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    Jan Ernst

    Jan Ernst

    1. Where were you born and where are you from ?

    I was born in Kroonstad, a town in central South Africa.

    2. What is your first memory connected to the art world ?

    I grew up on a farm and my first interaction with art and design go back to building mud villages and clay figures next to the river.

    3. Have you always worked in the art/design field ?

    Yes, I started my career as an architect. After 5 years of practicing I realized that I missed the making process, using my hands and shifted to collectible design with clay as the main medium.

    4. What led you to the design creation ?

    With an architectural background, most forms of design come naturally to me, it is just about shifting the scale and adjusting spatial relationships. Architecture is very a slow profession in that it takes a long time to respond to social, economic, and environmental changes but also its ability to adopt new technologies. Working within the collectible design realm allows for personal interpretation, an opportunity to create something that still has a use, but also has a message from the creator.

    5. How would you describe your creative process and it influences ?

    My creative process is very organic. I spend a lot of time outdoors to find inspiration and often collect found objects that I study to understand form, structure, and surface texture. From that point, the rational part of my brain kicks in and I start drawing what is in my mind’s eye, or I create maquettes that capture the essence of what I am planning. When I am happy with where the design is going, I will start the final piece but not be limited by the original drawings or ideas. Clay has a way of guiding you in the direction it wishes to go.

    6. Could you describe a typical day of your work ?

    I get up at around 5 am and go to the gym or a run on the promenade. I have some of my biggest ‘a-ha’ moments early in the day. When I get home, I will spend some time putting ideas on paper or making models.

    The day is then split in two, attending to admin and making time to create.

    A day in the ceramic studio starts by planning the day ahead. Things on my agenda would be attending to client emails, driving around for supplies, in-person client meetings, and then prioritizing the ‘making part.’

    Time set aside for making includes the forming and building of a new piece. I check every item before it goes into the kiln and again when they come out. Sometimes I glaze it and then a second firing will take place. Time gets spent packing and unpacking the kiln.

    Because most of the pieces are functional it is important to make sure they fulfil their purpose. If it is a lamp, I need to do the wiring and make sure everything fits, switches on, and is safe to use.

    I usually work in the studio until 6 or 7pm.

    7. Why did you choose the specific materials you work with ?

    Clay has been the focus because I believe it is a material that has not been explored to its full potential in contemporary design. I am drawn to the organic nature of clay, its ability to connect the maker with nature, and how it can be shaped and manipulated.

    8. What are the technical particularities of your creations ?

    Using clay to create large-scale organic functional art pieces comes with a lot of challenges. Working at the right pace to ensure the old and new pieces of clay join properly is perhaps one of the biggest challenges. Very often sections of a piece will be suspended which is not a structural property of clay, so adequate propping is vital. It is important to control even drying to prevent shrinkage that will result in cracks.

    9. What advices could you give to beginning artists who would like to create sculptural design works ?

    The world is a very confused and confusing place right now – we see this reflected in all forms of art and design. The work being produced by well-known artist is either expressing this sense of being lost or digging in the past for cultural references to give a sense of belonging. If ever there was a time to create something unusual, conceptually mind-blowing and dare I say, ‘aesthetically challenging,’ the time would be now…

    10. If your works had to belong to a design movement, in which one would you define it ?

    I think my work has traces of various design movements. It references the interest to derive form from nature craft associated with Art Nouveau but also emphasizes function characterized with Modernism. There are traces of Post Modernism when looking at the complexity and meaning of time, place, and people and touches on Biomimicry that drives a lot of our design decisions today.

    11. What designers have influenced you ?

    Designers that influence me include Nicolas Wolf, Rogan Gregory, Casey McCafferty, and Abel Carcamo

    12. What contemporary designers do you appreciate ?

    Greek studio – Voukenas Petrides. Their work is something other-worldly. It is beautifully organic with curves and junctions handled skilfully. There is something archaic and primal about it, as if it were dug up from a cave, but finished in refined materials that give it a contemporary feeling.

    13. What contemporary artists (in any kind of art) have you been inspired by ?

    Rogan Gregory – a functional artist that creates designs inspired by biomorphic forms. His approach to design is unique and innovative and blurs the boundaries between sculpture and furniture design. I find his ability to switch between different materials fascinating because he manages to explore different creative avenues but stays true to his design philosophy.

    14. If you had to summarize your creations in one word or sentence, what would it be ?


    15. Is there anything you would like to add ?

    Proust Questionnaire with very short answers (one or a few words) :
    (The Proust Questionnaire is a set of questions answered by the French writer Marcel Proust. Other historical figures who have answered confession albums are Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Cézanne…)

    1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

    Self-acceptance and security

    2. What is your greatest fear?


    3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


    4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?


    5. Which living person do you most admire?

    My mother

    6. What is your greatest extravagance?

    My daily takeaway coffee

    7. What is your current state of mind?


    8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


    9. What is the quality you most like in a man person ?


    10. What is the quality you most like in a woman person?


    11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?


    12. Which talent would you most like to have?

    Being able to play the piano

    13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?


    14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

    Completing a masters degree in architecture cum laude

    15. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

    I would like to come back as a big tree – rooted in nature, providing shelter and delight.

    16. Where would you most like to live?

    Somewhere in the Mediterranean Basin

    17. What is your most treasured possession?

    A brass jewellery stamp from Pakistan

    18. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

    Being trapped in circumstances that doesn’t serve you

    19. What is your favorite occupation?

    Performance art – being able to create and explore new characters

    20. What is your most marked characteristic?


    21. What do you most value in your friends?

    Loyalty and laughter

    22. Who are your favorite writers?

    John Green

    23. Who is your hero of fiction?

    John Coffey from the movie ‘The Green Mile’

    24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

    25. Who are your heroes in real life?

    Oprah Winfree

    26. What are your favorite names?


    27. What is it that you most dislike?

    Sensory overload

    28. What is your greatest regret?

    Allowing my younger self to be influenced by other peoples’ expectations

    29. How would you like to die?

    Peacefully in my sleep

    30. What is your motto?

    Just keep going

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