We had the good fortune of connecting with J. DuBois and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi J., other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
About two years ago, I made a commitment to myself to have a regular art practice, and that has been such a monumental move. Getting into a regular routine of going to the studio and making new work every day, even if its not my most genius work, keeps me evolving as an artist which not only pushes me forward in my career, but as a craftsperson and artist as well.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a ceramicist currently, but it has taken me awhile to get here! I had initially started out as a painter (fine art) but somehow ended up with a career as a wardrobe stylist.
My interest in clay began mainly because of my grandparents. Although I grew up around pottery I was never too interested in doing it myself as I had been a painter most of my life. As my grandfather got older he developed Alzheimer’s, and as he got worse I took a few pottery classes. As his disease progressed, he became less capable of speaking, but when I would bring him my work he would light up. It seemed like pottery was the one thing that he still wanted to talk about.
6 months after my grandfather passed on, my grandparents’ land burned down in one of the catastrophic fires of Northern California. It was 80 acres of land which they had spent an entire lifetime working towards- a land that held not only the homes of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, but also held all of our family memories, birthdays, weddings, and deaths.
This is where my interest in wild clay began. Wild clay is what it sounds like- clay foraged directly from the earth rather than being purchased commercially from a store. It became important to me to find a way to preserve my grandparents land in some form through pottery. Once I discovered the elemental side of the medium, something switched in my brain, and I fell hard for clay. I felt as though I couldn’t get enough. From practicing on the wheel to hand building, to reading about the chemistry of clay and glazes, different firing, etc.- I felt as though I could dedicate my entire life to clay and it still wouldn’t be enough time. I knew I had to leave my career as a stylist, which was terrifying because I had built up a name for myself, had an agent, all of the things. But I got to a point where I just truly felt that any amount of money wasn’t worth it if I wasn’t happy. If I was leaving my child for work every day, whatever I was working on had to feel worth leaving him for.
My work is heavily inspired by the terrain of the Northern California coast that I grew up along. I don’t use many glazes, and try to have a warm, rich palette, often with different textures hinting at the textures seen in California landscapes.
I would say that one of the hardest things I have experienced now that I am a full time potter, is how much my heart is on the line. Because I am doing what I love, the hits are so much harder when they happen. I dedicate so much time to testing, developing my style, making my pieces, that when there is an accident or something goes terribly wrong I can get very heartbroken over it. I am working on this, but when you love what you do so deeply (at least for me), it is hard to separate myself from it. Pottery also is a huge lesson in letting go, thank goodness!
I will say, that there is nothing I would rather be doing with my life. Think about this: you are going to die one day (sorry, but its true!) At the end of your life, do you want to look back and say “WOW, thank god I spent 90% of my life at my job that I hated”, or do you want to say “wow- look at what a beautiful life I lived spending time with my family and doing what I love most when not with them!” I dont know. For me it just felt like that was the decision I needed to make.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of my favorite places to go are La Colombe in Frogtown for Coffee, Huntington Gardens in Pasadena just to stroll around (they also have an incredible Kehinde Wiley portrait up right now that is pretty incredible to see!!) Amara Kitchen in Highland Park or Altadena (TRY THE COOKIES!!!). I love all of the natural wine shops – Highland Park or Silverlake wine, or Vinovore! There are so many amazing galleries and museums here as well! Hauser/Wirth, Norton Simon Museum, Sage Culture Gallery, Marta… the list goes on and on…
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family overall deserves all of the credit for where I am.
Both of my grandparents were potters (my grandfather made the forms, my grandmother glazed) and ran a pottery school on the California coast near Santa Cruz, in the 60s. My father attended the school as a potter, where he met my mother who was also an artist. When I was born they made sure that art was a huge part of my life by exposing me to all types, and encouraging me to create constantly.
My husband has been such a support as well- he is a photographer and in love with his career. He has been so supportive of me becoming a full-time ceramicist, and I truly can say I would not be where I am with his constant words of encouragement and support.
My son – just by being alive – has shown me that life is meant to be lived and there is absolutely no point in me spending time doing something if I am not in love with it!
Shaughn & John