Vested Interest

Jeanette Wee introduces us to her pottery practice, and the experiences that have shaped her ways of teaching.

Interview by Charlene Chan
Photography by Jerry Goh

At the end of our conversation, Jean demonstrates throwing a cylinder on the pottery wheel. It’s the most fundamental of shapes, and one that I’ve tried doing dozens of times before. She takes the clay— conditioned and wedged just so—and gets to work. In her hands, the clay is pliable, forming exactly as she intends.

Hi Jean, how did you get into pottery?

I started when I was studying in Japan. I joined a very small studio space and when I started, it was just a hobby, but even then the Japanese were very strict. They don’t let you do a lot of things. I did mostly teacups and some bowls. And then I went back and forth with teacups, mugs and a chawan (tea bowl), and that was it for that year. After I came back I didn’t really pursue it because I guess I got a bit bored. But I felt it was a waste to not further this craft, so I started doing it here and there. I went back to Japan to take up a residency at a ceramic town called Sato— they are a town of 7,000 ceramicists and potters. I was there for about five weeks.

Can you tell me about the glazes you make?

Glazes are a whole new area in ceramics; we’re just working at it as we go. We have to learn about what is mixed in a glaze. There are three components: silicon, a flux that melts the silica, and colourants like cobalt, iron, and manganese. I think it’s very necessary to know because sometimes when the pot comes out a certain way, students question why it looks different from what is expected. Learning about these variables will help if you are bent on getting a certain effect. That’s how I try to get students to think more instead of just making it for the sake of making shapes. That’s kind of what I want to instil for the classes here.

Read more in the Design Dialogue Document here.