Getting to know ceramics artist Mollie Jenkins and her art is a bit like stepping back in time to a place of simpler, yet more intentional living and creating. Born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, the South rubbed off on Mollie in all the best ways, and it has had the same effect on her art. Her pieces are more like family heirlooms, beloved and passed down from generation to generation, than modern pottery created with less than ten years of experience; they whisper timelessness, in a humble voice, with colors that are just as easy on the eyes as the interiors they serve.
Mollie’s first memory of ceramics was at a school event in the first grade, watching a potter who came in for the day show students how to wire a vase off the wheel. She didn’t take her first ceramics class until her senior year of high school, and it wasn’t until college at Auburn University that she realized the pottery collection accumulating in the bottom of her closet could become a career. She needed funds for more clay, so she hosted her very first art show, and that success propelled her onward from graduation to Nashville, Tennessee, where she joined a community of likeminded artists and craftsmen focused on supporting and encouraging the handmade.
While Nashville provided a creative community for Mollie to thrive in, home was in Georgia, so she packed her bags and headed back to her hometown, a place where she finds “ease and comfort” surrounded by family and friends who were the first to support her art and provide the strongest foundation for her still. “I am very fortunate that there are so many other females in the art community in Columbus who are great to lean on or ask advice when needed.”
While her local network is sustaining, Mollie works best alone, rising at 5 AM each day, working solo in her studio until 6:30 PM with only music as her companion, listening to everything from country and acoustic chords to ‘90s hits, classical jazz, and oldies. In between tasks she eats lunch at home and helps out around the house, answering emails and dealing with website duties early in the morning, so she can work with a clear head while she is at the wheel.
“I have noticed if my personal life is not in order, or I am really stressed about something when I come in to throw on the wheel, that is noticeable right off the bat. In pottery there is a term called having your clay ‘centered,’ and I find that if my personal life or mindset is not ‘centered,’ then I need to take a step back to straighten up whatever is chaotic, and once that is resolved or at peace, I can get back to throwing.”
While life can get in the way of her craft, it is the feeling in her hands while she is creating that she constantly longs for and continually pulls her back to pottery.
“Throwing on the wheel is all about feel, sanding work is all about feel, glazing items is all about the feel of how thick the glaze is, pulling handles is about the feel. My hands are imperative to the process. When I am throwing, I notice I do not have to look at the clay much to know what I am making—it is all by feel.”
As far as design, function always comes first.
“I do my best to make sure an item is intentional and will be loved for many years to come. Functionality drives me to make sure it will not be another item collecting dust on a shelf. With step two comes beauty. The glazes I choose add the finish that is needed to complete each piece.”
With each decision in the studio, Mollie hopes to create a piece that will stop someone in their tracks to observe and appreciate the item in hand.
“The highest compliment I can receive is someone thinking twice about my work. We live in an overstimulated age, so for someone to take a second and think about the mug they are holding, or the plate they are eating off of, that means the world to me.”
What she finds difficult is a question: What’s next?
“Ceramics is a very long process that cannot be rushed, so often times it takes me months to get a product down that I am happy with, so this expectation of ‘What are you doing next?’ can be a tricky one.”
While she admits that owning her own business entails exhausting hours, she says she still goes to sleep each night with a grin on her face.
“The enjoyment and happiness I get from being able to steer my own life and business is incomparable.”
Reflecting on a memory from her college graduation night in Auburn, she remembers a woman she met who asked her what degree she was graduating with. Molly proudly responded, “An art degree with a concentration in ceramics.” She was immediately met with a sarcastic response: “Ha! Good luck with that!” It is a moment Mollie has carried with her every step of her career.
“I realized later that all sorts of folks want to tell you that you cannot do something. For me that is even more incentive to prove them wrong.”
Mollie in Ten
- Age: 25
- Awards: Runner-Up in the Home category for Garden & Gun’s 2017 Made in the South Awards
- Interesting fact: Designed and created the custom dinnerware seen in James Beard Award-Winning Chef Sean Brock’s restaurant, Husk Savannah
- Press: Edible Nashville, Woman’s Day, Food & Wine, and Country Living
- Alternative Dream Career: Chef
- Biggest fear: A piece exploding in the kiln
- Role Models: Lulie Wallace & Teil Duncan. “They are both from my hometown, and as I was going through college, I would follow along with their blossoming painting careers. It was so cool to me that they were doing this as a JOB instead of just a hobby.”
- Favorite Piece of Her Own: A custom-made vase covered in handmade flowers for a wedding (see picture below)
- Hobbies: She’s currently teaching herself how to make bread
- Reading: Anything about cooking or investing