Jan McKeachie Johnston studied at the University of Minnesota, Southern Illinois University, and The University of WI at River Falls. She received her BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. Since 1979 Jan has been active in teaching workshops across the United States and Chile, serving as a Visiting lecturer at UWRF, and working in her Wisconsin studio.
For the past 20 years Jan has participated in important national and international exhibitions including American Shino, at Babcock Galleries in New York, NY in 2001 and the 1997 Moegi Gallery’s 18 American Potters Exhibit in Japan, Sculptural Utility, a solo exhibition, at Lacoste Gallery, Concord MA. 2004, and A Touch of Humanity, Schaller Gallery 2018. She has been a guest artist in St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Paul, and Santiago, Chile. Her work has also been featured in Clay Times and Ceramics Monthly, and she is represented in many private and public collections, including the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She is represented by Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN, Schaller Gallery, St. Joseph, MI, Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA, and Grand Hand Gallery, Minneapolis, MN.
I have worked as a studio potter/ceramic artist for more than twenty years. My work grows out of a strong tradition of functional ceramics from England and Japan (Leach/Hamada). Over the years it has also been informed and inspired by the ancient Minoan pottery of Crete, Jomon pottery of Japan, American Indian and Japanese basket forms, Iranian pottery, and many aspects of African art including pottery and masks. My interest in these cultures and their art is the strong sense of form, rich surface pattern and texture, and a universally understood connection between humanity and art, elements which I am concerned with in my own work.
I fire the majority of my work in a Japanese style wood fired kiln. It is a sixty-hour firing process during which wood is continually stoked into the kiln. The accumulation of ash on the surface of the pieces enhances the surface textures and subtleties of form that I consider critical to the qualities I am trying to communicate.
Working within a traditional framework, it is important to me that my work moves beyond that framework to carry information personal to myself to the viewer/user. Each piece is considered as an individual. I approach my work intuitively, finding that while I have certain ideas or parameters about form and finished product it is essential to the vitality of the piece to remain open and maintain a dialogue during the creating process. Through this process I hope to reveal the unique, friendly and responsive, and robust qualities of clay as a material.
My intent is that these pieces stand alone as visual objects. My hope is that they move beyond that to express emotional, sensual, tactile, spiritual, and ritual sensibilities-these sensibilities being enhanced by the communication and sharing that occurs through use. Accessibility is also an important component of my work and I am never happier than when someone expresses their delight in using one of my pieces.