Potter Laureate – Sarah Jaeger
Biography – Sarah Jaeger is a potter who works in Helena, MT. She received a BA from Harvard College and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. Jaeger creates functional porcelain pottery, often thrown and altered, and glazed using wax resists, creating layers of color. She has taught at Pomona College, the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has given workshops at schools and art centers nationally. She also served on the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts Board of Directors for 10 years. She was the recipient of the 1996 Montana Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship and the 1991 Emerging Talent Award from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. In 2006, Sarah was awarded a Target Fellowship from United States Artists. Sarah was one of the artists profiled in the PBS documentary Craft in America. Her work is in public and private collections and, most important, in many kitchens throughout the country.
In a 2014 Interview with Jennifer Allen, Sarah discussed her career as a potter:
Would you explain your attraction to functional ceramics? I think my strong attachment to functional pots has its roots in my childhood home, which was an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut. We did not have hand-made pots, but we did have hand-made furniture, country pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries, totally utilitarian, beloved and part of our everyday life. With furniture as with pots, when you use something you have bodily contact with it; the tactile element is fundamental to the experience of the piece.
At what point in your career did you make the decision to sell your pots for a living? I came of age, and began making pots, in the early 1970’s, and I suppose I am a product of that era. From my beginning with clay I wanted to make functional pots. I believed strongly in the importance of handmade functional objects in people’s lives, and I was convinced that if I made good pots I’d be able to sell them. It was a seat-of-the-pants approach. I had no concept of a career path such as exists in our field today. During the ‘70’s I was a self-taught potter with a BA in English, working day jobs and making pots on the side at a potters guild in Denver. I went to Kansas City Art Institute for my BFA from 1983-85 and from there to the Archie Bray. During all those years I had part time jobs to make ends meet. It was not until September of 1990 that I was able to make pots full time and support myself entirely, however frugally, by selling my work.
What advice can you give aspiring potters trying to make a living? Patience and tenacity are important. Low overhead is really important; it means you don’t have to sell so much work to survive. Low overhead pertains to real estate costs and also studio amenities. It’s great to have a beautiful studio and state of the art kilns, but beautiful ceramics have been made for millennia without them.