Jean Wells - Artist Statement
I began drawing and carving onto my pieces a few years into my life as a potter and have never stopped. My designs have always been inspired by nature and have evolved to include everyday household objects and popular iconography. I strive to create imagery that can be visually beautiful, and at times, somewhat playful.
My stylized designs are carved onto each piece by a process called “sgraffito” or “slip-carving.” After the piece is thrown on the wheel and trimmed, a layer of colored clay called “slip” is brushed on to the surface. Once the slip has been allowed to dry slightly, I hand draw and carve the design through the slip. Colored highlights are painted on after the first firing in the kiln. A clear glazed is applied and fired once more to over 2000 degrees to finish the piece.
The functional aspect of pottery is extremely important to my work. I want to make objects that are durable, of high quality, and used everyday with ease. I choose to work with stoneware for this purpose, and keep my forms and shapes smooth and simple to showcase the graphic designs I create.
All of my pieces are made exclusively on the potter's wheel, hand drawn and painted. No molds, forms, stencils, stamps or decals are used. I feel this adds an amazing amount of energy and spirit to each piece along with a distinctive and unique identity for the object and its owner.
Dishwasher and microwave safe.
Photos by: Stephanie Bartz Photography
Jean Well Bio
Jean Smaglik Wells, a professional potter for 30 years, creates contemporary stoneware pottery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Known for her graphic designs, Jean’s uses an age-old technique called “sgraffito” in which her stylized designs are individually hand drawn and carved through colored clay on every piece.
Jean studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1985-1988, majoring in Ceramics and minoring in Portrait Painting. She went on to work as an apprentice at Geneva Art Pottery with John and Claire Bailey in Lake Geneva, WI in 1990 and started her own studio practice in the early 90’s.
Jean currently sells most of her work directly through her online Etsy shop and at regional Art & Craft shows. Notably, Jean recently created a successful series of ‘limited edition’ handmade mugs for Colectivo Coffee shops in the Milwaukee/Madison/Chicago areas. In 2017, the USGA commissioned Jean to create commemorative pieces for the US Open Championship held at Erin Hills Golf Course in Wisconsin.
Jean is the current president of the Wisconsin Designer Craft Council and a member of the Milwaukee Artists Resource Network and Local First Milwaukee. She is also co-founder of Milwaukee Empty Bowls, established in 1999, an organization that has raised over 900,000 dollars for local food pantries and meal programs in SE Wisconsin.
Here is a process video of how I create my pieces. This video was made for the release of the Colectivo Sugar Skull Mugs in 2013.