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Jolanta Jung: From a Lump of Clay

Thumbnail Sketches… by Connie Munson

Piece by Jolanta Jung
Piece by Jolanta Jung

Ceramicist, Jolanta Jung, throws and sculpts unique pieces which speak to the natural beauty and features of the terrain and surrounding landscapes.  Her love of sculpture shines through with the hand-built vases and figurative work that have been in several shows this year at the Headwaters Arts Gallery at the Alton Mill Arts Centre.  

As a young child growing up in Poland, Jolanta remembers being encouraged by an artistic uncle. Her mother was a seamstress and worked from home, so often she and her sister were literally ‘pressed into service’ to help iron different parts of garments for their mother. How useful to be exposed to the creation and manufacturing part of something where the planning, sequencing, and careful execution of steps would lead to a beautifully made product.

Jolanta also was able to attend a high school for the arts, which required a portfolio as part of the acceptance process. She went on with her arts studies and received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and Ceramics while in Poland. Today, these presentation skills along with her ongoing exploration of ceramics, continue to be important as she puts her work forward for different shows, projects, and consideration with proposals and discovers new forms of expression.

When she and her engineer husband immigrated to Canada in 1980, the inspiration from her natural environment changed to the Canadian shield. They were in Deep River on the Ottawa River for two and a half years, moving on next to Kincardine on Lake Huron for six years, followed by their last move to Whitby for 20 years. “He was always supportive of my work and made sure that I had my studio and room for a kiln.”

Some years later after her husband passed away, Jolanta Jung was living in a condo and had no studio there. However, during this time her studio space and kiln were provided while she was Artist in Residence for six years at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. There she was influenced by artists’ work in the glasswork studio and particularly intrigued by the bits and pieces that could be incorporated into her work. She also did some glass work herself, such as fusing and slumping, while there.

Pieces by Jolanta Jung
Pieces by Jolanta Jung

So the different clay bodies, from earthenware to stoneware to porcelain, with their varying properties are only part of what Jolanta considers when in the flush of creative exploration. The pieces of wood her son was recently going to throw out are now being saved as she will play with them and embed small ceramic flowers in them. Likewise, an empty window frame with its four sections filled fancifully with bits of glass, ceramics, and copper that she aged to its beautiful verdigris patina has recently sold in a gallery.

“I am a Gemini”, she comments and obviously everything around her is grist for her creative eye and mind.  The work of other creatives, such as found in centres like Glen Williams with the glasswork and other artists’ studios, at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, and the trips sponsored by the International Ceramic Artists group based out of Ohio, all continue to inspire and inform Jolanta’s work.  When she was living in the condo she made two trips with the latter group, going to Florence in Italy where she was enthralled by the mosaics, the hands-on workshops, and tours of artists’ studios.

A second trip to Ireland introduced her to the use of stains in clay with the pigment introduced to the clay body.  This proved to be a very delicate process as the grade of porcelain required was much finer, which corresponds to the degree of translucency and requires a higher firing temperature at cone 10.  She prefers to work with a regular grade of porcelain which is less costly and fires at cone 6 with fewer complications.  Other firing methods she has used are Raku, although this was some years back, and Smoke-Fired, which is done in a pit at a lower heat.

Faced with the demands of the pandemic in early 2020,  Jolanta Jung has juggled her studio work with more babysitting of grandsons as her daughter and son-in-law work from home.  She lives with them in Inglewood with a basement walkout for her studio.  Whereas she used to find the rugged northern Canadian landscapes and water so calming, now she walks or bike rides through the area on the many trails and enjoys the beauty of the Caledon area.  “Titles (for my pieces) come to mind,” she says, “when I’m biking, it’s almost like meditation.”

“You can’t complain about not having inspiration, you just do it.” That is what it is like for her in the studio. Opening the door, those few hours to get into that creative space, and the process starts. “It can be slow, you need patience and to trust, you wait and see what emerges.”

The last quarter of 2020 has included producing pieces for a solo show, pieces entered into the province-wide Headwaters Arts Artful Revival Festival Exhibition, and artisan work for two holiday shows, Museum of Dufferin and Headwaters Arts in November and December.  Enter to enjoy the dramatic world and captivating pieces that Jolanta channels …  From a Lump of Clay.  Contact her at

E. Connie Munson, writer, photographer, and artist lives in Brampton and explores the Headwaters Region for creative inspiration. Follow her on IG  @ecm4u2.

References – Jolanta Jung: From a Lump of Clay

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