Gold. I think it is a lovely thing to be able to extend the life of a loved object with time and creativity. Thanks so much for the opportunity to spend time with you and your family and to try out one of your kits on my broken beloved pots.
Jesse’s ceramics are used daily at the Farmer’s Apprentice and Ubuntu Canteen. Check out her work at @weisearts and on Etsy.
Are you a ceramic artist who would like to be featured in our journal? Please reach out – we’d love to hear from you!
Photos by Jesse Weise and Lorenzo Ignacio