“When you work with clay, you become very fluid – it’s an emotional material,” explains ceramicist Jeanne K Allen, who manages a pottery studio and gallery in the picturesque hamlet of Croton Falls, New York.
Allen has aided the development of the Railyard Arts Studio Shop with owner and fellow artist Jill Leary in 2019, as a hub for local artists to meet, create, collaborate and showcase their work. Today, the studio is home to a thriving community of creatives and has proved to be a springboard for Allen’s own craftsmanship.
“I’ve always been interested in natural materials, and how they could be used to create beautiful, functional objects,” says Allen, who started pottery when she was in high school. She went on to study art and design at Syracuse University, where she was one of the first women in the school’s Industrial and Product Design program.
After Allen completed her degree, she went on to have a long and distinguished career in the corporate domain, playing a pivotal role on the Barnes & Noble and Dansk design teams. As an Asian woman walking into boardrooms in the 1980s and ‘90s, Allen says the furniture was designed for men.
“I’m not a very tall or big person, and I remember the meeting room chairs were just too big. So whenever it was my turn to speak, I would stand up to make my point, just to feel like I could be seen and heard.”
Despite the environment, Allen thrived in her career and quickly established a reputation for bringing well-designed, beautiful products to the market. “It’s funny – I didn’t see it then, but looking back, I really was very lucky. I was given a lot of mentoring and opportunities.”
After she retired from the corporate world in 2018, the mother-of-two left the boardroom behind and returned to her first creative passion: ceramics. Sitting down at her pottery wheel, Allen once again fell in love with the art form.
“When you throw clay, you actually have to become part of it,” she says. “You have to feel it and move with it. A lot of potters will shut their eyes so that they can feel how they’re moving and what they’re working with, and I think that’s very unique.”
The power of ceramics is nothing new, she says. The artform has made a mark on history, having served humans with their form and function for thousands of years. “If you go to a museum, there are beautiful, functional ceramic pieces everywhere that represent different eras and lifestyles,” says Allen. “Even in old paintings, you’ll notice that it’s ceramics that are often enriching somebody’s life in their home environment.”
The tactile nature, timeless quality and rich history of ceramics have kept Allen glued to the wheel over the past three years. And while honing her skills and feeding her passion, Allen has developed her own personal style – clear geometrics, beautiful designs, eye-catching yet simple embellishments – that’s reflected in each of her pieces.
For example, a collection of white mugs features a charming butterfly or a bumblebee. Wheel-thrown appetizer plates juxtapose natural clay rims with white, teal or naturally glazed centers. Meanwhile, a copper-hued pitcher, glossy navy blue mugs, a seafoam green bowl with white trim strike just the right balance of classic and creative.
“You would think that you would be able to change your artistic style over a period of time, but just like your personality, that element of you is always there,” she says. “I try to experiment with different techniques, but they always seem to be very organic, clean forms.”
When it comes to choosing ceramics for your home, Allen says it’s all about your preferences, lifestyle and what brings you joy. “Be true to yourself, and understand the difference between genuine quality and an imitation,” advises Allen. “I think people who like beautiful, pure forms will gravitate towards BOMSHBEE, because the products are always impressively authentic.”
Allen says tableware and art are two of the easiest ways to elevate your space and fill your day with an extra dose of beauty. “If you want to create an environment that reflects who you are and what you believe in, do it with your tableware or something that will enrich your home for years to come.”