Grand Rapids ceramic artist prepares intricate pieces for summer art fairs – Michigan Radio | Candle Made Easy

Ceramic artist Jiaqi Lin transformed her home in Grand Rapids into a studio in preparation for this summer’s art fairs. There is a kiln in her garage. Her own pottery adorns the shelves and window sills. Her three-season space morphed into what she calls a “four-season space,” where she prepares and reclaims her clay, mixes her own glaze, and spins on her potter’s wheel.

These art fairs require extra time and preparation for aspiring artists like Lin. She has a booth at the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair this year, which runs July 21-23. Lin is booth #527 on Liberty Street.

This summer she is taking part in outdoor shows of this magnitude for the first time. She said she signed up for a handful of other shows, including Grand Haven Art Festival and Art on the Riverfront, Suttons Bay Art Festival and Novi Fine Art Fair.

She and her husband assembled their own shelves using Home Depot materials and purchased used tents to display their work. She also likes to add fresh flowers from her garden or from a florist to show off her vases.

“No matter what happens, I always feel like I’m running out of time,” Lin said. “I’m sure it’s because this is my first year… I’ve learned so much and gotten so much faster.”

In order to keep production going and stay on track for the shows, Lin said she needed to speed up her work. She spent over 70 hours building her inventory. Because she does every step of the process by hand, her work can take even longer.

“I do a lot of carving on all my pottery, such as the mugs, vases and bowls, and it takes a lot of time,” Lin said. “I never thought I could rush this process, but I’ve rushed it at least twice just because I’ve been doing so much in such a consistent way, it’s almost like boot camp.”

Because their carving makes the surface thinner, there is a higher risk of it breaking or not surviving to the final stage. All pottery needs to be fired twice: the first to turn the clay into stoneware and the second after the glaze has been added. The firing itself takes about six to eight hours, but it takes 10 hours to cool.

“These times all have to be calculated very carefully, otherwise I may not have work done when I have to go,” Lin said. “Time management is never my forte, but I’ve gotten a lot better with a lot of deadlines.”

Because she invests so much time in her work, her pieces can be more expensive. Her goal is to get money back for all expenses such as gas, materials, and groceries by attending the art fairs and to compensate herself for the effort she put into her pieces.

“Sometimes there are people who are shocked by the price, but it’s just them,” Lin said. “Most people like it. Most of the people that talk to me are just people who like me and my work, so one of the perks of my job is that I only really interact with people who are attracted to my work.”


Lin’s ceramics stand out at fairs because of the intricate carvings she designs into each piece. In college, she took a linoleum printing class, where she discovered her love for carving and inspiration for her work.

“I can’t stop,” Lin said. “It’s just very satisfying for me. A lot of pottery is repetition, so it’s kind of like an obsession to some degree. I am very comfortable and have a high tolerance just for the pottery, tedious and repetitive work that is the carving and turning on the wheel.”

Lin attended Thomas Aquinas and only took a pottery class in her junior year four years ago. She combined techniques from her pottery and carving classes to create functional and decorative stoneware featuring floral designs such as roses and chrysanthemums.

“I see other potters carving, they usually just create a textured surface,” Lin said. “For me, I want it to be intentional. Intentionality is very important to me, like where my carving knife will land, what kind of pattern it will create, how dense or how loose it will be… It’s almost like I’m sculpting and drawing at the same time, which I really enjoy .”

She was also an international student from China. She said she had a lot of self-doubt when she wanted to study writing or language, but when she was working with art she didn’t feel as much pressure.

“When I carve, I feel like I can do it and that I’m not being judged by myself,” Lin said. “Carving definitely takes away a lot of my anxiety and it’s like I’m rebuilding myself on the journey so I feel like it’s been good for me.”

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