Interview with eje 64 ceramic artist Jessica Ayala
by Laura Pulgarin
There is something about a beautiful ceramic piece that brightens our day. This is one of the reasons why we stalked Jessica Ayala to partner with eje 64, we found her work on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her black clay bowls and her pug inspired pieces. Below is our interview with Jessica, we discuss everything from her inspiration to the community of Brooklyn ceramicists she is now a part of.
Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you get your start in the art world?
I’ve been creating in some capacity since I was a kid. It started off with drawing and painting, then evolved into papier-mâché and cardboard cut out collages. All made for my own personal pleasure. I enjoyed working three dimensionally and got into clay in my late 30’s in pursuit of sculpture art. However, I soon got very attached to the wheel when I took a class at community ceramic studio in Brooklyn and wanted to perfect my skill and throw large functional pieces. I’m now beginning to incorporate more hand building and sculpture work into my art which was the direction I initially envisioned for myself.
What is your creative process like?
Most of my work is driven by demand with my added flare for specific works of art. I start out my sketching down my ideas, and really tapping into what sparked this new idea and expanding on that topic. Sometimes I just throw a pot in the wheel and see what happens. Sometimes it comes out really good and others I to toss.
What is inspiring you right now? What are you currently working on?
Most of my ideas stem from my own personal experiences with nature. Digging in the dirt as a kid, swimming, road trips through the desert, my love for science, animals and the earth’s sustainability. I’m pretty earth conscious and want to work with clay in a sustainable way and connect my buyers with the rawness of what the earth has to offer. Most of my current work exposes the clay in its raw form, which I love. There’s so much beauty in the clay itself that sometimes the glaze can take away from the clays natural beauty.
Something else that has brought a lot of attention to my brand are my sculptured pug pots. I made a set of pots and small sculpture pieces to support Pawsitive Change, a group that supports and rehabilitates incarcerated folks and trains dogs in need of adoption. I think humans and animals can bond in special ways that can help and support one another.
I’m hoping to continue this part of my journey as an artist and build my brand in mutual aid through art.
How would you describe your work?
My work ranges. I can’t say I have a particular set style, but most of the work I produce is dark, natural, raw and organic practical vessels. Others lend to my humor and playful side with animated sculptures of pugs that just bring me so much joy, like my own pug, Buster.
What are your favorite sources of materials, where do you do your pottery?
I now work out of an incredible studio with incredible people in Gowanus called, Gasworksnyc. Lots of materials for making are offered there. I also like online pottery stores, like Sheffield, Amaco and Blick for underglazes and tools. Molds are either provided or made myself. Books are endless.
But some of the best resources you can find are in museums, anthropology books and art history.
What is your process for starting and ending your pieces?
Most times I sketch out my ideas, which I have so many of, and other times I make the commitment of making a series of items. Almost always do my pots become its own unique entity, depending on what I envision at the moment I begin throwing and trimming.
I start with an idea, choose the clay, usually a dark clay, make my form using the pottery wheel or hand building techniques, slabs or coils. During this stage, there’s a time when your vessel is of a leather hard material where you can carve out clay. I love carving! For my fossil bowls, I paint with a white slip that can only be applied to the vessel during this stage, allow to dry and carve out lines. This technique is called sgraffito. When I’m finished and it’s bone dry, we call this stage green ware. This stage allows us to begin its first firing stage, called bisque firing. Bisque ware is when we can begin using dipping glazes. But since my work doesn’t always use dipping glaze, I’ll add to the last firing process to finish.
Most of my work isn’t glazed but when I am working on a piece, I’m thinking of what I’m going to do with it. Usually the glaze ideas I have are dark lusters or contrasting neutrals and whites. Once finished, I can add glaze if need be and put in the kiln for another fire till I’m happy with it.
Do you feel like you have a community in the art world?
It wasn’t until I quit my full time job and joined Gasworksnyc as a member and technician for the studio, do I feel I am apart of a ceramic community. But I have always surrounded myself with artists and creatives. Whether it’s music, multimedia art or fashion.
If so, how did you go about creating or joining this community?
I stalked Gasworksnyc online through Instagram. A lot of the artists that work out of this place make incredible work. Not only do they have talented members, they do intentional outreach work to spread the love of pottery, and mental health by making their classes accessible for everyone, especially people in marginalized groups.
Usually how long does it take for you to complete a piece?
It really depends on the piece. Smaller works take from 2-3 hours, and others up to 6 hours. Mind you because of the ceramics process this time is stretched over a span of days.
You are also a child educator. How does this influence your pottery work?
My subconscious is tied with my child self. So when I’m not working at being an adult, when I put aside the stressors and the pressure, I’m connecting with baby Jessica to laugh and play. My influences are also tied with fond memories as a child, so working with kids has really helped me to keep in touch with that side of myself that explores and is in awe by life.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m working on creating more content for sale, available online, stores and restaurants. And, making more conceptual sculpture art for a show later in the future which I’m envisioning is tied in with mutual aid.
You can follow Jessica Ayala on instagram