Jean Christen - Porcelain

Jean Christen with her grandchildren



Jean Christen started her ceramics education in the early 1970’s with a classically trained potter on Vashon Island, a place that has since become a center for pottery and ceramic art.  As she was learning her craft Jean would look in between the pots in the kiln and hate to see empty spaces.  She began to think of small pieces that she could fill the gaps and beads of course fit perfectly.  Over time she found that she was making so many beads that she was now filling the gaps in the beads with pots!  She was already having success making beads on Vashon and when she spent some time in California studying ceramics further, she says that this is where she truly found her love for making beads.  “Everyone there had beads, we were all making beads.  I guess I considered myself a beadmaker more than a potter then.”  

Jean took a break from ceramics to raise a family and says that she is grateful that she was able to study so intensely before she had her three children.  “I have been grateful that I was able to learn and immerse myself in the clay for all those years before kids.  Because after they came no way would I have had the time and energy to learn such a thing!  But because I had the fundamentals, I could plug back in.”  On her off-grid homestead in northeast Washington state she would spend hours “playing with clay on the kitchen table.”  Once the kids were a little bigger and they had her kiln on a level concrete slab, she was able to continue her artistic journey.

The type of porcelain work Jean does is in her words “magical”.  Invented and perfected by the Chinese, high fired porcelain is unpredictable and exciting.  Due to the extreme temperatures, inconsistent atmospheric conditions, and open flames in the kiln her hand made custom glazes take on a life of their own.  As the oxygen is drawn from the glazes the colors begin to emerge.  Jean tells us that in over 40 years of working with clay she is still learning every time she fires. 

Asked about her beads she says, “Well you have to be a little crazy to do this, but it is pretty awesome to think of the thousands and thousands of little bits of ‘dirt’ that have gone out from my hands to make people happy with little bits of magical love.”

When our owner Lenka met Jean in the late summer of 1999, they were fast friends.  After talking for hours Lenka left with armfuls of Jean’s artwork.  “I just loved her and all of her stuff.  I spent all the money I had on me on her buttons and beads.  I just couldn’t say no!”  After a few conversations with Jean Lenka decided to bring some of Jean’s amazing beads and pendants out on the road with her to the various bead shows to complement our line of Czech glass beads.  The glass like quality of the specialty clay and the colors of the glazes perfectly compliment the style of Czech glass Raven’s Journey is known for.  After all these years Raven’s Journey is still so proud to offer Jean’s unique and magical art and grateful to call her a friend.

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