Jim Connell is the Professor of Ceramics at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. His work is inspired by nature and guided by historical precedent; one major source of inspiration comes from teapots made in Yixing, China. His wheel-thrown and carved work is typically made of stoneware or porcelain and is often sandblasted after the final firing to achieve unique textures.
How did you get started in clay?
I started with a summer ceramics class in my junior year at college (getting my first degree in history) at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. It was supposed to be an easy elective, and it was, but it led to taking another class and another and another.
What five words best describe your work?
Unique, elegant, clean, sharp and balanced.
Who or what is your biggest artistic influence?
Asian ceramics; particularly, Chinese and Korean pottery. But all historical ceramics are inspirational and contribute a great deal to my understanding of form and proportional balance.
Tell us a bit about your technique.
I throw, paddle and carve my pots. It’s a lot more technical than that, but that is the gist. I fire to high temperature cone ten and use a salt kiln and a reduction kiln. Some of my surfaces are sandblasted after the glaze firing.
What is a typical day like in your studio?
I teach two days a week at Winthrop University. My studio is on campus and I spend most of my free time in my studio. I’m a slow starter in the morning but I work until 11 at night picking up steam throughout the day. Fortunately, there is no typical day in the studio. The clay “cycles” demand ever-shifting priorities.
What do you listen to while you work?
I am one of the original TV babies and thus I love to watch TV while I work. I have a state-of-the-art audio/visual system with all the gadgets and whistles in my studio. I watch all types of shows from Hollywood movies to TV series to all types of sports, HBO, Showtime and yes, I watch PBS religiously. I listen to books on CD in the car, but in my studio I like to have a visual. It keeps me company and educates me.
What do you enjoy most about being a ceramic artist?
The freedom to do the things I like to do when I want to do them. That is the best, but I like to build things. I like the feeling of finishing a series. I like opening kilns. And even after 40 years in clay I still marvel at the magic that is the ceramic process.