By Anke Buchmann, 02 August 2022
Photo: Maxi Strauch
Berlin based ceramic designer Barbara Jenner creates unique hand-built ceramic objects in her studio Atelier von Ehren. During one of my strolls through Kreuzberg I stumbled over her studio, while waiting for a friend in front of Markthalle 9. Her playful ceramic vases caught my attention through the shop window and I couldn't help it but to walk in. We connected instantly and Barbara gave me a spontaneous tour of her studio in the back of the shop. Seeing similarities in the playful and explorative creative process of her work to mine, I invited Barbara to join me for a conversation about clay, design, craftsmanship and expression.
What excites you about working with clay?
The endless possibilities. There is always something new to discover.
What is it that you are looking for in your work to express?
I like it, when objects are not just pretty but also have a purpose, a benefit or functionality. It’s surprising how satisfying it is to use something that simply works, or the opposite how disappointing when it doesn’t work. I’m interested in making things better in their functionality without neglecting the aesthetic. For example, in a series of room diffusers and vases, called LUFT & LILIE, I’ve been looking for contrasts in shapes and appearances, which in this case is the weight of the earthy black clay in contrast to the lightness of the airy steam coming out of the diffuser.
How does your creative process look like?
Usually it starts with curiosity. Something catches my attention and I’m either annoyed that it doesn’t work the way it should or it works really well but the aesthetics just don't fit. Or I’m simply missing a product or object and can’t find it in the way I imagine it. Either way, this starts a whole process of thinking, modelling, prototyping, drawing and building and sometimes it ends up in production.
What new technique or insights did you recently discover?
I have troubles only focusing on one technique at a time, although sometimes I have to force myself to simply concentrate on one thing. Recently I tried to experiment with using multiple clay bodies in one piece, not sure if it even works, but there is only one way to find out.
What is your biggest fear?
That the world changes so drastically that there is no space left for beauty.
What is your favourite ceramic item you own?
The soap dish I designed a few years ago for OBAstudios. I love soaps and didn’t like how they always got soggy till I had to throw them away. It was one of the first things I saw in the morning and it bothered me so much that I tried to make a better version.
What was the first thing you touched this morning after you woke up?
Most likely my iPhone or the window.
What do you see when you close your eyes?
Abstract shapes, sometimes colours, but it does depend on the moment.
Can you draw a sketch of a vase, inspired by the smell of Kreuzberg?
Kreuzberg for me is one of the most diverse places in Berlin, the smell is just part of it. My sketch of a vase shows diversity, one single form with a lot of different shapes within.
Who is the most exciting contemporary designer to you?
That’s a good question. I was very impressed by Refik Anatol’s show at König Gallery a few months ago.
Thank you for these great questions!
Dear Barbara, it was my pleasure. Thank you for being so open and generous with your time and insights. I am looking forward to seeing your work evolve and to discover new pieces next time I am in Kreuzberg.
15 August & 5. September 2022
Find Barbara's work online: www.barbarajenner.com
Studio & Shop:
Atelier von Ehren