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Potter blends aesthetics and practicality in vibrant colors

Before throwing a piece of pottery, University City artist Jenny Hughes enters a meditational state of mind.

“Instead of looking and thinking what I’m going to end up with, I go to a space that is all about touch and block out what I hear and see,” Hughes said. “I feel the clay as it centers up on the wheel and feel it pull up between my fingers as I work with it.”

While Hughes’ approach is all about feeling, her ceramics are all about functionality and dazzling colors.

“I’m a practical person, and I don’t do artsy-fartsy; I do open forms like bowls, baking dishes, serving dishes, plates and cups,” Hughes said. “Food preparation and presentation is a big deal, and I want my work to be in everybody’s house so they can enjoy a little piece of art that enhances their lives.”

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Born in Southern California, Hughes married and moved to Kingman, Ariz., 25 years ago. There, she and her husband raised their children, and she explored her creative spirit.

“Living the homemaker’s life and doing my art at the same time gave me the freedom of not needing to be restrained in order to be a commercial success,” Hughes said. “Instead, I was able to do the kind of stuff I wanted to do for myself.”

Hughes began as a visual artist, but painting didn’t resonate with her. So she got her hands in wet clay and took sculpture classes at the local community college. After reading an article about how creating an empty space to be filled is one of the most rewarding things an artist could do, she began throwing pots and found her niche. Instructor Sue Walden served as her ceramic mentor.

“She took me under her wing because she knew that I wanted to go quite deeply into this study,” Hughes said. “When I had questions, she was there to answer them, but she also left me to experiment on my own and explore.”

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More than 25 years later, Hughes continues to experiment and explore the world of ceramics. But instead of throwing traditional earth-colored pots like so many Southwestern potters, Hughes chose a more vibrant path.

“When I looked around Jerome (Ariz.) and Sedona (Ariz.), I saw everyone using earth colors, but I wanted to do opulent things that would set me apart from other potters,” Hughes said.

That’s when she began throwing pieces and adding brightly colored glazes in the tones of desert sunsets, including reds, purples, cobalt, orange and yellow.

After her husband passed away, Hughes and her sister, Joy, visited Urubamba, Peru. There, Seminario, a local ceramicist who sells his work through Pier One, gave the women a tour of his production area. They were so inspired by their visit that they teamed up to form their own ceramic business: Jenny’s Blue’s Pottery.

“We saw that there was a way to make art that was unique,” Hughes said.

Once home, Hughes moved from Kingman to University City, where her sister now works as her apprentice in their home studio. Working full time, the women support themselves by making ceramics and selling their work at farmers markets and art fairs throughout the county. Hughes’ goal is to continue offering their products at prices affordable to everyone.

To learn more about Jenny’s Blue’s Pottery and view a schedule of their upcoming shows, visit

www.jennysbluespottery.com

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