Hi. I’m Jill Bell. As an non-sporty kid growing up in suburban Newark, Delaware, I took my first ceramics class at age 6. From the start I loved everything about clay. From the dusty, damp earthy smell of the studio to being able to make tangible objects from the ideas in my kid brain. As I got older, I tried other mediums but found ceramics was how I best expressed myself and my love of clay stuck.
I received a BFA from Moore College of Art & Design and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon finishing graduate school, I lived in Maine for 9 months as a Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts winter resident. It was there, frustrated with building larger sculptural pieces with the local clay and having them crack, I decided to change things up. I was inspired by a chowder bowl project we did with the local community and began making bowls and cups of my own.
My cups and bowls are formed pretty much the same way any kid would have been taught to do it day 1 of their first ceramics class. Roll a slab. Score and slip it and stick it together. Roll another piece. Score and slip that and stick it to the bottom. You’ve got yourself a cup.
With my sculptures I shy away from shiny. I much prefer surfaces that are textured, with a dry or matte finish. I achieve this through multi-firing a variety of under-glazes and different oxide washes. In the case of my cups and mugs, I’ll use a white glaze on the inside and a commercial clear on the outside to create a more finished look.
For almost 10 years now I have been a member of Clayworks on Columbia, an amazing group studio space located in the Carrol Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Started by Deborah McDermott and several other ceramic artists 20 years ago (we just celebrated our 20th anniversary), the studio consists of a collection of ceramic artists of varying ages, backgrounds, styles and experience. There is a true community spirit amongst the members and students at Clayworks and belonging to a studio space where everyone so readily supports, inspires and respects one another has been immeasurable.
I have a full time job and a family so I’m only able to get to my studio a few times a week. When I’m there, I’m there to WORK. That said, studio time is also my podcast time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love and listen to almost exclusively, podcasts about the paranormal, conspiracy theories and UFOs. I know what you’re thinking, “tin foil hat?” but I was a kid of the 80’s. I grew up with a healthy fear of Santanists, TV shows like In Search of… with Leonard Nimoy and ransacking the local library for anything I could get my hands on about witchcraft, Bigfoot and alien abductions. Today’s world feels crazier then ever. My studio time is a buffer from all that, somewhere I can go to escape. When I’m there, I like to be able to immerse myself in the things that make me happy.
Jill Bell is one of 44 artists included in the 4th annual The Cup, The Mug exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of drinking vessels. The Cup, The Mug runs through December 14, 2019.