Jordan Yates

“The simplest answer is that I am in love with clay. I am not only in love with the plasticity and physical matter of the medium but to the cultural aspect of which it connects all cultures”
“I created JordanaEarth as an outlet to create, but it has led me to so much more.” Jordan Yates is an African-American artist whose journey has taken many twists and turns but has ultimately led her to creating a career for herself by following her passions. When asked why she entered into the ceramics world, yates said, “The simplest answer is that I am in love with clay. I am not only in love with the plasticity and physical matter of the medium but to the cultural aspect of which it connects all cultures”. Although currently inspired by pastel postmodern danish aesthetics and pueblo architecture, Yates finds inspirations from a variety of sources and said that, “My visions come to me in poem – like dreams, and I often attach these poems to these vessels”. Yates pushes beyond creating pieces that simply exist in space and time and makes precise decisions that lend themselves to giving her pieces “personality” and meaning within the end users’ life; “Ceramics isn’t just creating a form that becomes a part of someone’s china cabinet, it’s becoming a part of someone’s morning or life ritual for me. Each form, color, and crystal insert is carefully chosen to create a sense of personality”
The pathway to ceramics wasn’t one that Yates’ always considered. In fact, as she describes, “My entire life was laid out prior to applying to colleges, and I believed that one day I would become a neuropsychologist”. It wasn’t until sophomore year of high school when Yates took ceramics as a “break from her honors classes when she, “quickly realized that it wasn’t only a break, but it was an escape from the emotional and physical hardships of my life. Throughout the rest of my high school experience, the highlight of my day went from AP psychology to perfecting the perfect pinch pot”. Even after discovering the escape that ceramics could bring, it wasn’t until she was asked to enter a piece into an art show that she really felt support for her art; “My first ever class was handbuilding, and I constantly needed help. My form wasn’t the greatest, I socialized a lot with friends, and my work dried out often. It wasn’t until the end of the semester when I was asked to put a sculpture in the art show. At first I was shocked, but soon realized that someone believed in me”. However, with a future plan that seemed so set in stone, it took some time before Yates’ was able to make a major career move and focus on the art she loved. Yates’ explained that, “I was dismissed by everyone, besides my high school art teachers, to pursue a career in the arts. It took me until my senior year of college to realize that I was pursuing the wrong career path. I’ve decided to change this and move in a different direction as an artist”.

Since the foundation of JordanaEarth, Yates has relentlessly chased her passions by developing her processes and learning new techniques and media to incorporate in her incredible work and has found success doing what she loves. She explained that most of her pieces are a combination or handbuilding with coils or slabs and wheel throwing, and described the process of learning how to incorporate both; “For a while I used the same technique to create. I was a hand builder from the start and was extremely comfortable. Wheel throwing scared me and I put it off until it became an assignment in class. I struggled, but eventually I got good at it. By learning a new skill, it allowed me to realize that I prefer to create vessels by both techniques”. During her time in college, Yates explained that she, “made sure that work matched the atmosphere I created – always”, but that professors questioned if that meant her work could speak for itself. She said that she, “questioned if my work had value for a while until I realized my work could stand by itself”.

Yates explained that she now aims to develop a deeper connection with the viewer through her pieces; “Allowing the viewer to feel a greater connection to the artwork is one of the things that drives me to create. We use our senses 24/7, and I try my best to incorporate them in gallery settings”. When asked about her biggest challenge in the ceramics world, Yates said, “Imposter syndrome is my biggest challenge. Some days it’s hard to accept my accomplishments but I am sincerely grateful that people are interested in seeing my work, as well as owning. As much as I struggle with imposter syndrome, it doesn’t have a chance to take my love away from clay”. Yates has proven that belief in your own artistic vision is key to creating success, that her own inspirations are powerful, and that nothing will stand in the way of her doing what she loves.
By sticking to her creative passions and following her instincts for discovering new techniques and media, Yates developed the collection Cotton in her junior year of college, which she says is her favorite and most important contribution to the ceramics world. In her artist statement for that body of work, she explained that she meshed her love of textiles and fiber art with her passion of clay to create a collection that spoke to deeper issues; “Without my outlet for clay, I felt disoriented, but textiles quickly captured my attention. I didn’t want to pause either mediums during the semester. I wanted to bridge the gap between my love for minimalism, my interest in pre-columbian clay forms, and the purity of cotton and silk. I desire that this work also sparks conversation of African – American history. The embodiment of being one of the few black students in college in most of my classes, it is a conversation that follows me. Clay has a direct connection to the multiple cultures that make me who I am, to cotton that cloaks not only a dark history but to the environmental costs of the plant”.
Yates has found success in her journey through the development of her artistic voice and the use of interesting techniques that set her work apart, and notes, “even though I am still in my artistic journey, I do have valuable advice”. When asked what question she has for emerging artists she said she would ask, “Are you comfortable in your technique and journey” while remembering that, “It took me a while to get in the groove of creating things that I wanted, versus what I thought people wanted to see”. She hopes that her art, her journey, and her story can “inspire other artists to take chances with their craft”. She also hopes that artists remember their passion even on days when their head isn’t in the creative space they would like and to keep pushing to reclaim clay. Yates said, “Every studio day will not be perfect, and that’s okay! There will be days when your clay is too dry and your head is somewhere else. For my ceramic artists, take a day to clean your studio. Clean your bats, reclaim clay, clean your wareboards and tools. Create a routine that works for you but please do not stress over making mistakes on that day”. Yates has found that while the journey may not always be clear at the start, following your passions is one of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to determining your career and finding both success and happiness. While embarking on an amazing journey, Jordan Yates has held on to belief in her own passions and inspirations and creates work that is both inspiring and beautiful.

Educational/Personal Growth Opportunity

“Every studio day will not be perfect, and that’s okay!  There will be days when your clay is too dry and your head is somewhere else.  For my ceramic artists, take a day to clean your studio.  Clean your bats, reclaim clay, clean your wakeboards and tools.  Create a routine that works for you but please do not stress over making mistakes on that day.”
Now it’s your turn to be challenged:
“Are you comfortable with your technique and journey?”  Take some time to clear your head and reclaim your studio space.  Really think about the technique of your craft; where do you want it to go, how do you want to grow, and how is it the best reflection of your artistic journey?