Conversations with an Artist: Judith Lemmens
Jeffrey was a judge last year for the annual Mill Valley Arts Festival where Judith was exhibiting her handmade ceramics. All three judges on the panel unanimously honored Judith a Best in Show. It was only natural we would then visit her studio—and get to know more about the Julems collection, her strong sense of object and her decorative approach. We're excited to carry a full range for your enjoyment!
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I have been making art for as long as I can remember. When I was little, we used to go to my grandparents every Sunday and I would scramble around to find any piece of paper, like the back of the calendar, and something to draw with. Drawing was my first creative outlet. Many were to follow.
It had always been clear I wanted to go the creative route, there was no question about that. After my education at Lucas College for design in the Netherlands I was an interior designer, graphic designer and illustrator. When switching to all digital work, it left me aching for the need to create by hand. The big breakthrough was realizing just that—returning to the actual making of things with my own two hands—which brought me to ceramics. Starting with mud and ending up with a beautiful and functional vessel is the most gratifying feeling ever.
What themes do you pursue in your craft?
I love graphic patterns, simplified shapes and lines and always try to keep a freshness to my work. Less is more, keep it clean and simple.
Tell us about what influences the direction for the ceramics you create.
Being Dutch and heavily influenced by my love for Scandinavian Design will always show. It’s in my DNA. I make what I love. I try not to pay attention to other potters too much, because I try not to be influenced, if that makes any sense. Instead, I like to look at fabric design and other fields should I need inspiration.
How has your work developed over time?
In October 2014 I took my very first pottery class, so I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this medium. There’s so much more to try and explore! Taking the class, I fell in love with wheel ceramics and spent as much time as I was allowed at the public studio, which was only 6 hours a week. I then built my own studio at my house which was operational at the end of 2015. And then I experimented. A ton. I tried different clays, glazes, techniques and discovered my style and the things I enjoy making most. I push to see where I can take it (my teacher used to call me reckless) and learn from limitations and failures.
I love every step of the process, from throwing, trimming and hand decorating to glazing. What brings me most joy is the hand decorating part because that’s when the piece gets its identity. No two are the same. The techniques I use are Mishima (for my fine line work) and Sgraffito (for decorations like the feathers).
In clay, there’s a rhythm you need to follow, there’s a window for every step of the process. I love working within these possibilities and limitations. And I’m excited to see where each road will take me.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My big work table that my husband built for me. Although a lot of my tools, my wheel and my kiln I couldn’t do without, the table has more of a sentimental value, an appreciation for his support.
Do you collect anything?
I regret saying nothing I’d go the extra mile for. When we still lived in the Netherlands (and before kids), I loved roaming flea markets and collecting old picture frames, ceramics and chairs. I still like to make vignettes, little collections of random things but I can’t say I collect something specifically nowadays. Well, besides the laundry on the floor in the kids’ rooms of course. :)
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney. This is an inspiring read about 100 makers, artists and entrepreneurs, all women, who talk about being creative and successful. Also Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton. I love peeking into homes and studios especially those of makers and creatives.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Have confidence! Believe in yourself. Do what you love and the rest will follow. The first art fair I entered with my ceramics I didn’t even think I’d get accepted when I applied, but I did AND won Best of Show. This gave me a huge boost and the confidence I needed to know I was on the right track. So lesson learned: Even if you don’t think you’re ready, do it anyway!
From sophisticated to playful, come check out the Julems collection in the shop. If you'd like more information, please do get in touch, email@example.com or 415-569-4383.
Until next time,
Bonnie & Jeffrey