JENNA TURNER, BFA, 2011, CERAMICS
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW WITH MABEL TAN, JANUARY 2016
When did you graduate ACAD? (And what was it called then?) What was your major? Do you continue to work in this area or did you change areas of interest?
Jenna Turner graduated from ACAD in 2011 as a Ceramics Major. Born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta, she spent two years at Red Deer College before transferring to ACAD in her second year to complete her degree. While at ACAD, she had the privilege of studying under Emily Schroeder Willis, Teri Frame and Brian Molanphy, Greg Payce and Katrina Chaytor, who all helped encourage and ground her purpose in Ceramics. For Jenna, working conceptually in Ceramics allows her to explore bigger ideas and engage materials sensitively. “Investigating clay lets me be more conscious about the material; its strengths and weaknesses, and other materials that share the same personalities.” This can be seen in the addition of metal, cloth and food into her creative investigation alongside clay.
A lot of graduates use the ACAD degree as a creative stepping stone. So, what do you do? How has what you do evolved since graduation? How did your education at ACAD direct your career?
After graduation, Jenna spent a year saving money while participating in multiple residencies, exhibitions and art sales, before starting her Master’s at Tulane University in New Orleans. Currently, she is in the second year of her teaching position (Ceramics) at Tulane University. Jenna feels strongly that ACAD’s diverse and ‘more-technical’ approach to their education syllabuses provided her with the necessary skillset she needed in the ‘real world’, especially in the realm of Ceramics. In a way Jenna feels that “ACAD has provided her with opportunities and possibilities”, giving her needed confidence and push in her lifetime passion; Ceramics. Various conferences, such as NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Art) and 1000 Miles Apart (Ceramics Conference) together with ACAD’s yearly Visiting Artist-in-Residence broadened her network circle and illuminated the possible lifestyles/creative pursuits one can strive for.
What would you like to be recognized for?
“Well, ultimately I would like to be recognized as a good human being… But more importantly I’d like to be recognized for my artwork.” Jenna aims to have her art not only be recognized in the ‘ceramics world’ but also in the ‘fine arts world’. Although the stark boundary between fine arts and craft has been slowly diminishing throughout the years and various art movements, Jenna hopes that one day her work will have the possibility of being acknowledged for its strengths in both of the two distinct art realms. “Other than that, of course I would like to start a family, have children and be a mother,” Jenna quipped. Noting that most of the mentors and teachers she had did not have kids.
Given your experiences, what advice would you give a student when it comes to establishing a creative business?
Jenna's biggest advice is that any art student (but particularly Ceramics student) choose what kind of artist they’d like to be once they graduate. To choose between a production potter/sculpture ceramicist (or an artist that primarily does commissions), or someone who does art together with something else. Another advice given was that one should decide where someone would like their income to come from. It is from making such decisions that one would then be able to work passionately and with more focus. Jenna shares that “you are always more productive doing something, than doing nothing at all.” It is the constant and consistent hard work that keeps one motivated and opened to more opportunities. Procrastination is a definite no-no and “doing one thing always, somehow and someway, leads to something else and then something else too. “It is basically you trying to keep the ball rolling…” But of course one should also give themselves time especially when it comes to growing a certain clientele. “Give yourself two to three years to really get an interest and support growing”. And with the time put aside, “one would be able to know his or her strengths and weakness too.” “Social media and a means of communicating your art is also crucial to anyone’s practice, which is why figuring out what methods fit you and your practice best is important.”
What insights did your four (or one, two, three, five, six) years at ACAD give you when looking at things?
Her educational experiences at Red Deer College, ACAD and third year exchange to the Australian National University gave her opportunities to encounter many educators, mentors and peers with the same strong love for Ceramics. The sense of community was exactly what insight ACAD gave Jenna in the three years she attended the College. It is this community spirit that gives her a certain drive in the way she works. Compared to Tulane, where the Ceramics community was just her among a pool of graduates of other faculties, Jenna was able to approach Ceramics at ACAD from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
After graduation, what obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
There were no clear obstacles that Jenna faced but she believes that “keeping the ball rolling” and staying busy are ways of overcoming any obstacle. Researching and inquiring about schools, art residencies, job positions also helps in the long run. Staying positive and letting yourself know that it takes time for you to ‘shine’, and eventually things will come your way.
What do you feel is the role of ACAD and our alumni in shaping our cultural and economic prosperity?
Jenna believes that the degrees that ACAD awards greatly cultivate innovative thinkers, and people who learn and use their imaginations. It encourages students to believe in intuition and instinct, to believe in one’s idea even though there may be times where other people might not. Keeping confident and following ideas through are also taught at ACAD. Jenna added that, “the skillsets one picks up at ACAD can be applied in any situation one might find themselves in.” The “creative thinking” at ACAD, particularly in the traditional crafts, gives rise to many innovative outcomes. “ACAD has produced people who will go on to affect the world in big and small ways.” “Because looking back at the things that survive time, one of which is art, and artists like the ones here from ACAD will go on making art that will continue to support and shape culture and economic prosperity.”
Where does art fit into your future?
“Art is my future. If it’s not, I have to reconsider my future!” Jenna jokingly commented. For Jenna, art is absolutely something that will always remain present in her day to day. It is something she lives for and will consistently work hard for. Be it taking up small projects to get by and staying open to any work positions, Jenna will keep her love for Ceramics on her sleeve and work hard for it.