Anne Junsjö is a potter and ceramic artist in Stockholm, Sweden. While on a recent trip to the city I happened upon her workshop and walked in. I was very impressed by the quality of her work, and she was very friendly. She was kind enough to share her life story and her advice for others who want to make a living by creating art. After a great conversation in person, she replied to these questions over the internet. Anne shares her story, how she has crafted a career as an artist, and her advice for others who want to follow in her footsteps.
What made you decide to become a professional pottery maker?
The visual sense was vital to me from an early age. One of the defining experiences in my life – I’m 3-4 years old, when I started playing with buttons in my grandma’s sewing box. I also loved the linen closet, with all the different fabrics. Opening the closet, seeing embroidered pillow covers, different shades of white, the luxurious feel of fabric to the hand. My mom worked with fabric, and I often got to hear her comments on textiles. This was a very strong aesthetic experience for me.
But when I started with clay at that time, I got stuck in clay. Clay is a medium that requires a long time to learn, I feel like I am still actively learning . It was not a conscious choice at first, the clay drew me in.I still often think about textiles, but I have never been able to combine several things at the same time, so today I work only with clay. But I see and think in many materials. When my children were small, I was at home and I worked a lot with textile. I could have continued with it, but clay got in the way.
I have been working with clay since my 20s. I was 20 when I took the 1 year art course, then I was working in rehabilitation and art therapy programs, getting an instructor diploma, working as a teacher in various forms for 25 years.
It was a source of strength, inspiration, meaning. I worked every single free moment I could, and I never lost interest.
How do you find inspiration and put it in your work?
I have several branches in my work as far as forms and materials. I have always been interested in beautiful functional pottery for daily life. It’s wonderful when customers come back after many years to complete their line of teacups and bowls that they bought from me. It is also a stable income for the workshop. And it feels great when my things become part of someone’s daily life.
Then I have my childhood memories reborn in sculpture. I had these images as a child, and I still feel the same way today. Animals in beds, boxes, prams. Is it my children? Is it my childhood toys? Is it a joke? Hard to say, but when I make them, I feel a sense of liberation. I close the windows and door to the shop, turn on the radio and music, and go into my own world. It is a lot of fun for me.I love function. I started making animal boxes, and those are very functional, you can have salt or sugar in them, and it is fun to have an animal on the lid. Then the animals jumped off the lids into their own life, and I am still not done with them.
I also enjoy large forms such as pots and washbasins. These are older forms, a throwback to the garden, Swedish country life.I was raising my children alone, and the teacups were the breadwinners. With years have I found collector interest for the sculptural and larger forms.
Have you worked with other artists?
I joined the ceramic artist-owned co-op Kaolin (kaolin.se) 10 years ago. And I think it can be very helpful for artists to work with such self-supporting unions of one form or other. Participating in the group shows helped me develop a different approach to my sculptural forms, showed me that there was collector interest for more than cups.
How important is dedication for an artist like yourself?
If you are going to be an artist, you have to be truly interested in what you want to do. My desire for ceramics and having a workshop was so strong that it was a source of strength, inspiration, meaning. I worked every single free moment I could, and I never lost interest. Sometimes I had to take time off to make sure I had time for the teaching job and my family. Cooking, keeping the home in working order, making relationships work.
My workshop is my rest and my free time. I go to the workshop when others maybe go home to watch TV. I never went on long vacations like some of my friends. When I had free time, I went to the shop. And I loved it!
Can you tell us about the techniques you use, particularly raku?
With the raku technique, I started with hand-formed tea-bowls. I would get ideas for forms – teabowls, sculptures, sketches of animals at the Museum of Natural History.
Clay is such a tactile medium, and it is so interesting what you can do. Rough clay with lots of chamotte, functional clay, delicate porcelain. I constantly have to discipline myself, because all of these clays, forms, colors are so attractive!
To look at the day’s work and think – oh, this one is truly great. A new, fresh start drawing on experience. It moves me very much.
Have your methods or style changed over the 30+ years that you have been making pottery?
I love refining the same form throughout the years. Thousands and thousands of repetitions of the same thrown cup. Every attempt is a new chance for something better. It takes such a long time to learn to throw, it’s a demand for discipline, but also opportunity for liberation and relaxation.
And that is just at the wheel!
How do you color your work, and what do you see as the importance of color in pottery?
Then you get all the possibilities with color! It’s wonderful. There are so many wonderful things in life, this is the one for me!
With functional ware and porcelain, I like mild stain colors, very stable. The colors are repetitive and predefined by me, I decorate through patterns and sometimes vary the patterns.
Then with the raku teabowls, I enjoy bright strong colors, working with the flame. Sometimes I wonder – “why on earth did i do this?” but I continuously experiment with glazes.
On the business side, how do you market your work?
As far as marketing, it was helpful to have the workshop in the area that keeps growing as an arts and crafts shopping destination. Now the website is becoming more and more important. Having exhibitions and a network of artists was helpful.
What advice do you have for beginners who want to learn pottery?
I am not the right person to be giving artists advice, but ceramics requires a commitment. If one wants to do it as a career, one should be happy to be doing it from the start and not see it as a chore. Before, crafts were an integral part of past-time for people, today media consumption has taken over. So asking what truly gives you joy and living accordingly is a start.
What is next for Anne Junsjö?
I am working on a series of small plates for my show at Kaolin. In a way, it is a return to my grandma’s sewing box with all the buttons. I have come full circle.