Sister Ceramics x Old Pal
We love anything handmade here at Old Pal, especially when it involves mega-talented artists like Jenny Mulder and the whimsical line of clay creations she calls Sister Ceramics. We recently teamed up with her for a special line of goods inspired by the high life and built for those who want to bring some cosmic wares into their smoking routine. In celebration of our exciting partnership, we sat down with the Taos, New Mexico-based artist to chat about her California roots, her creative process, and the first time she ever puffed and passed.
Can you give us a quick history of where you grew up and how you got into ceramics?
I grew up on the central coast of California, right around Hearst Castle and the Madonna Inn. The ocean here is cold and unwelcoming but a teenage surfer was the coolest thing you could be at my high school. There were kids into agriculture and the 4H club, many of who are rich now owning wineries. I liked theater but was too shy to get on stage and stayed close to my odd cluster of friends who were into music.
My mom had my sister and I when she was older and I don’t think she spent a lot of her life thinking about motherhood. I think she just wanted us to be interesting, “well-traveled”, dynamic, good dinner party guests. I grew up with a sampler plate of activities, water polo, military marching, piano, book club, dance, chess club, horses, volley ball, nothing really lasting more than a season. Pottery was in there too at some point, and I enjoyed it but was too much of an adolescent dilettante to commit myself to it. I was just fascinated with the material and the process. When I got older, and had a stressful life, I picked it up again as a way to escape. It started becoming the only thing I wanted to do.
Why do you work in ceramics? What is special about the art form?
There is the self-concerned reason, of course, why I do ceramics. I tend toward obsessiveness, obsessing over thoughts and feelings I have, or vague, broad ideas based on my thoughts and feelings. I’m like a jeweler inspecting a stone all day, squinting into a tiny magnifier. It’s maddening! Ceramics, working with this material that requires a soft attention and patience, just slows my brain down. Sometimes I watch what my hands are doing on the wheel and I feel this warm sense of ease.
There are plenty of chances for obsessiveness in ceramics too. It requires a knowledge of chemistry ~ which was my worst subject in school ~ but when applied to glazes and clay bodies I find it enthralling. Then there’s the geology of finding wild clay, processing it to be used in the studio, different tests and results in the kiln. Not to mention the endless history and culture of clay throughout the world. It’s consuming. And still, at it’s core, clay is this primitive, intuitive material. There’s a balance to be found between this intuition and playfulness and the sea of technical skill and knowledge.
How did this collaboration with Old Pal come to ?
I used to live in Austin, where I had a coffee trailer for a little while. Caleb came to get coffee and we met there. I think LAND (Old Pal's creative founders) was in it’s early days and they were involved with the community in this really brilliant way, helping boot-strappy businesses, inspiring and shaping a lot of East Austin. Living in Texas was fantastic in the way that everyone who was creative and had ideas kinda found each other through some magnetic force. It’s the perfect ecosystem for collaboration because once you’ve been absorbed into the creative community, everyone likes to drink, go out, and talk about ideas. People are always teaming up for a project, and when Caleb asked me if I wanted to work together for Old Pal, it felt natural to say yes. I live in Taos now, which has kinda been a place where a lot of artists go to live a really beautiful life as a hermit. Sometimes I miss the collaborative and frenetic energy of Austin, but I’m enjoying this place where I can focus, be slow, lose track of time, and make work for the exciting things my friends are doing back in TX.
What inspired these pieces for Old Pal?
These pieces each have their own strange little life. The rounded jar is toy-like, silly, and the dark green interior glaze is this ancient Japanese glaze recipe that is feels so serious it verges on absurd. I love it. The incense dish is heavy, architectural. I like that. I like that this dish annoyed the folks I know with MFA degrees in ceramics. “It’s too heavy!” they’d say “It’s going to crack in the kiln!”.
Do you listen to anything while creating?
Lately I’ve been watching episodes of Love Island. It’s a British reality show. I feel the guilt of a guilty pleasure.
Do you smoke weed while creating? If so, how does it affect your creativity?
Most of the time, I have a horribly un-romantic creative process. I wake up early and make tea and get my best work done before breakfast. Then it’s just a matter of managing the unraveling of my inspiration and work ethic as the day drags on. Weed makes me sleepy and distracted and is sometimes good for flipping through books and sketching out ideas, but most of the time it’s best when I just want to check out from studio life.
Do you remember the first time you smoked weed?
Yes! It was with my best friend Adela, a foreign exchange student from Slovakia. We were the kind of inseparable high school friends that only lived half-lives when we were apart. We were at a party, somewhere small and foggy along the beach. We smoked a spliff and went walking through the neighborhood alone, giggling, coming up with plans to scare the other people at the party by creeping around doing little ghosty things. We tapped a tree branch against the window and held each other laughing. Everyone knew it was us. Eventually we went back inside and ate tomato soup.