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Cj Jilek: Sculptural Botanist

There must have been a moment in the life of Cj Jilek where she stopped to smell the roses and then noticed the surrounding plants and just never looked back.  Jilek is a ceramic artist who is inspired by everything about plants, the colors, the textures, the shapes, and especially the biology surrounding them.  

Based in Pomona, CA Jilek works as the Assistant Studio Director at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, which gives her the opportunity to not just work with people excited about ceramics but also to work on her craft in a dedicated studio space.  But Jilek wasn't always settled in to her surroundings, she has traveled all over the world including Australia, South Korea and Poland where she worked at a traditional ceramic factory in Boleslawiec.  Jilek's work is a direct reflection of her environment and looking throughout her body of work, one can see it manifest.  Jilek states, "When I lived in the Midwest and flew over the agricultural areas my vessels referenced the aerial patterns of the fields, near the ocean it referenced sea life and the shoreline, in cities it’s more architectural."  In a way her sculptural pieces become tangible memories.

Another aspect to Jilek's work is a very sensual look that addresses  "sensuality, sexuality, attraction, desire, eroticism and acceptance" all elements that come to mind when one gazes upon Jilek's pieces.  In fact Jilek's work also holds a higher purpose for her pieces, she states "I'd like for our natural sexuality to not carry the shame and stigma that is attached to it in so many societies and cultures."  But Jilek's sculptures are not solely feminine she also creates masculine pieces  "When I pair two sculptures together I’m playing with the relationship and tension between forms to elicit the apprehension and anticipation that can arise with human attraction" said Jilek.

Never one to sit still Jilek now embarks on a trip back to Australia, this time as a presenter at Stepping Up: 14th Annual Australian Ceramics Triennial 2015. To off set the costs Jilek began a kick-starter campaign to raise funds, which ends June 11, 2015.  However the hosts of the conference, the Australian Ceramics Association, suffered a fire recently so Jilek has graciously dedicated a small portion of the funds raised to help the ACA recover after such a devastating fire. 

Jilek will be teaching Mold Making/Slip Casting classes this fall at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  She will also be doing workshops at the following: 
Stepping Up: 14th Australian Ceramics Triennial 2015, July 9-11, 2015, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Gold Coast Potters Association, July 19, 2015, Benowa, OLD Australia
Auckland Studio Potters, August 8 & 9, 2015, Auckland, New Zealand
Northern Rivers Pottery Supplies, August 1& 2, 2015, Lismore, NSW, Australia
Palos Verdes Art Center, Sept 12 &13, 2015, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Upcoming Shows:

California Now, June 14-Aug 21, 2015 at Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA
McGroaty Arts Center Presents: 12th Annual Ceramics Invitational Exhibition, June 13- June 27, 2015 Tujunga, CA 
Coastline Community College Art Gallery, July 18 – August 18, 2015, Newport Beach, CA
History in the Making, Sep 4- 25, 2015, Carbondale Clay Center, Carbondale, CO
Stepping Up Ceramics Conference & Exhibition July 9-11, Canberra, Australia

Jilek works out of her studio space at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA where she is the Assistant Studio Director.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek works on a cup in her studio at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The cups Jilek creates have a unique style to them that emphasizes the organic nature of plants.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Quiet Openings' 2009 by Cj Jilek.  Image courtesy of the artist.

A closer look at one of Jilek's cups shows how much time and effort is taken to create detail and form.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Utilizing wet porcelain Jilek dabs dots onto her forms to give it more of texture, one of the many steps taken to create her pieces.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A detail of 'Calyx 3' from Jilek's  2012 collection.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Two of Jilek's pieces, 'Tongue & Cheek' and 'Anther Series' lay finished while she works in her studio.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The creation of Jilek's larger pieces requires a session of three straight hours of work in order to maintain the structure of the porcelain and to prevent cracking and balance.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Anthoycyanin' 2012.  Image courtesy of the artist.  

Molds help Jilek create the initial forms for her biomorphic sculptures and saves time as well.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Anther Series 6' 2010  Image courtesy of the artist.  

Jilek uses plaster molds to help balance the setting of her sculpture during a work day in the studios of the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Perianth' 2014  Image courtesy of the artist.

Tools of the trade and then some.  Jilek, like many ceramic artists, utilize a variety of tools to get the texture they want.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek presses a dowel stick into each piece giving it a unique look and carrying as much of the mark of Jilek as possible.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek wears one of her signature necklaces while creating more for her kickstarter campaign.  Photo © Aimee Santos