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 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

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

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.

'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

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

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

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

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

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.  

'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

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.  

'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

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.

'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

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 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

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

Wesely T. Wright: Ceramic Hand Builder

What if turtles could fly and goats could tell you your future?

What if phones rolled up and walked away when your call was finished?  Imagination is a large part of Wesley T. Wright's world but it goes deeper than you might think.  With the skill of a sculptor's hand creatures that never walked the earth manifest into the reality but Wright takes his upbringing and the philosophy of Joseph Campbell to give the viewer a much deeper view into his three dimensional creations.

To see more of Wright's work  
Instagram @wesleytwrightart
His Website 
wesleytwright.com
If you are in the Bay Area September 20-25th check out Wesley's work in person
 at Anne & Marks Art Party at the San Jose Fairgrounds. http://artpartysj.com
Also the 4th Street Window Gallery at San Jose City Hall on 4th Street Between San Fernando and Santa Clara. The work can be seen 24 hours a day. This exhibition is for the Centennial Anniversary of San Jose State University and features work from HSU Alumni.

And lastly Wright will be teaching Ceramic Sculpture at Santa Clara University this fall quarter.

An Armadillo Head.  Photo © Aimee Santos

An Armadillo Head.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Cherub' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Cherub' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

What made you want to create the cherub?  And why as an animal and not the traditional chubby baby type body?

Much of my work involves reimagining, recombining and reinterpreting myth. I enjoy taking the connotations that come along with certain mythological characters and adding my own eccentric twist

'Idol of the Tribe' by Wesley T. Wright. Image courtesy of the artist.

'Idol of the Tribe' by Wesley T. Wright. Image courtesy of the artist.

There is an element of mysticism throughout some of your pieces.  Where does this come from?

I grew up in a progressive almost Unitarian Christian community. The philosophy of Joseph Campbell is a big part of the ideology of this group. I rediscovered his ideas in the past few years and really enjoy his philosophy about underlying human truths that one finds across all religions. When these sacred stories can are interpreted as metaphor and put in to context of place and time there is a lot that one can learn. I embrace an analytical, non-dogmatic spirituality, one that honors the complexity of the universe and the human experience.

Armadillo body detail.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Armadillo body detail.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Bug Phone' by Wesley T. Wright.  Click the photo to buy your own.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Bug Phone' by Wesley T. Wright.  Click the photo to buy your own.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

How do your pieces evolve?  Do you sketch any in advance?  Or is it an intuitive process?

I always start my pieces with sketches. Usually I start with an idea sketch that eventually becomes more technical as I suss out the more structural elements of the piece. The drawings are usually not very developed pieces of art in them selves. As I work on a sculpture usually the form and the content of the piece will evolve and become more complex. I do research before and during the process of construction so the entire process becomes a learning experience which concludes with the final piece itself.

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Being a collector of some of your pieces I can say they all make me smile.  Is this your intent for you audience to find a light heartedness in your work?  

The humor is an inherent part of my personality and often comes through in my work. There’s often an absurdity or irony that I’m using to make a point which creates humor.

An overall shot of Wesley T. Wright in his graduate studio last year.  Photo © Aimee Santos

An overall shot of Wesley T. Wright in his graduate studio last year.  Photo © Aimee Santos

You seem to have a strong balance between commission work, exhibitions and workshops.  How did you set up this work ethic and what aspirations do you have for the future of your ceramics career?

Really it's a free for all. In the future I hope get better at everything and to have more stability, but not enough to lull me out of being creative.

'The Historian' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'The Historian' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

The creation of 'The Historian.'  Photo © Aimee Santos

The creation of 'The Historian.'  Photo © Aimee Santos

What has your work as an artist and as a human being living in 'the place and time' taught you thus far?

It's taught me that I have a great deal more to learn and that it's very exciting to continue this process of trying to figuring out our historical, psychological, and spiritual context as conscious beings.

'The Historian' on it's way to Wright's Thesis show.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'The Historian' on it's way to Wright's Thesis show.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Do you find any correlations between an era that time forgot and the one you create with your hands?

I think that we are much closer to our history than we realize. There’s a sense of nostalgia in some of the industrial elements in my work, as well as an appreciation for the patina of time. I also reference ancient stories and place them in a modern context. In this way I’m looking at time in a cyclical way and creating an ancient future.

'Autonomous' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Autonomous' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Many people do not know there are different kinds of ceramic artists.  Can you elaborate on what a hand builder is and what a potter is? 

A potter is someone who makes functional vessels on a potter’s wheel. Hand building is a technique of building with clay that does not involve the potter’s wheel but does not necessarily mean that it's not for functional work. Though I dabble in pottery and functional Ceramics I generally work in a representational sculptural way. However I often use the potter’s wheel as a tool to create forms to build off of.

'Self Discovery' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Self Discovery' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Your works always have an element of nature and/or animals to them.  What about these elements are you drawn to and how do you feel they are successful in their concept or message?

The conflict between man and nature is really the conflict of our time. I enjoyed the contrast of human and animal, natural and man-made objects, both in content and also visual composition.