Meet Jen Kuroki, founder and artist behind jen e ceramics and the ornaments in our 2020 holiday market.
What’s your background as a creator?
I’ve always been pretty creative. My parents fostered my artistic endeavors, although with some caveats. They allowed me to enroll in after-school oil painting classes as early as fifth grade, but also demanded that I got straight A's. I also spent a summer at Carnegie Mellon University studying design in their program for high school students. I think it’s that cultivation of hard work that, ironically, led me to ceramics.
I graduated from UCLA and used to work long grueling hours as a graphic designer/art director and eventually the pain in my neck and back progressed so that I couldn’t comfortably roll out of bed. I started physical therapy and signed up for ceramics classes as an extension of that self-care to get away from my computer. Twenty years later, I’m still playing with clay and painting!
What inspires your work?
I’ve been making art for over 20 years in L.A. and Japan. My time abroad sparked an ongoing conversation between old and new, tradition and relevance, elevated and mundane, practical and spiritual.
Living and working in southern California has also informed my work which has become increasingly more animated, incorporating anthropomorphization and bright saturated colors. With a background in graphic design and art direction, my eye tends to focus on patterns and my canvasses can take many forms. Moving from oil painting, then studying graphic design, and discovering ceramics and applying my designs into other mediums, I’m interested in seeing how my work plays with environment and interacts with the viewer.
Do you have a special routine that you get into before you start creating? Any kind of music you listen to, do you make yourself a cup of coffee, etc.?
I don’t think I’m typical in that I get most of my work done at night. I do all my throwing and glazing during the day but I design, paint, carve and wax at night.
During the day, with my cup of coffee close by, I’m usually listening to podcasts or as of late, audio books. I just finished the 17-hour audio book, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and am currently listening to Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
At night, I’m usually watching/listening to the TV with the BF while I paint and carve. I also do all my research, sketching and planning for the following day the night before.
What do you hope that people get out of your work?
Happiness. I hope my work puts a smile on peoples’ faces---make the daily grind a little lighter and brighter.
What’s your proudest moment as an artist?
I’m super proud of the fact that I can fundraise with my art. Not only do I donate pieces for auctions to raise funds for different organizations like the LA Zoo and Craft Contemporary but I also run my own fundraisers. I donate to different non-profits like the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), SeaLegacy, NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network) and 350.org. I really appreciate all my customers for suppoting me and allowing me to continue making what I love which therefore helps me help others.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the winter?
Drinking hot cocoa in a cabin in the woods. I love the High Sierras! I’ve never tried snowshoeing but wanna try that next.