This week we are extremely excited to share with you our most recent interview with the beautiful founder of They Named Her John, Jessica Phillips. For those of you who do not know Jess, she is an amazing ceramicist from Texas, USA. I am being real here when I say – you should keep your eye on this honey for 2019, she is wildly creative and extremely talented! Anyone who is lucky enough to own a piece of her work are truly blessed. The love and emotion she pours into TNHJ shines through immensely.
Jessica and I have been collaborating for the past 7 months and it has been nothing short of spectacular. We are both beyond excited to launch our ‘humanmood x They Named Her John’ ceramic plate series. The truth is, I could go on and on about how much I adore this women and how much fun I’ve had working with her these past 7 months, but I won’t ha ha! as I want you to quickly immerse yourself in this truly inspiring interview.
Jessica’s answers are authentic, raw and incredibly moving. I feel so blessed to have had this time with Jess and I can not wait to see what the future holds for us, stay tuned as we have more collaborations coming. x
– Can you tell us what lead to the beginning of They Named Her John?
I’ve always loved making things. And I’ve always had a dream of sharing those things with others. I studied ceramics in art school and then worked for many years as a graphic designer. I love the design work but sometimes it feels intangible and I crave something more tactile. Partly for this reason, I’ve always kept my hands in clay. A few years ago I finally had the opportunity to build a studio space that could accommodate a kiln and that was the push I needed to start selling my work and growing my business.
– What is the meaning behind the name “They Named Her John?”
My business name is inspired by my grandmother’s life. Her father passed away a couple of months before her birth and she was given his name, John. It was an unconventional name, and she was an unconventional person, particularly for the times. She was an artist, incredibly creative and adventurous, but her life wasn’t easy. She took steps toward pursuing her dreams but ultimately a variety of obstacles kept her from her art. Her story has always reminded me to take advantage of every chance I am given to be creative. I named my business to honor my memory of her, but also to remind myself not to squander my own opportunities.
– Who and what inspires you?
So many varied things feed into my work. I love exploring the subtleties of human interactions. How each person can be so many different things at once and how we navigate that with each other. I try to create visual themes that convey some of those subtleties. A couple of my favorite artists are Giorgio Morandi and Edmund De Waal. I’m also a sucker for the strong lines I find in industrial machinery and brutalist architecture, especially when those things are contrasted with the soft organic shapes I find in natural settings.
– Can you tell us the story of They Named Her John and the constant drive behind the brand?
My story is really about a creative force that has always been in me. Even when I was a tiny kid I was full of ideas of things I wanted to make. I think my drive comes from this non-stop flow in my head. I have so much pent up energy and an almost visceral need to physically realize the things I imagine. My art quiets me and centers me and when I see an idea go from imagined to real it excites and energizes me.
– What are your night time rituals?
My habits and routines tend to bounce all over the place but I do have one favorite ritual. At the end of every day I spend a moment with each of my children. It’s a quiet wind-down and gives me a chance to check in with each one and savor my time with them. Sometimes when I fire my work in the kiln I feel like I am able to make time stand still – make the clay almost immortal. When I watch my children grow up I really feel how fleeting time is and, much as I wish I could freeze them in each moment, time is passing too quickly.
– As a business we like to do what we can to leave a lighter footprint, what do you do to support this?
I’m a small operation – it’s just me working in my studio and I’m always looking towards high-efficiency and low-waste. I reclaim my clay and recycle as many of my materials as possible.
– How has it been collaborating with Humanmood? We have absolutely loved it and can’t wait for more collaborations in the future
It’s been a blast! Bringing someone else’s vision to my work really enriches the whole process and helps me grow. I always enjoy collaborations but this project was particularly fun because we share a deep reverence for the beauty found in handmade objects. The Humanmood aesthetic is so clean and natural and your vibe is relaxed but sophisticated. We align well but working together also pushed me to contextually re-frame some of my ideas. I’m in love with the results and I look forward to seeing where we go next!
– What’s on the horizon for They Named Her John?
From a functional standpoint I’m always looking for ways to increase my production while keeping my practices healthy and sustainable. This year I’m planning to implement efficiencies into my process that will give me more time to explore new ideas and designs. Also, I am currently working on a larger body of work for an exhibition. It’s pushing me into new territory with a collection of sculptural work and wall hangings and I’m really enjoying it!
Written By: Alison Godbier
Photography: Jessica Phillips