interview #2-jennifer ling datchuck
Jennifer Ling Datchuck is a ceramicist living and working in San Antonio, Texas. She received a BFA from Kent State and a MFA from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Jennifer was the receipient of the Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant and has participated in numerous group and curated exhibitions.
Please give a short bio of the path you have taken to your current state in life through education, employment, residencies, and other artistic ventures.
From my experience, Chinese mothers love to compare their children to each other to determine who the better mother is. There is the classic conversation where one mother is always trying to ‘one-up’ the other. Trying to be a dutiful daughter by taking pre-med classes my first semester of college, I soon realized it wasn’t for me when I failed miserably at chemistry. Naturally, my next choice was pre-law classes and for 3 years of school I loved it. Especially more so when my cousins were finishing up school and becoming pharmacists, physician’s assistants and psychologists, and according to my Chinese family and mother, not “real” doctors. For once I was number one daughter.
My number one status lasted until I took a foundation art class during my junior year of college. This class allowed me to be more introspective, something that rarely happened with my pre-law studies, its structure always determined by victories and losses with its principles of behavior and rules of government. I let go of these rules and found the process of making to be an outlet for my seemingly insurmountable challenges.
I received my Bachelor of Fine Art in Crafts with a Ceramics concentration at Kent State University in 2004. During this time I participated in a study abroad program through North Carolina State University where we traveled to Ghana, West Africa to study African pattern and design. In 2008, I received my Master of Fine Art in Artisanry with a Ceramics concentration at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. While in graduate school I was fortunate to study abroad in China through State University of New York – Cortland’s study abroad program. After graduate school my partner, Ryan Takaba and I relocated to San Antonio, Texas for his new job as Ceramics Studio Manager at the Southwest School of Art. While we were hesitant to make the move to Texas from the east coast, we have come to love and embrace the amazing art community in San Antonio. Since living here I have been fortunate to receive grants from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio and ArtPace. During the summer of 2011, these generous grants allowed me travel to Jingdezhen, China to participate in a residency at The Pottery Workshop. During this residency program I continued to make ceramic work about identity, race and gender while investigating traditional Chinese ceramic surface techniques.
How where you financially able to make things work during your journey to where you are now? (teaching, unrelated jobs, selling of your work, financial support from a partner or family, loans…. please be as general or specific as you are comfortable with)
After graduating with my Masters and moving to Texas I didn’t have much lined up in terms of employment besides teaching one class at the Southwest School of Art. I needed something else to supplement my income and was able to find part time retail work. This part time retail work turned into a full time salaried position as a manager and then later a merchandiser for the visual team. For two and a half years I was making the most money I have ever made and I was an equal contributor to our household income and bills. During this time I also taught a class at the community school and made work for upcoming shows all while working 40 to 50 hours a week at my retail job.
With this hectic schedule my studio practice took a back seat and I found myself just making pieces for shows to just get them done. I had lost that valuable time and experience of working through ideas and I realized how important this part of the process was for me.
In 2011, I decided with the love and support of my partner to leave my full time job and try a path that would allow me to make work and grow as an artist and teacher. Currently I teach one studio class at Northwest Vista Community College, one to two classes at the Southwest School of Art, work 8 to16 hours a week at Urban Outfitters, contract work as the Student Life Coordinator for the Southwest School of Art, small amounts from sales, and run my etsy shop, dimandsum.
Life as an adjunct and contract employee can be just as hectic and stressful as a full time job but the trade off allows me good blocks of time to make work. The stressful part is lining up a semesters worth of classes and hope that they all fill and run. It’s always a feast or famine scenario but I am fortunate that my husband has a full time job that provides us some financial security. While I am no longer an equal contributor to the mortgage payments I am able to contribute equally to the household bills, expenses and my student loan payments.
Please estimate the break down of the percentage of your time (in a week or month) spent in your studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, marketing, working with galleries, craft fairs, time with family and friends, or other relevant categories.
A typical week looks like this and it varies. My retail job hours vary depending on demand, especially around major holidays I tend to work more shifts. Outside of my required work commitments I try to fill up my extra time with studio work. I have never been a maker who can stay in the studio the whole day and often need to be doing a few things at a time to be the most productive. I often swap out or move around my studio time blocks to catch up on research, computer stuff or even laundry and dishes. My husband, Ryan is a ceramic artist as well and when he is not working we spend time together in the studio. Our family time has become our studio time as well.
Monday: morning – computer work, etsy shop updates, website, research OR work at Urban Outfitters afternoon – Student Life work OR work at Urban Outfitters evening – teaching prep for beginning of week
Tuesday: morning – teach at Southwest School of Art afternoon – teach at Northwest Vista Community College evening – studio time
Wednesday: morning – computer work afternoon – Student Life work if needed evening – grocery shop, cook, studio time
Thursday: morning- teaching prep afternoon – teach at Northwest Vista Community College evening – studio time
Friday: morning – work at Urban Outfitters afternoon – work at Urban Outfitters evening – relax at home, spend time with friends
Saturday: morning – household maintenance, chores afternoon – household maintenance continued evening - cook, clean, studio time
Sunday: morning – farmers market, grocery shop, errands afternoon – catch up day for computer work, research evening –studio time
Looking back at the opportunities you have had which do you feel have directed or benefited your current path the most? Are there things you would have done differently, opportunities you would not have taken, bigger risks you would have made, etc?
I often ask myself the “Would you rather…” questions when it comes to balancing employment, finances and making work. Would I want a full time job with benefits and make work later or part time employment with no benefits and lots of studio time? I have tried both and I think I have found what works best for me. I found that each one comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks and I had to figure out what I was willing to sacrifice. I would not appreciate what I do now if I didn’t try working a full time job. One thing I noticed during my two and half years working full time was I saw other people graduating after me and taking big chances, getting teaching positions, residencies and I missed out on these opportunities. I definitely felt stuck and knew I had to do something about it. In the end, no matter how many jobs I have or how much money I make, I want to love what I do and do what I love.
Please follow this link http://vimeo.com/25053702 to watch a short documentary of Jennifer's process and work. The video was shot by San Antonio film makers Mark and Angela Walley.
Where do you hope your career will be in five years? (Especially in relationship to the breakdown of your time spent in the studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, teaching, with family. Are there galleries you hope to be in? Have a solo exhibition? Have studio employees, bookkeeper, etc?)
I honestly don’t know what my goals are right now. We bought a 1917 craftsman bungalow a little over a year ago and have been spending our free time fixing it up. Also, Ryan and I just got married about a month ago and we both have the urge to nest and get our home in order. A major part of this is to have our home studio completed with insulation, electricity, plumbing and fully set up and operational as a ceramic studio. I hope this happens within the next year or so but it’s hard to work on it in this Texas heat! (I currently make work and share space, kilns and equipment with the students at Southwest School of Art.) With a home studio I would love to grow my etsy shop business and have this supplement my income instead of working a retail position. I would also love to be able to continue to pay my students loans and afford health insurance at the same time and not feel like I am making a huge sacrifice by doing so. In five years I hope to travel and participate in more artist residencies. I would love to take a semester off and spend it at a residency program. I would love to show in a museum space and a dream goal would to have an international exhibition.
Be sure to view more of Jennifer Ling Datchuk's work on her website at http://jenniferlingdatchuk.com/home.html.