Jill Zwemer Baugnet
As a child, my favorite book, My Side of the Mountain, was about a young boy, who circumstantially, lived inside the hollowed out trunk of a massive old tree, creating what he needed from materials of the forest, foraging and preparing food; his best friend and constant companion, a falcon. It was a significant source of my childhood daydreams and playtime.
A simple and authentic life, in harmony with Mother Earth. The melding of heart, hands and history to create things useful and beautiful. This is my journey.
My professional career as an artist has taken off amidst a life of loving to work with my hands, the need to create, and an overflowing heart. I grew up in the U.P. a water and woods girl, who loved to build lean-to houses, make mud pies, and the like. A Girl Scout badge brought me to the sewing machine at age 10, and “sew” my love of all things fiber, ensued. I studied the fine and living arts and graduated from Northern Michigan University. The next twenty+ years were spent in the creative adventures and challenges that come with raising children.
My life as a potter has been a more recent endeavor, under the tutelage of my husband, Thomas. As I have great passion for all things related to home (and having my hands in things!), pottery making has me hooked! Visual interest through the use of texture and color, paired with organic forms and, of course, function, are important components in my pottery pieces. Integrating aspects of garment or weaving design in my ceramics is a challenge I have been pursuing.
These days, my focus in fiber art is sewn, recycled and repurposed garments, home accessories, and simple knitted accessories, with a unique flair. I value natural and vintage materials, and use them almost exclusively. I use patterns sometimes, and create free form also. The materials I find dictate the final form.
When Thomas was young, all the neighborhood boys would gather at a local construction site to watch the big trucks and bulldozers, “little Tommy” would dart out in front of the heavy equipment, grab up a handful of the soft, red earth, scramble back up the embankment, then sit staring, wide eyed, at the glorious gem, lifting it gently to his nose, inhaling the ancient aroma.
In those early days I was simply fascinated with the modest shapes and forms that my hands could coax out of a lump of clay. My hands were always trying to keep up with my thoughts, whether it was clay, twigs, salvaged & scrounged lumber…anything that could be manipulated to create the image seen in my mind’s eye.
I have come to understand myself as being utilitarian. I love to interact with function.
Today, I make pots! Simple. Spontaneous. Ergonomic. Functional. Meant to be used by our senses; seen, touched, tasted. When I am making pottery, I become aware of the need to set aside a certain amount of artistic freedom, and work more closely within the constraints of the medium. The process of pottery making brings into play an inner life and an awareness that I, and this ancient material, are no longer separate, but are synergistically bound in co-creation, something more than each object, as we were. When I cradle a ball of clay in my hands, a certain degree of dissonance is brought to my awareness. The simple transition between what seems static and the potential that the mind sees demands movement. As we begin the dance; the rhythm leads us to create a new balance. As the piece unfolds, the purpose, the ergonomics, nudge the shape into harmony.